Various cities around the world now have a Greeter Program; I have written before about the programs in New York City, Chicago and Toronto. These programs connect out-of-town visitors with local residents who are volunteering their time to show the travellers around their home town. These are wonderful programs providing an insider’s look into the city and they are generally at no cost to the visitor.
Buenos Aires has created its own Greeter Program, called Cicerones. Here is Christina Yang from Cicerones to provide us with more information about this service.
1. What is Cicerones?
We are a non-profit organization whose goal is to improve the image of the city and of porteños (Buenos Aires citizens) who offer their knowledge, guidance, and tours to visitors. We are completely organized and facilitated by volunteers.
2. History of the Program
In March 2001 Graciela Castellanos, Elvira Levy, Mauricio Goldvarg and Joaquín Brenman, the organization’s ¨founders, ¨ began to meet and discuss the creation of this type of organization. By the following January, Cicerones de Buenos Aires was officially founded as a Civil Association. We were inspired by similar services already established in other cities around the world, like those in New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, etc. In fact, we were in contact with the programs in New York and Berlin when we were starting up. Our first tours began in July 2002, and today we have forty-five members administering about twenty-five tours a month.
3. What does a tour include?
The tour is organized around the interests and preferences of the visitor. The guides meet the visitors at their lodging to start the visit. The size of the group can range from one to six people and the tours generally last around three hours, with a break in the middle. The only costs will be those the tour itself demands, as our service is completely free.
4. What neighborhoods to you visit and what kind of activities do you provide?
Each tour varies, as they are customized around the visitors’ requests. They may include a walking tour of a neighborhood, a visit to a museum, a night at the theater, or even just a friendly conversation over coffee. The most popular neighborhoods visitors have requested to explore are San Telmo, Plaza de Mayo, Palermo, La Boca, and Recoleta, although some of the more residential neighborhoods like Norte, Caballito, or Flores are toured as well.
5. How do you organize the visits?
We customize each visit in a way that satisfies the visitors’ requests, language, and when possible, age as well. We just finished installing software designed specifically for our organization that allows us to match a visitor with three possible guides based on their requirements. After one of the guides confirms, we put him or her in contact with the visitor.
6. Who are the Cicerones (the guides)?
There are currently forty-five members and we have twelve more who are in the process of joining. They are porteños (Buenos Aires citizens) who share our ideals, are interested in our work, and who want to belong to our organization. To become a Cicerone, you must go through our training which focuses on ways to organize tours, as well as the history and aims of our organization. We have Cicerones who have mastered English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Hebrew as well.
7. How is this service free?
We can provide this free service because all of our work is done by volunteers. The organization is financed through contributions from individuals, donations from visitors, and funds raised in our special events.
8. Network of Greeter services
We have a very close relationship with other ¨greeter service¨ programs through the help of the ¨Global Greeter Network.¨ It allows us to improve communication between the programs, exchange experiences, and find ways to make our work more well-known. There have already been two gatherings, one in New York in 2005 and one in Chicago in 2006, and in 2007 we will meet in Toronto followed by a meeting in 2008 in Buenos Aires.
9. How can people find you?
Before leaving for Buenos Aires, travelers can find us at our website www.cicerones.org.ar. There they will find an online form to complete. We normally need about five days to organize a visit, but we do try and find guides for requests we receive within two days notice.
Thank you, Christina, for informing us about this wonderful resource for exploring Buenos Aires. Hopefully one day I will be able to try this service myself…