“It’s a telo!?” My confused, yet intrigued exclamation would end in a barrage of hand-slapping and playful punches with my boyfriend. A hazy memory of cheap booze and lacklustre dance moves precedes one of utter clarity when we arrived at one of Mendoza’s more extravagant love hotels, known as telos. We pull up between a pair of fake marble columns on my partner’s moped and buzzed slowly in through the entrance, past a fountain garnished with two radiant neon hearts on a pedestal. The hourly rates are explained to us by a faceless voice from behind a mirror. We slide our pesos through an opening at the bottom, and a grizzly hand returns our offering with a numbered key. The rest, as they say, is history.
“A law was enacted that converted telos into businesses just as legitimate as regular hotels.”
An albergue transitorio (transitory lodging) or in layman’s terms a telo, is a not-to-be-missed part of any Argentine adventure. When explaining a telo to your gringo friends, think pay-by-the-hour sex hotels. The Argentine telo has existed throughout the 1900’s in different forms, but legally dates back to the 1960’s when a law was enacted that converted telos into businesses just as legitimate as regular hotels, or any other enterprise for that matter. This new law made hotel rooms rentable by the hour, and the decreased time of stay, meant that its clients were not just relieved of pillow talk but also were no longer legally bound to present a form of ID. Privacy and confidentiality became the founding pillars upon which all love hotels country wide were built.
Half a century after their creation, telos have flourished all over the country, in cities big and small alike. Within the city limits of Buenos Aires alone there are over 170 registered, and there are dozens in Mendoza and her environs, the earliest dating back to the 1950’s. The secret to the telo‘s success in Argentina is wrapped up in local customs, the most important of which is that many young people still live at home until their late twenties or even until marriage. This reality is part cultural; Argentines are more family orientated than us gringos, so it’s not viewed as undesirable to live with your parents. A big reason is pure economics. Many find it tough to get on their own footing before marriage and after they graduate university. Furthermore, in a country with a history of economic instability, many who do have stable jobs and could afford rentals view this as “throwing money away.” It is more common to stay at home and invest in a plot of land, or a car etc.
“Argentine telos can also be respectable establishments”
So sexually frustrated home dwellers have fuelled a diverse and complex love hotel industry. Just like any other consumer product, these establishments come in all shapes and sizes and of course at all different price points. If your penny-pinching playmate dices out a shy 30 pesos for an hour, bring your own sheets and towels just in case. Expect to be able to hear through the walls, observe mysterious stains on the carpet, and experience a rude interruption when your time is up regardless of the degree to which you’re unclothed.
However, unlike the seedy motel 6’s that give paying by the hour a bad name in gringolandia, Argentine telos can also be respectable establishments. Some are even rented for a newlywed couple’s consummation night. If you are willing to dish out 200 pesos or more for the hour, you could be privy to themed suites, a jacuzzi, room service, complimentary champagne, and a private garage to hide your car just in case you have something to be guilty about. One Buenos Aires based website allows you to sort through different options, picking the telo best suited to your needs and nearest to you. Amenities include pool, sauna, roman bath, Scottish shower, WIFI, water bed, erotic couch, a pole, and private gardens.
Erotic couch or not, there’s one thing you can count on at any Argentine telo: too many mirrors. In front of the toilet, inside the shower, beside the bed, and then the extraordinary ceiling mirror that hovers above the bed allowing you to catch every possible angle of the sacred act.
“One telo maid recounts her near death experience.”
In smaller cities, “the private garage is key,” one seasoned professional explains, “Everyone recognizes each others’ cars” which can make for some harmless embarrassment or profoundly hurtful revelations. One telo maid recounts her near death experience when one man recognized his wife entering with one of his co-workers. Offering to help with the situation, Clara told online news source Miradas Al Sur* that:
“I disguised myself as the wife and got into the car with the gentleman. When we were leaving the building, the husband was furious and aimed a gun at me. Thankfully he realized that I was not his wife before he pulled the trigger.”
A favoured venue for sordid affairs, some telos have been known to be watched by private detectives on the look-out for errant spouses and there have been cases where cuckolded husbands have turned up with notaries to act as professional witnesses to their wives romantic misdemeanours. Such racey tales belie the fact that many regular clients are simply respectable married couples with their own homes but looking to escape the kids and spice up their sex life. The co-owner of one well known rendezvous spot called O’Tello in Buenos Aires, Juan Jose Tapia proudly exclaims that;
“In the Americas, we [Argentines] were the first to open telos, and in Europe they simply don’t exist.” *
*Quotation also taken from online news source Miradas Al Sur in the article entitled “Telos: Historia de Un Invento Argentino” found on weblink – http://www.boletinargentino.com/sociedad/sexo/697-qtelosq-historia-de-un-invento-argentino-.html
By Gwynne Hogan
Published in the August/September 2012 edition of Wine Republic