We originally thought Karina Bomrad was kidding when she said we would all be invited to her wedding. She was marrying Arturo Alvarez Demalde (OC) in Buenos Aires (BA) over New Year’s. “It will be a great opportunity to see Argentina during our summertime,” she said. She and Arturo held an info session where we all learned about the various sites in Argentina and Uruguay, and tens of HBS-ers reserved flights and excursions replica watches.

That was in August. By mid-December, Argentina had turned into a rapidly evolving BGIE case. With restrictions on bank withdrawals and the government ready to default its $132 billion in international debt, Argentines started rioting in the streets, and President de la Rua resigned with two years left in office.

HBS-ers conferred, received reassuring emails from our classmates who had flown to BA directly after finals, and decided the trip was still on. “Just make sure to bring lots of cash in US dollars,” Arturo warned us, explaining that using credit cards, traveler’s checks, or ATMs might prove difficult. Interim President Rodriguez Saa reluctantly took the reins of the country until elections could be held in the Spring.

All in all, over 60 second-year HBS students and their partners flew to Buenos Aires for the wedding. This crowd also attracted other HBS-ers to the area, and nearly 100 second-years made plans to use BA as a base for dividing and conquering the sights of Iguazu Falls, the Glaciers of Patagonia, and the lovely shores of Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Those attending the wedding arrived midday on Friday, Dec 28th. That evening Diego Azqueta Secco (OC) and his wife Marina Zevaoglu were kind enough to host us at their house in the ‘burbs for an Argentine barbecue, or Asado. There were more kinds of beef on one grill than any of us Yanquis had ever seen, and they were all delicious. Tired from our journey, we managed to sneak out of the party early by Argentine standards, arriving back at our hotel around 3 AM.
The day of the wedding we rallied around 1 PM //, and decided to head out into the city to see what we could see. Our hotel was only fifteen minutes from the Casa Rosada, or Pink House, where the President hangs out. Walking down BA’s main pedestrian zone, we noticed a strange quiet had fallen over the city, and that many bank windows had been broken. We assumed it was siesta time, and that the windows had been broken since the riots a week before. When we walked to the Congressional building, there were cops as far as the eye could see.
Returning to the hotel, we realized that upon returning from Diego’s, we had slept straight through another bout of rioting. It turns out oppositionist parties can buy rioters pretty cheaply during the summer break in the football season. We quickly learned to avoid the areas during the times when these “protesters” were causing a ruckus.
The big event was on the 29th. Karina and Arturo were married in a palace built by turn-of-the-20th-century Argentinean gentry. Quite a swank venue. Karina tells me they made a sort of hybrid wedding, as in addition to their Argentine and American guests, they had plenty of visitors from their four years in Germany too. Here’s how the evening and morning progressed:

2000: Wedding Ceremony
2030: Latin HBS Students Arrive
2100: Appetizers and Wine Outside. The Syrah was made special at the Demalde family winery, and had “Karina y Arturo” labels!
2215: Settle at Dinner Tables
2230: Grand Entrances of Bride and Groom down Massive Palace Staircase
2245: First Course
2330: Main Course-Steak!
0030: Dancing Commences, with the Newlyweds Displaying their Tango Prowess
0100: Dessert Served at Tables with Germans and Section C-ers Performing Sketches Making Fun of the Bride and Groom
0130: More Dancing
0230: Wedding Cake and Two-Foot High Mound of Ice Cream with Dulce de Leche Served Outside
0300: First Guests Leave
0330: Brazilian Carnivale Favors Passed Out on Dance Floor
0430: Croissants are Served
0530: HBS-ers Make Their Way Home

Over the next few days, we attended a tango show complete with horses, half-naked acrobats, and plenty of fast-moving fishnet, and we rang in the New Year at a party complex on the shores of R¡o de la Plata, where, upon our departure at 4 AM, we found about 500 teenagers waiting in line to get in.

While all this was going on, President Rodriguez Saa resigned, and on New Year’s Day, the Congress chose Eduardo Duhalde to be the third president during our short stay. He promised to sever the 1 to 1 peg between the peso and the US dollar, devaluing the peso 40%. Duhalde was to stay in office throughout the original term of de la Rua, to whom he had lost the election in 1999. The Argentines apparently were not too fond of this outcome, as evidenced by car horns blaring throughout the night.

As we came home from dinner on January 1st, our cabbie drove us down back streets He was kind enough to interrupt his rapid-fire Spanish a couple times, however, to point out some bonfires that had been set on BA’s main avenues.

On the 2nd, the HBS group splintered into smaller factions. Most people headed to Punta del Este, Uruguay, for some beach time, and an Asado hosted by Felix Danziger (OB). Others ventured to Patagonia, Bariloche, or Iguazu Falls.

No matter where we were, by the weekend the talk of the country was the new conversion rate. Every store we walked in had its own policy on how they were handling transactions. Some were US dollar only, others had already split the prices depending on the customer’s currency, and some refused to budge from the dollar peg. Duhalde declared Monday and Tuesday bank holidays, and the lines at the ATMs grew like wildfire. It was unclear what would happen if you charged purchases, but it couldn’t be worse than the peg, so we tried that. No matter what the rate, it was clear that the Argentines were rightfully upset at their inability to access their money.

The conclusion? Well, this story is still being played out. We can only bet RCs will get to figure out the consequences soon enough, in a BGIE final near you.

Until then, we thank our Argentine and Uruguayan classmates for their unparalleled hospitality, especially in the face of their nation’s turmoil.