BUENOS AIRES - It's a chilly November evening, and on the outskirts of River Plate Stadium, Priscila Juárez, 23, is crafting friendship bracelets. It will be a long night camping on the sidelines of one of the city's main avenues. She and her friends are about to order food delivery, weighing their options as they prepare for another night on the pavement. The way they see it, the waiting is an investment.
"It's really about the effort you put into it," explains Juárez. "Six months of dedication will put you at the front of the line on show day."
Nestled between an equestrian center and a bike lane, a group of nearly 200 20-something youths have transformed this urban corner of Buenos Aires into their second home. As soon as they secured tickets half a year in advance for their idol Taylor Swift's show, they set up tents right outside the venue, taking turns sleeping there each night with the goal of securing pole position the day of the show.
Over the weekend, Swift, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter, captivated Argentine fans with three sold-out shows marking the beginning of the international leg of her Eras Tour before heading to Brazil. Swift's Eras Tour is positioned to be the most lucrative one in American history, and because her fandom knows no borders, its successful start in South America is also substantially boosting local economies here.
But for some of her most ardent Argentine fans, the spectacle began long ago.
"The show doesn't start when the artist steps on the stage, nor does it end when they get off," says Matías Manteiga, 22, who teaches English classes in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. For the past six months, he has taken turns with the rest of "Tent 3."
Tonight is special for him. With his 12-hour shift extending until 8 a.m. the next day, he will reach the 140-hour minimum quota to guarantee a premium spot on the concert day. To determine fair access on concert day, the group decided that whoever spends the most hours camping out will be at the front of the line.
As he settles in with his notebook and study materials, he sends a picture to the group to document what time he got in, and he will send another one by the time he leaves. "It is almost like a company. The tent manager keeps the records straight," he says, laughing. "No, really. To the decimals."
It is not his first time under the tent canvas. Many of these people know each other from previous concert camp-outs. But few stays have been as lengthy as this one. They've elevated camping to a mission, fine-tuning a system for success. Each tent accommodates two or three people working in shifts, out of a group of 30 to 40 individuals assigned to a tent, seamlessly organized through WhatsApp. The manager meticulously logs hours on a spreadsheet and ensures the tent is never unguarded.
There's no WiFi. There's no heat. Stormy nights have taken a toll on the tents, which are already in bad condition. The nearest bathroom is at a filling station half a mile away. The day before the show, the organizers clear the tents, and fans spend the night on the pavement, armed with sleeping bags.
"It's stressful and sometimes really annoying," acknowledges Manteiga, who is studying to become a music producer. "But I grew up with Taylor and started playing guitar because of her. It's about making the most of the ticket. It was crazy but worth it."
"This is my second job, my second home and my second family," says Selena Herrera, 21, who works at a jewelry shop. At a recent show in the same venue by Canadian artist the Weeknd, she casually observed the precise spots where organizers would line up the crowds. Now Herrera has just returned from a two-hour guard at one of these strategic spots so that no one took her place.
What she likes the most about Taylor Swift are her lyrics. "I do not even know her, but it feels like she already taught me so much about life."
The Taylor Swift frenzy took hold of Buenos Aires the moment she arrived, with fans tracking her whereabouts and shows dominating national news for days. Social media was full of videos of Swifties flying in droves from neighboring countries. The Buenos Aires city council declared her a guest of honor, and the local tourism entity told The Washington Post it expected hotel occupation to rise to nearly 90 percent as a result.
On the upper floor of a McDonald's the day of the show, just a few steps from the stadium, the scene resembles a beauty parlor more than a fast-food joint. Hamburgers and fries blend with shiny sparkles, silver dresses and bracelets as groups of 20-somethings indulge in a pre-show beauty rituals. Swift's tunes are played in the background. Rain ponchos in all shades and colors are in fashion. Outside, a deluge is in progress, and hundreds of fans have been already standing in the rain for hours, waiting for doors to open. Ultimately, the show was rescheduled for Sunday night because of the weather.
"Taylor has a song for every mood," says Ana Luiselli, 27, who came from Formosa province by bus. She runs an English institute in northern Argentina using Swift's songs to teach the language. "I learned English with her myself. Her songs convey feelings exceptionally well; she has a way of putting everyday emotions into words that makes you connect deeply with her themes. That's why I love her."
The burst of Swiftie spending is a boost to the economy as the country endures one of its worst financial crises in decades. Demand for Swift's tickets soared, with over 1 million users in virtual line the day of the show hoping to get a last minute seat. The country is struggling with inflation well over triple digits, and the local currency is losing value by the day. Tickets for the Eras Tour ranged from nearly $40 to $400, while a worker on minimum wage in the country earns around $150 a month.
"We didn't care about going bankrupt," says Antonella Santa Cruz, who leads an official Taylor Swift fan club in Argentina and came to Buenos Aires from Rosario, the country's third largest city. "We would pay whatever it took and attend as many shows as possible. There was simply no other way for me."
Swift's shows take center stage just as the nation braces for a pivotal presidential runoff on Sunday. The showdown features a tight race between the current finance minister and a far-right libertarian and vocal admirer of Donald Trump. This charged political backdrop has ignited fervent discussions among some of Swift's Argentine fans, sparking debates as they describe parallels between her Swift's stance against conservatives in the United States and the unfolding political drama in their own backyard.
"[Javier] Milei is Trump," a group of Swift admirers posted on social media, partly inspired by the artist's firm opinion in U.S. politics. To be sure, they represent a tiny fraction of all Argentine fans. On the day of the concert, media reported pink posters on the street reading, "Swiftie doesn't vote for Milei."
For camper Herrera, however, politics takes a back seat. As she holds her friendship bracelets - a quintessential Swiftie accessory - she reflects on the past six months of camping. "The best part is the people I've met," she says. "The worst was when my phone ran out of battery. Oh, and the bathroom situation."