The “Barrio” To Get Lost In Buenos Aires

The oldest barrio in Buenos Aires: San Telmo, juxtaposes different decades of the Argentinian architecture.

San Telmo
Unsplash Rafael Leão

Palermo is probably one of the most recognized barrios (neighborhoods) in Buenos Aires, but it is all too reminiscent of Manhattan, NY for me. With its fruit stands and pharmacies on every corner compacted into a grid of paved streets and avenues, it is difficult to get lost here.

But in the barrio of San Telmo, original wholesale mercados (markets) remain to sell fruits and vegetables locally grown in Argentina’s northern regions and other places in Latin America, while the same mercados in Palermo have been converted into shopping malls.

The oldest barrio in Buenos Aires: San Telmo, juxtaposes different decades of the Argentinian architecture, telling a messy story of its even messier history.

Today, contemporary graffiti murals flank antiquated cathedrals. Crumbling sidewalks lead to cosmopolitan Colonel Manuel Dorrego square, a plaza of coffee shops, tango and jazz clubs and an antiques fair each Sunday.

San Telmo
Unsplash Rafael Leão

Buenos Aires’s riches resided in San Telmo during mid-19th century, but fled to Barrio Norte when yellow fever swiped away local population in 1871, claiming over 10,000 lives. The former grandiose homes of these riches quickly turned to tenements as British, Italian, German, Galician and Russian immigrants melted into San Telmo’s cobblestone streets.

Walking through the tenements, which are tourist shops now, I don’t think I would object to living in them. They are open-roofed and sunny, filled with flowering ivy that climbs their white stucco walls.

But turning a corner to the monument of los desaparecidos (the disappeared ones), one witnesses another stark part of Argentina’s recent history. The concrete park, which lies underneath one of the major highways in San Telmo, remembers the 30,000 people who disappeared or were killed during Buenos Aires’s dirty war and operation condor in the 1970’s.

San Telmo
Unsplash Rafael Leão

The monument reads “Companeros detenidos desapercidos presentes ahora y siempre” or “Detained disappeared friends here now and forever.”

Among the disappeared ones were journalists, whose memory still tells a part of San Telmo and Argentina’s turbulent history.

Article written by Courtney Pruitt.

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