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Feeling lusty in Argentina?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lust, in Argentina, has a whole institution dedicated to it. The telo. It is both a rite of passage and a part of the landscape.

Telos are 'transitory hotels', paid for in two hour blocks, or three, or one and-a-half, depending. They are not sleazy or seedy, or at least not most of them, not if you don't want them to be. There are all kinds of categories of telo: luxurious, tasteful, basic, raunchy. Depends on your budget and what you're looking for.

Everybody here has been to a telo. It's part of growing up.

People here are shocked that we don't have them in Canada. Where do people go, when there are no telos? Young people who still live with their parents? People having affairs? Workplace colleagues that want a quickie on their lunch break?

What do horny, lusty folks do? I am asked. Where do they go?

I don't know. Home? Anywhere? Wherever? It is the source of one of those cross-cultural 'Huh?'s, like bedtimes and sugar.

(Note that I did not mention sex workers. I'm sure they use them too, at least sometimes, but they are not immediately associated with the idea of the telo in the same way that they are with pay-by-the-hour hotels elsewhere.)

Most telos have separate entrances and exits for cars, for maximum discretion. Many have a double set of doors leading into each room, so if you order room service, it can be left in your private entrance, and you can sneak out all naked - or whatever - to grab what they've left for you.

What might you want to order by room service in a telo? They don't all offer such services, but from some you can order everything from condoms and lube to a full range of sex toys, costumes and, I don't know, use your imagination and I'm sure it's available somewhere. No need to ask for any movies, though. The televisions are already turned on to the right channels.

Other telo features include, but are not limited to:

- large bed
- abundant mirrors (on the walls, ceilings...)
- red warming lights
- condoms and lubricant
- dark curtains, or no windows
- shower, tub, jacuzzi, sauna, depending on your budget
- themed rooms
- wheelchair access!!! (not always such a common consideration here in Argentina)

I must admit that I have only been to a telo once. It just seemed like too hilarious and fascinating a thing to miss out on, and I was into trying to have all these authentic Argentinian experiences when I first got here.

So way back when, we visited a mid-range telo. We were living together and had no other reason to be there than for kicks and dispassionate, scientific observation. That's not to say that we didn't get our money's worth, of course, but it all felt pretty anthropological -- Macondo Papa laughing at my fascination with the whole phenomenon, and me flicking the light switches, changing the channels, lifting the pillows and opening the drawers, looking for all the evidence of kink I could find.

Too bad I wasn't blogging back then, or I would have had a different eye for detail. If they offered child-care services too (hey, now there is an idea!), and if there was any chance in hell that I would actually use such services, then I would be more than happy to try it again. I could even offer a comparative analysis of different kinds and classes of telo. But this will have to be enough for now.

To add to my blog series on 'Random things you might not now about Argentina' (see here and here), a few more goodies:

- The word telo comes from an inversion of the syllables in 'hotel'. Kind of like pig latin. This is how many words are formed in Lunfardo, Argentina's super-cool slang language, often used in tango lyrics, or just to sound really hip and to complicate things for foreigners.

Other examples of common word inversions:

Woman: jermu (from mujer)
Book: broli (from libro)
To screw over, to fuck over: garcar (from cagar)

- Here's a fun game I play with myself: Spot the Telo.

Somehow Argentinians all know where they are and when they're passing by them, but to me they are invisible. In the city, they just have a coloured light-bulb out front, and blend in perfectly with their surroundings. On the highway, it's a bit easier, as they're bigger, they stand out more, and the double driveways and fluorescent pink hearts are a big giveaway.

- I will now start to collect names of telos as I'm out and about, and share them with you in a future post. They're often called things like Babylonia or Love Nest.

I am so not kidding about any of this.


This post was inspired by the fourth topic - Lust - in Momalom's Five for Ten blog fest.


Launa said...

OH my, I love this post so much. I love the idea of spaces like this being so overt a part of the culture...

And you've discussed it all like an anthropologist/visitor to bring it back home for those of us who have not (yet) been to Argentina.

FYI: In France, no telos that I know of, but it's relatively common for folks to have regular dates for (and even keep an apartment for the purpose of) lunchtime rendesvous.

Jen said...

I love this, too. Argentina has the right idea.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty standard throughout Latin America. My reaction was more or less the same as yours in the country in which my then-boyfriend/now-husband and I lived.. and changed drastically when we went to stay with the in-laws in their tiny apartment for an extended period. Ahem. :P

(I find the inverted syllable thing unbearably corny, like trying way too hard corny.. is it just me? I didn't know this about Argentine Spanish, and am very happy that neither hubby's dialect or mine involve this stuff.)

macondo mama said...

Launa: Gotta love a lunchtime rendez-vous culture.

Anonymous: Thanks for your comment!

What are telos called in the country you lived in? A tiny apartment shared with in-laws sounds like an absolutely excellent reason to make to become a telo regular.

I am totally taken aback that you find the inverted syllable thing corny. Corny? Really? As a part of Lunfardo, I have always found it extremely cool. Like, too cool for me to use without people laughing at me, except for a few really common words. It's such a part of the sexy, smoky tango culture, and the working-class 1930s underground. Is it also used elsewhere in Latin America in other contexts?

Elisa, Croatia said...

I had no idea about the word inversions. I think it's kinda cool, I mean broli? who would have guess it's libro? I'm trying to think if we had such words in Mexico but I was eight when we left the country and now embarrasingly, I will admit I speak spanglish (does that count?) like donde parkeo el carro?

back to the telos. What I have seen here in Croatia is that everyone goes to the beaches (late late at night, and do it in the car, it's the only explanation when I look out my window and ask hubby why are there cars parked this late at night, they can't be swimming right?)

kate said...

LOVE this, so funny...i have never heard of any of that before.
now, if we take a family vacation to argentina i may have find one with the child-care you speak of!

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