When you say Buenos Aires, you say ambiente. Walking through the most colorful street in the city, Caminito in La Boca, the magical atmosphere of Buenos Aires comes out.
For generations, the colorful neighborhood of La Boca has been known for having a typical working class air. This was the neighborhood European immigrants settled first upon arriving in Argentina as it lies conveniently at the mouth (hence “La Boca”) of the Mantanza river. Like many other barrios, villages within the city, the people who are born here often live here for the rest of their lives; they go to school, meet their loved ones, work, raise a family and finally die here.
In 1959, all of the houses in Caminito (“little street”), a shabby street within the La Boca area, were painted from top to bottom in the colors green, blue, yellow and red – works of art in their own right – and soon the other streets of the neighborhood followed. It meant a new start for this poor neighborhood, where at night in the whorehouses of the calle Necochea the vulgar tango was danced and malaria was common.
Nowadays painters sell their work in the streets, and a vivid art scene has erupted including contemporary and folk museums, which were previously forbidden in the times of the generals. As always, tango music is closely intertwined with Buenos Aires life, and the name Caminito is derived from a 1926 tango song about a little street witnessing the lost love of one of its passersby.
During the day, tourists can outnumber locals but at night La Boca comes into its own. That it is a different place in the evening is brought home to me by my taxi driver, hired at a city center hotel, being reluctant to even drop me. But the other diners at a small restaurants sweep me up into their warm embrace, and I leave with invitations to football matches, dinners and even homes. La Boca remains a place where people look out for other people, especially if they are new arrivals.
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