Singapore – Buenos Aires: Distance is in the eye of the beholder

Gonzalo arrived in Singapore in 2016 to open a commercial office for an international energy corporation here and has really enjoyed every day in the island ever since. He is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, a city for which he has served as the honorary representative of in Singapore since 2019.

Gonzalo shares his experience living and working in Singapore, drawing surprising parallels between the vibrant cities of Buenos Aires and Singapore.

Designating a representative to the world’s major cities is an initiative launched by the General Secretariat and Foreign Affairs Office of the Buenos Aires City Government, in order to develop an overseas network to promote Buenos Aires’ international position and its good practices while seeking cooperation opportunities between governments and private institutions.

29 April 2021 / By Gonzalo Cabrera

Those of us who were born in downtown Buenos Aires are known as “Porteños”, which means “native to a port city” and aside from our well-known passion for Tango music, we could be described as a naturally-curious people. This curiosity, which comes with the territory, led my family and myself to move to Singapore and establish our home here, where we feel privileged to experience a city ranked for many years as number one in Asia, in terms of quality of living, education, safety and its cosmopolitan nature.

In all these years, many a time I have wondered what it is that makes me feel so at home in Singapore. I have come to realize that the answer may lie in the country’s unique blend of cultures and people, with every one of its ethnic communities maintaining their own way of life and at the same time living together harmoniously.

The cosmopolitan lifestyle, combined with the perception of a sort of urban familiarity which I feel many Singaporean iconic sites share with others in Buenos Aires City, have made me reflect on how much these cities have in common despite being in opposite sides of the world. As it is popularly said, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so I have picked three iconic city landmarks to lead you across a virtual bridge between Singapore and Buenos Aires.

Monumental Flowers

Singapore’s lotus-shaped Art Science Museum was designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie. This piece of architecture, reminds me of the Floralis Genérica sculpture back in Buenos Aires, an imposing 20-meter-high sculpture that was donated to the City of Buenos Aires by its creator, the Argentine architect Eduardo Catalano.

(left) Art Science Museum, Singapore; (right) Floralis Genérica Sculpture, Buenos Aires

It is made of stainless steel and aluminum and weighs 18 tons. It is the first moving sculpture controlled by a hydraulic system and photoelectric cells, which opens and closes following the sunlight. This unique work of art was inaugurated in 2002. Its name, “Floralis Generica”, is a tribute to all flowers and is the projection of Catalano’s dream to build a large-scale structure that reflects the dynamism of our time.

Colourful neighbourhoods

Little India today is one of Singapore’s most vibrant districts. A walk down Serangoon Road and neighboring streets, is an invitation to explore and learn about Singapore’s heritage through the mix of Hindu and Chinese temples, mosques and churches found in the area. Little India as we know it today was officially named as such in the 1980s. This was the result of a concerted effort by the then Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB) to promote the preservation and celebration of Singapore’s ethnic quarters.

(left) Little India, Singapore; (right) La Boca, Buenos Aires

On the other side of the globe, the area home to the neighborhood of La Boca today, used to be hostile, swampy and desolated, assailed by periodic floods. But, at the end of the 19th century, a vigorous and growing Italian community with a preponderance of Genoese origin began to settle there, and in time gave life and a colorful personality to this neighborhood, characterized by its funny, noisy and melancholic inhabitants. As the picture shows, the colors of the houses represent an innumerable variety that comes from the leftover paint that dockworkers brought home from work.  As paint was so expensive and there was scarce amount to paint the entire house in the same color, it is visible from the multicolored houses that paint was used to the very last drop.

Connecting Bridges

The Tanjong Rhu Bridge was officially opened in 1998. It was designed by the Public Works Department (later privatised as CPG Corporation Pte Ltd) with the help of engineering consultant Murray North (SEA) Ltd. Completed in July 1998, the bridge is anchored to a 19-metre-high “A”-frame located at both ends of the bridge. Residents from the Tanjong Rhu district and members of the public can walk across the Geylang River using this footbridge to access the Singapore Sports Hub.

(left) Tanjong Rhu Suspension Bridge, Singapore; (right) Puente de la Mujer, Buenos Aires

In Buenos Aires, the “Puente de la Mujer” (or Bridge of Women as per its English translation) is one of the emblems of the Puerto Madero neighborhood. It was the first work in Latin America by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is yet another sign that the city permanently seeks to position itself at the forefront of art and architecture in the whole region. It is a revolving pedestrian bridge with one of the largest turning mechanisms in the world, designed to allow the passage of sailing boats that navigate the docks of Puerto Madero. The work represents the image of a couple dancing tango, where the white pole symbolizes the man and the curved silhouette of the bridge the woman.

These are just three examples of some of the city sites that kindle the vivid perception I experience of Singapore´s urban familiarity with my hometown, during my long hours of cycling and runs across the island with local and expat friends.

Early joggers can expect to see many people running, cycling (two of my sporty passions) or doing any other outdoor activity in the Lion City. This is yet another aspect of the Singaporean lifestyle which I enjoy deeply and find consonant to the lifestyle in Buenos Aires City. As local authorities in their Vision 2030 put it: “A life in sport can help people prepare for a rapidly changing world. Good sport can offer a parallel pathway to success as it helps people develop the skill sets and principles valued by society.”  I have had the good fortune to enjoy Singapore through my passion and feel right at home in its streets and among its people and can only wish the same good fortune upon you when you visit Buenos Aires.

About Gonzalo

Gonzalo Cabrera has more than 25 years’ experience working in the energy industry. He began his career in Argentina and following his Master in Management and Economics of Energy studies in Italy, a country where he spent four years, he was expatriated to London for three years.

In 2009, Gonzalo’s career took him to Qatar in the Middle East, attracted by the country’s leadership in the Liquefied Natural Gas industry.

At the beginning of 2016, he arrived in Singapore to set up a new office for an American company and to support the development and implementation of a second mega LNG project in his career.

In 2019, Gonzalo was distinguished as the Honorary representative of Buenos Aires city (Argentina) in Singapore, city where he currently lives with his wife and two children.

Connect with Gonzalo here.

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