Colorful Caminito, a Buenos Aires Barrio


La Boca is a neighborhood (or barrio) of Buenos Aires. It’s name literally translates as the mouth, because it is the old port of the city. It has a very strong Italian history, and you’re as likely to find pasta as an empanada on the local menus. We took a bus through La Boca, although we didn’t stop to see the main sight: the football stadium of the Boca Juniors. Instead, we walked over to Caminito, a very touristy neighborhood right by the waterside.

The bus. Very colorful, much like the neighborhood.

The bus. Very colorful, much like the neighborhood. If it wasn’t for this tour bus, Caminito would have died a long time ago.

I supposed I should explain what I mean when I say it’s a touristy neighborhood:  it exists solely for tourists. The three or four streets right around the bus stop are all painted bright colors – which they claim is authentic. The story goes that the very poor immigrants had to use steel sheetmetal o build their homes, and the only paint available was the extra cans from the shipyards, so the barrio became bright and colorful. The neighborhood inspired the music for the famous tango “Caminito“, composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto. And boy, do you hear it played on every single street corner!

One of the many touristy restaurants in Caminito. Bright, colorful, and totally fake.

One of the many touristy restaurants in Caminito. Bright, colorful, and totally fake. Especially the rather creepy “puppets” looking down from the second-storey windows.

But what is not authentic is the couples “spontaneously” dancing tango in the street, and then demanding money if you try and take a photo of them. Or the “laundry” hanging on the lines to dry, but that still have price tags on them. There wasn’t a single store that wasn’t for tourists, or a single menu that wasn’t translated into English.

Here,

Apparently tourists only ever look at eye level, because the lower halves of these buildings were painted brightly, but the top remains kind of old and squidgy.

Although the streets were certainly bright and colorful, the whole experience left a sour taste in our mouths. I often struggle with the balance between authenticity and tourism – often one cannot survive without the other, but Caminito is an example of where the balance has failed.

This is THE famous street in Caminito, and while it didn't have any of the annoying restaurants, it had plenty of artists hawking their cheapo prints.

This is THE famous street in Caminito, and while it didn’t have any of the annoying restaurants, it had plenty of artists hawking their cheapo prints. At the time I didn’t think it was too bad, but once I saw Valparaiso (which has a similar color scheme, but is more authentic), Caminito just looked and felt very tacky to me.

 

These dogs were obviously done for the day. Taking a nap.

These dogs were obviously done for the day. Taking a nap.

 

Here is a close up of one of the buildings.

Here is a close up of one of the buildings. As my mother would say, “the colors almost make your eyes bleed.”

 

We saw this group of guys playing on the street, so I assumed they were busking. They were really quite good, so I went to drop some change into their cases, but then I realized they were in the middle of a photo shoot!  Oops!  Not buskers, but professionals!  Sorry guys!

We saw this group of guys playing on the street, so I assumed they were busking. They were really quite good, so I went to drop some change into their cases, but then I realized they were in the middle of a photo shoot! Oops! Not buskers, but professionals! Sorry guys!

 

This is the famous bridge in La Boca that is used as a backdrop in many tango films/album covers. It's become a symbol of Buenos Aires.

This is the famous bridge in La Boca that is used as a backdrop in many tango films/album covers. It’s become a symbol of Buenos Aires.

One last shot, which I like because the shadows of the tree break up the color blocking of the buildings. And I can never resist a pretty lamp-post!

One last shot, which I like because the shadows of the tree break up the color blocking of the buildings. And I can never resist a pretty lamp-post!

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted on 13/06/2013, in travel, Travel to South America and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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