How bad is the Argentinian economy right now? So bad that middle class Argentine tourists in Brazil eat at soup kitchens, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s Miriam Jordan:
The state-funded Citizen Restaurant in downtown Rio is accustomed to serving a balanced meal at an unbeatable price to about 5,000 poor residents of this city each day. During the World Cup, however, this cafeteria has been catering to another clientele as well: middle-class Argentines.
“We serve homeless people, drug addicts, blue-collar workers and retirees,” said Jose Barbosa, Rio de Janeiro state coordinator for food security. “This World Cup we have been welcoming Argentine soccer fans, too.”
With the value of the Argentine peso deeply eroded amid the country’s economic woes, many Argentines who have flocked here to root for their soccer team [...] say they’re counting every Brazilian real they spend — and hunting for bargains. On Monday, dozens of Argentines lined up alongside Brazilians to buy lunch at the cafeteria, where a meal of black beans, white rice, salad and choice of meatballs or chicken sausage cost 1 real, or about 40 U.S. cents.
“Rio is very expensive — that’s why I am here,” said Fernando Castillo, a 24-year-old bartender from Buenos Aires. With gusto, he dug into his plate of food, which sat on a plastic-blue tray beside a cup of guava juice and a fresh orange for desert, both included in the price. “This is perfect,” he said, “especially at this price.”
“The generous portion keeps us filled all day,” added his cousin, Thomas Castillo.
To save on accommodations and flights, many Argentines drove to Brazil. In Rio, their campers and cars occupied prime beachfront parking spots until the city evicted them.
It then allowed them to park vehicles and pitch tents in a vast parking lot downtown that abuts the permanent bleachers where Rio’s samba schools perform during the annual carnival celebrations.
Word spread quickly at these parking lots that Citizen Restaurant, within walking distance of the Argentine encampment, offered good Brazilian fare at a bargain-basement price in a clean, safe environment. “It started with 10 of them one day, then 50 of them came and now we’re seeing about 200 Argentines each day,” said Ricardo Chaves, the eatery’s administrator.