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.
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!
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.
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.