Buenos Aires – Tango and Street Art

by Robert Bush: October 29, 2015

(Tomorrow we board our boat for the Antarctic.  I hope to write a daily log describing the trip and what it’s like to be in the middle of a wild ocean heading south.  This is our last stop – Buenos Aires.)

Buenos Aires is a city of 3 million people in a metropolitan area of 15 million  The city itself has 48 barrios or “neighborhoods” and they each apparently have their own history, culture and personality.  So with five days here, we could only scratch the surface.  It is a bit more difficult to get a sense of this city because it has not been analyzed and reviewed countless times like places such as Paris, New York, Rome, etc. What we found was that the guidebooks don’t really give a sense of the city and tend to focus on the same tourist attractions.  While some of those are definitely worth while, there is so much more.

One of those things you do read about is tango – and for good reason.  Tango is part of the culture of Buenos Aires.  There are thousands of places to watch tango shows and milongas where you can dance – or, in our case – watch other people dance.  This image was taken at a tango show at Cafe de los Angelitos.  The dancers – and musicians – were wonderful.DSC_0801-Edit

One of the things you don’t read about in the guidebooks is the flourishing street art scene.  Taking a walking tour of some of these places with Matt and Miles from Buenos Aires Street Art was definitely a highlight for us. I would encourage anyone visiting this city to take this tour.   In Buenos Aires, street art is legal so long as the property owner has given permission – and many do, often to cover graffiti.  Even when permission has not been granted, the penalties are minor.   Even the graffiti is interesting.  It is not associated with a gang culture, and many of the street artists and graffiti painters are friends.  Those who paint graffiti generally respect good art and will not tag a good piece of street art – at least for a few years.  For many of these reasons, street artists from around the world come to this city to contribute to the street art scene.

We first noticed the street art when we arrived in our hotel in the Palermo barrio.  We saw the cat that is pictured here and then saw a lot more.  IMG_3737And it turns out that this was just the tip of the iceberg (which I guess is a pun given the nest part of our trip).   On our tour, we saw one of the artists working.  He was from Brooklyn.  Buenos Aires Street Art invites many of these artists, and arranges with local building owners to have their walls painted.

The walking tour was able to show us just a few of the pieces, mainly in the Colegiales barrio and we saw a number more in the Palermo barrio.  But the city is filled with street art.  Here are a few of the best that we saw.  Most of these are signed works,  and a number of the street artists have international reputations.

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Another one of the things that is mentioned in all of the guide books is the Sunday Feria de San Telmo.  This is a colorful street fair/craft market that stretches for 13 blocks down the cobblestone streets of San Telmo, one of Buenos Aires’ oldest barrios.  Here are a few images from the Sunday Feria:

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Buenos Aires is filled with wonderful neighborhoods, with apartment buildings, shops and restaurants. Many of the sidewalks are filled with tables from neighborhood restaurants, as is pictured here.   Many of the streets are tree lined, and even though there is plenty of traffic, there is far less noise and congestion than in similarly sized cities.  And there are many parks.  On the weekends, they are filled with children.

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When we first arrived in Buenos Aires, we were checking a map of the city.  When comparing the map with guidebooks and just trying to get the lay of the land, we were confused.  Then the hotel staff at our wonderful hotel, the Logado Mitico Buenos Airespointed out that the top of the map was south, not north!!  I had never even thought about a map with north at the bottom.  But when you think about it,  we are in the Southern Hemisphere, so why not stand with your back to equator, and look toward the pole – the South Pole.  When you face south, the map makes sense.

The lesson of the map is that we are definitely in a different part of the world.  So, while there are many references to Buenos Aires being the “Paris of South America,” my conclusion is that Buenos Aires is its own place in the world.  We could see Paris – or New York, Rome or Los Angeles – in this city. But Buenos Aires is none of those places.   This is a place where the top of the map is south.