Saturday, February 13, 2016

La Boca, Buenos Aires

The Riachuelo where many immigrants first landed

La Boca is a barrio in Buenos Aires on the mouth of the Riachuelo and was the entry point for many Italian immigrants to Argentina.

Because it was home to many immigrants, it is also said to be the birthplace of tango as, according to my friend, "the lyrics to tango are always sad, like someone homesick". There are many tango bars up and down the caminito, however due to the flood of tourists to this area, they are particularly touristy.

The other distinctive feature of La Boca is the conventillos. These colourful houses consist of many rooms where the large families of the residents of La Boca resided.

A traditional conventillo
The courtyard of a converted conventillo
A conventillo converted for the tourists

La Boca is also famous for its local football team Boca Juniors and just about every person I saw in the caminito was sporting the distinctive blue and yellow strip of the team. I'd heard it wasn't a great idea to wear the red and white of their local rivals River Plate.

The caminito itself is only a couple of blocks which consisted of very touristy bars and a vibrant craft market.

Outside of the tourist areas is a poor neighbourhood which has a reputation for being a little dangerous. However, although the neighbourhood is disadvantaged, it is fiercely independent. It is known by it's residents as "The republic of La Boca" because in 1882 it actually attempted to succeed from Buenos Aires. Today it is also involved in a lot of radical politics and around the streets is a lot of political graffiti referencing both the recent election of Macri and the previous financial crisis that hit Argentina particularly hard.

Street art - The Republic of La Boca

La Boca is a barrio of contrasts between the built up touristy areas of El Caminto and the poorer surrounding streets. The conventillos that have been converted for tourists and the ones that are still in use - crowded with the families of La Boca.

It is a distinctive barrio that has had a profound effect on Buenos Aires culture from its Italian Immigrants, not the least of which is the quintessential tango.

El Caminito

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