Sunday, March 31, 2013

La Boca Neighborhood, Buenos Aires

Caminito, La Boca, Buenos Aires
Written by Karen.
The La Boca neighborhood is one of the oldest - and most colorful - neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. It is also the neighborhood where we stumbled across the warehouse-turned-bar and met the husband and wife team of Nicole Nau and Luis Pereyra and their tango and folklore dance group.  (Tango in Buenos Aires Post) It was our first peek at the tango, with its artistic workings and beautiful interplay of heat, passion and sitting on-the-edge of your seat music.  

Our experience of being introduced to the tango as we did on an off-the-beaten track avenue in La Boca was perfect.  The La Boca neighborhood is also well known for its public dancing of the tango along the Caminito - a pedestrian only street - that is full of color, art, cobblestones, drifting music and wafting barbeque smoke. The tango lives and breathes in La Boca as an art form, alongside other fine artists, musicians, theaters and studios.

What I also absolutely loved about this working-class neighborhood was its unrestrained and vibrant use of color. Tradition tells the story that way back when, the immigrants  - originally mostly Genoese Italians - used to build their homes from scraps of ship building sheet metal. They then used the leftover boat paint to paint their metal homes.  The unique houses - a virtual riotous kaleidoscope of color - has became synonymous with the La Boca neighborhood.  That, and the La Bombonera soccer stadium, which fills its 49,000 seats every time the world-famous Boca Juniors team plays.  The team itself dominates nearly all of the streets, where the team colors adorn balconies, window displays, and any bare wallspace.   

The La Boca neighborhood is located at the mouth of the Riachuelo - a huge tributary that looks for all practical purposes like an ocean - as you can see water as far as the eye can see.  Several hundred years ago, this was where the cargo ships would come to be loaded and unloaded.  Today, La Boca has a bit of a rough reputation.  As a result, the tourist guides regularly insert words like warning, danger and safety into their informational text and descriptions about this neighborhood. But, despite that reputation, we happily explored most of the La Boca neighborhood and found a genuine working neighborhood full of helpful and considerate people going about their daily lives.  

One of those helpful encounters occured when we were just about to cross one of the streets in the La Boca neighborhood.  We were deciding whether to keep going straight down a particular street or whether to start looping back to the subway and thus turn right at this particular street corner.  

It was very hot the day we walked around La Boca.  The sun was creating sharp and distinct shadows as we walked through the rough and jagged sidewalks that are typical of most neighborhoods in Buenos Aires.  The streets were mostly empty, with people taking shelter from the heat in whatever anemic shade they could find.

As we stood in the direct sun at the edge of the sidewalk and debated which way to go, an elderly man came out of the shadows and approached us.  He was a little unsteady, but it was clear that he wanted to talk to us.  We waited, and when he reached us, he asked us if we wanted something to drink.  We answered no, and turned to cross the street. The man came closer and touched Adam’s arm. He asked again if we wanted something to drink, and added that wouldn’t we want to have a drink in the park just to our right?  We stopped and looked directly at the elderly and grizzled man.  Was he drunk?  Was he hallucinating?  The old man started talking some more in halting Spanish.  He was telling us that we should not go straight down this street.  He knew of some bad guys who had nothing to do and could cause us harm.  We should turn right at this street corner was his advice.  Adam thanked him for his now-apparent words of caution and told him that yes, we would be getting something to drink and enjoying it at the park to our right.  

We smiled at him and wished him a good day before he turned and meandered back into the shadows.  We crossed the street and turned right - walking directly towards the park.  

Who knows the truth of our encounter - or what was fact and what was fantasy.  We’ll never really know.  But, sometimes, when the line between fact and fantasy is so thin, I wonder what happens - how our lives would change - if we make a different choice and go straight down the road instead of making a right-hand turn?    

Vuelta de Rocha.  The "mouth" of the Riachuelo.  La Boca is behind me as I take this picture.
Bridges by the Vuelta de Rocha
Colorful buildings next to the La Bombonera stadium
Entrance to the La Bombonera stadium - Home of the Boca Juniors
Colorful buildings next to the La Bombonera stadium.  You can see the stadium on the right.  The colorful buildings are built out of corrugated metal.
Maritime architectural motif down by the Vuelta de Rocha
A colorful door as we wandered throughout the La Boca neighborhood 
An old warehouse wall and door updated with artistic finishes
Weatherbeaten doors and balconies
Colorful details near the Caminito 
An old garage door that became an artist's canvas
A multi-colored store with corrugated metal siding
An old warehouse door newly-painted with bright primary colors 
A colorful building on our way to the La Bombonera.  You can see the stadium in the distance on the right of the picture.
Bright sun and dappled shade found in the La Boca neighborhood

A red and yellow house made from corrugated metal

Vibrant colors found along the Caminito - a pedestrian only, cobble-stoned street full of old homes.  Some of these homes were no more than approximately 10 feet by 10 feet in size.
Taking some time to relax and spend some time coloring together


gunnlaug said...

Energivende farger!!
Ide til å freshe opp mitt hus.;-)
Kjekt å folge dere på reisen. Vi har hatt et fantastisk påskevær, ungdommene som har vært heime, har hatt flotte opplevelser i fjellet. Eg har enjyed å lage god mat til dem.

Observers of Life said...

Hei Gunna!

Flott å høre fra deg! :) Jeg er glad for at du hadde en fin påske. Det er en god tid av året: våren, nye muligheter, nye begynnelser ..... Jeg har også tenkt på hva jeg kunne gjøre med lyse farger til huset vårt. Fargene var så lyse og full av liv! Ta vare.

Kjærlighet, Karen