A colourful corner of Buenos Aires: La Boca

Every city has an area that is so touristy that is generally avoided by locals.  La Boca is one such place.

La Boca (Spanish for “mouth”) is situated at the mouth of the Riachuelo, a (polluted) navigable river that flows into the River Plate. Until the first half of the 19th century, the area was a slum. It was then that shipyards, silos, salting houses, tanneries and coal and wool warehouses were established thanks to an increase in the shipping trade.

This economic growth attracted immigrants, who settled in the area. They built their dwellings on stilts using planks of wood and sheets of metal. Stilts were vital to protect their houses from floods. They painted their houses with leftover paint they borrowed from the shipyards. The result was a motley array of multicoloured houses haphazardly laid out. Later on, bohemians, artists and musicians moved in and gave the barrio its distinctive flavour.

The area known as Caminito, named after a tango song, is where most of the action is. Its boundaries are Garibaldi, Araoz and Magallanes streets. There, local artists sell their arts and crafts, paintings and photographs. Look out for street art: paintings and sculptures by well-known local artists attached to the walls. Beware of pushy men dressed as tango dancers who will offer to have their photo taken with you for a fee. If you’re not interested, just walk away.

Also, beware of pickpockets. As in many other places crowded with tourists, pickpockets and muggers are part of the scenery. Simply be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your purse and camera.

Tenements were very common, and where living conditions were less than ideal. Nowadays, historical tenements, or conventillos, have been recycled into shops selling mainly tourist tat. Have a wander round one, it’ll give you an idea of what it was like to live in La Boca in the 1880s.

 

La Boca is easily reached by public transport. Bus lines 29, 39, 46, 53, 64, 86, 97, 152, 168 go there (as well as taxis)

Nicolas Avellaneda Bridge in the background
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Ana

Hi, I'm Ana. I'm originally from Argentina but I'm currently living in Dallas (USA) with my British husband. I'd like to share my experiences as an expat and as a traveller.

18 thoughts on “A colourful corner of Buenos Aires: La Boca”

  1. Does it happen to you as well, that you are now visiting all these places with the eyes of a tourist and enjoying it all as such? I think I´ve seen more of Argentina after marrying a foreigner than ever before – and I love it! 😀

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    1. Oh yes, definitely. I used to visit old churches and museums when I lived here but I find myself doing it more now. Funnily enough, I go to most places with my mum, and sometimes people think both of us are tourists!

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    1. No, we didn’t venture beyond Caminito. I’m not sure what else there is to see and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t do it because it doesn’t look safe (and I mean it from the point of view of a local, so draw your own conclusions 🙂 )

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  2. I was in Buenos Aires in 1997 and one of the things I remember best is La Boca. Such a colourful place. Back then, it was quite empty. I remember walking around all on my own. But I’ve heard it’s much livelier these days. Love your photos.

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  3. Having spent considerable time in Argentina – and returning in 2012 – La Boca is worth seeing (1) for the color of the buildings and (2) the Museo de Bellas Artes Quinquela Martin devoted to one of Argentina’s premier artists of this former industrial/dock working class neighborhood. Otherwise I agree, avoid the tourist shops and restaurants.

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  4. I walked to La Boca from downtown (whew, quite the trek!) and it was nice seeing a neighbourhood that’s off the beaten path, but once I hit Caminito I was kind of overwhelmed by all the people handing out fliers and trying to lure tourists into their restaurant.

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