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Public Outcry As Chinese Supermarket Moves In On Elite Argentine Avenue

Endangering Buenos Aires' chic avenue?
Endangering Buenos Aires' chic avenue?

BUENOS AIRES - For some people, it’s a powerful sign of the crisis in the luxury market in Argentina. For others, it’s more a sign of the frivolity and stupidity of the Argentine elite – the opening of a Chinese supermarket on the Avenida Alvear, Buenos Aires’s most prestigious shopping street, has roiled passions.

The Lin family, the owners of the newly-opened store and four other similar supermarkets in the Argentine capital, saw an opportunity when luxury brand Escada announced that it would leave Argentina and vacate a 200-square-meter storefront right next to the mythic Jockey Club, a historic center for local aristocrats.

The fact that a Chinese supermarket has taken the luxury brand’s place is an affront to many of the locals, in a city that likes to brag that it is the Paris of South America.

Yolanda Duran, the spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce for the Development of Argentina and Southeast Asia, confirms that many of the neighbors have asked that “the chic nature of the avenue be respected.” No doubt that chic nature would be endangered by cartons of vegetables and delivery trucks. But she says that is ridiculous in a city that already has around 2,000 Chinese supermarkets, which occupy a niche in the shopping world between large chain stores and small kiosks.

In the end, whether or not there is a Chinese supermarket there will depend on whether or not the Lin family can pay the $10,000 monthly rent that the storefront commands. Or if there is a better offer. The irony, though, is that although the Escada Group is formed by 17 companies and controlled by Escada Luxembourg, the company is owned by the Mittal family – it was purchased years ago by Megha Mittal, the daughter of Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. So really, the difference is only that a Chinese entrepreneur is replacing an Indian one.

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Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Noel, a Cuban engineer who had to emigrate to the faraway island of Saint Lucia, tells about the Cuban government's systematic intimidation techniques and coercion of its professionals abroad. He now knows he can never go back to his native island — lest he should never be allowed to leave Cuba again.

Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Next stop, Saint Lucia

Laura Rique Valero

Daniela* was just one year old when she last played with her father. In a video her mother recorded, the two can be seen lying on the floor, making each other laugh.

Three years have passed since then. Daniela's sister, Dunia*, was born — but she has never met her father in person, only connecting through video calls. Indeed, between 2019 and 2023, the family changed more than the two little girls could understand.

"Dad, are you here yet? I'm crazy excited to talk to you."

"Dad, I want you to call today and I'm going to send you a kiss."

"Dad, I want you to come for a long time. I want you to call me; call me, dad."

Three voice messages which Daniela has left her father, one after the other, on WhatsApp this Saturday. His image appears on the phone screen, and the two both light up.

The girls can’t explain what their father looks like in real life: how tall or short or thin he is, how he smells or how his voice sounds — the real one, not what comes out of the speaker. Their version of their dad is limited to a rectangular, digital image. There is nothing else, only distance, and problems that their mother may never share with them.

In 2020, Noel*, the girls' father, was offered a two-to-three-year employment contract on a volcanic island in the Caribbean, some 2,000 kilometers from Cuba. The family needed the money. What came next was never in the plans.

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