Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Monday, August 29, 2011

Seeing La Boca

Here's a series from beautiful, complicated La Boca, one of Buenos Aires' many barrios. It's, like, a five minute walk from my apartment, but couldn't be more different than the neighborhood I live in, Barracas. Buenos Aires is amazing, because you can pass through so many different worlds in such little time. It reminds me of Mumbai, or something; one moment you'll see such wealth, and the next moment you'll be...stepping in dog poop. And that complexity is a beautiful thing...

...yes, YES!!! Okay, fine! I am falling in love. I was depressed, and then I was homesick, and then I was euphoric, and now I am drunk on this place. I love the food, the grittiness, the green-eyed Mexicans, and that bar in the San Telmo mercado. Sometimes it feels so raw here, so rough and sharp, but once in a while, some enclave will open itself to me, and just like that, I'm overcome.

So, this is La Boca. The barrio was settled, towards the end of the 19th century, by the Genoese. Most believe the neighborhood is called La Boca because it sits at the mouth of the river. The Italian immigrants built the conventillos, which are these squarish houses of corregated tin, and they're really lovely from the outside, sometimes. For the tourists, especially, they've painted them all kinds of colors: sea green and crimson and yellow, but I like the older ones, the ones with unfinished walls and patches of old layers of paint visible, and rust. I've seen them on the inside, too, and that view made me sort of sad. Most residents have only one toilet per building to share (we're talking three stories), and in the winter the conventillos are cold and wet. La Boca isn't the safest, either, especially at night. Vicky told me that squatters live in the abandoned buildings of La Boca, of which there are many, and if someone doesn't like that, they'll set fire to the place with the people inside. And so, sometimes, you'll see buildings with burned-out windows, and you'll know why. It's horrible, and common.

Nevertheless, the neighborhood is famous for a reason. It's colorful, artistic, funky and real. Enjoy, dear ones. As always, I am missing you all. Besitos, queridos. xx

 Mural representing one of the Mothers of the Disappeared

The above plaque marks the home of the late Pedro Laurenz, one of Argentina's most important tango composers. Now this house is falling down and has been painted over dozens of times...and it's for sale. Why doesn't the state buy it? one might ask. But they probably won't get an answer.

And these are how the conventillos look. Pretty, right?

Residue of a street performer...

The ice-cream kiosk was closed...obviously I was sad. Still, lovely right?

The style of painting above is called fileteado; the paintings are filetes porteños. Beautiful, right? It's a style of painting native to BA. 

Thanks Vicky and Alex!!! Full of facts they are.


  1. Wow, it looks like an amazing dream...where we just wander and wander and wander, and then decide to look at the map. Ha. xx

  2. God, I miss you. I shall come stay in your rambling new house when I return, where I shall wander and wander until I finally decide to look at the map.

    Te amo!