Monday, January 12, 2009

La Boca Boxing Day


La Boca is a rapìdly gentrifying port-side barrio, famous for its artisitic community, painted buildings and for its soccer team - Maradona's Boca Juniors. The painted buildings come from La Boca's heritage as the first port of call for the waves of Italian immigrants to Argentina - who used paint left over from the ships to colour their houses. Now days it's part of the area's identity and photos of the coloured houses in the tourist area feature prominently in most Buenos Aires tourism promotions.
The tourist area though is still in the middle of a barrio that is considered dangerous; and Porteños go out of their way to make sure that visitors are fully aware of this, quite unlike any other zone a tourist is likely to visit in this city. It started at the hostel, where the girl at the desk dramatically drew scribble on my map over the area to avoid passing on my way to La Boca. Lonely Planet has 'area unadvisable for tourist' on their La Boca map in several places, and emphatically warns not to cross 'the bridge' - whatever you do. It got even more serious when I asked for the restaurant that had been recommended at the hostel (with no address). A concerned and nervous look passed over the face of the barmaid at La Perla, who then asked her manager before pointing it out on our map, but insisting we take a taxi there (500m or so away). The taxi driver in turn inisted that we not leave the restaurant until we'd called another taxi; a (by now unneceassary) warning repeated by the waiter as we settled up !

Still, the lunch was fantastic. El Obrero is a traditional worker´s eatery whose walls serve as a shrine to Boca Juniors. Simple but delicious steaks (of course) and salads and amazing desserts - made by the proud waiter's mother - in fact he 'corrected' our order to make sure we got the right ones. To be honest, it was hard to see from the taxi back to the centre what it was we needed to be scared of in La Boca, but we were certainly happy to take the advice so insistantly given, and even happier to have persisted in finding this gem of a destination.

Apart from just wandering the streets and being accosted by tango dancers, artists, hustlers etc while looking for that one shot not yet taken, La Boca has a hyper modern exhibition space called the PROA Foundation which had a Marcel Duchamps exhibition on, inlcuding (a version of) his famous urinal. This, I'm afraid, is the closest I was to get to an art gallery in Buenos Aires.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Interesting gallery, particularly the copy of Duchamp's urinal. Saw another copy (or possibly the same one) at the Tate Modern. Interesting that these copies are not "ready-mades" like the one Duchamp picked up at a shop, but rather artistically create facsimiles of an object that wasn't art to begin with. More interesting is one being exhibited in such an unlikely location as La Boca.