Futbol, Art and Tango in Buenos Aires

3-D Artwork in La Boca's Caminito

We were warned: Watch your wallets and purses if you go to La Boca, Buenos Aires’ rough-and-tumble barrio located at the mouth (boca, in Spanish) of the Riachuelo river along the city’s southern border.

During the day, however, the most clear and present danger to your cash lies with the hawkers and hustlers in La Boca’s Caminito—a colorful tourist trap lined with artists’ studios, trinket shops, cafés, musicians and tango dancers. If you like, you can have your photo taken with the dancers—for a price, of course.

As always, my focus was on photography. In particular, I wanted to capture the bright red, blue and yellow dwellings constructed mainly of planks, sheet metal and corrugated iron—cast-off ship building materials left over from the days when the neighborhood was lined with shipyards. Early dockworkers—settlers from Genoa, Italy—built the makeshift houses. Other Europeans followed. Today, many La Boca residents are of mixed European descent: Italian, Spanish, German, French, Arab and Basque.

Drab and dreary at their inception, Caminito’s houses were painted in 1960 by local artist Benito Quinquela Martin, who also erected a makeshift stage for performances. Now each café has its own narrow stage where singers, musicians and tango dancers perform for your pesos. The many hawkers can be annoying, but it’s a poor neighborhood and they’re just trying to make a living.

Not too far from Caminito, La Boca’s futbol (soccer) stadium rises from the narrow streets like a modern-day Roman Colosseum. Instead of gladiators and lions, however, the stadium—named La Bombonera (the candy box)—is home to Argentina’s most famous soccer team, the Boca Juniors, but rivalries with other teams—especially their sworn enemies, River Plate—are, it seems, just as fierce. When full of screaming, chanting, weeping, frenzied fans, the blue-and-yellow stadium, it’s said, shakes as if an earthquake is underfoot.

La Boca has a third claim to fame. In 1882, after a lengthy general strike, it seceded from Argentina—or tried to. Rebels raised the Genoese flag, which was immediately removed personally by then President Julio Argentino Roca.

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Categories: Argentina, Art, Photography, Shopping, South America, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Futbol, Art and Tango in Buenos Aires

  1. The colours are wonderful! It’s like everything came out of a box of skittles.

    • A box of skittles—what a perfect description. The colors are the main attraction, I’m sure, and the neighborhood artists take advantage of all the attention. It’s quite a fascinating place.

    • I wandered down to La Boca one morning in the summer of 1999. Hungry, I stepped into a restaurant at lunchtime, I began chatting with people in a large party at the next table to where I was seated, and they quickly invited me into their group for lively eating, chatting and discussions about Argentina and the U.S. Don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but the experience wasn’t about the food but rather about the warmth of the Argentine people. (I’m American and speak Spanish very well, though that Argentine accent can be tricky!) – Marc

      • Marc, what a wonderful experience—the kind I hunger for when I’m traveling. And I’m in total agreement about the warmth of the Argentine people (and my Spanish, unlike yours, is very limited). Even so, even without a common language, the communication and warmth was there. Thank you so much for sharing.

      • That does sound like a wonderful experience, Marc. The best way to get to know a place is through its people.

  2. Geraldine

    The color IS fantastic. Very nice photos… you have a very good eye.

    Unfortunate that every photo is marred by the giant, obnoxious copyright notice splattered across the middle. Are you “protecting” your work? Yes… in a way. You have protected it by destroying its innate value. Difficult to even see the photographs behind what is essentially self-aggrandizing graffiti.

    • Geraldine, self aggrandizing is certainly not my purpose, but as you say, it is protection. There is too much theft on the internet these days, and I’m a working photographer who needs to be paid for her photos. I appreciate your comment and hope you understand.

  3. Oh wow…what a feast for the eyes. Love this Jennifer.

    • Thank you, Jo. I felt the same way—eye candy in triplicate. And that definitely makes for a photography feast! Wish I could have spent more time there.

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