This is just a random comment on Buenos Aires life…I’ve spent a lot of time here, off and on, in a lot of different neighborhoods. Somehow I just realized that I’ve been moving gradually farther and farther from the center..and life on the borders of the city really is different.
I started off in Balvanera, where everyone warned me about how dangerous it was, full of squatters and casas tomadas, and I would be terrified to walk half a block at night from the bus stop to my apartment, which despite the multiple locked entrances and portero had been broken into just a few months before I got there.
Next I moved to a student residence, mainly for foreigners and Argentines who come to BA to study, right next to the national congress, Congreso. During the day, protestor’s drums would throb and noise bombs would explode out my window, while at night the street became eerily deserted, with newspapers and leftover political pamphlets rolling around everywhere.
After that I lived in a nice apartment in Almagro, very close to the border with Boedo and Caballito. I loved the neighborhood here – it was far more residential than the first two, with quiet, tree-lined streets and the clear presence of families and young children, but an easy commute by subte or collectivo to the center.
Then I stayed in Nuñez for a month, where I loved taking long walks to explore the streets full of gorgeous houses and gardens — real houses rather than apartment buildings — and the neighborly feeling of everyone sort of knowing each other.
And now, for just a few weeks, I’m staying in Villa Devoto (featured on my favorite Argentine TV show, Ciega a citas! I keep looking for the house), where there are even bigger, more beautiful houses and quieter streets. It’s so different from the more central neighborhoods for a lot of reasons. It’s not just that people don’t rush around frenetically, cars and motorcycles don’t try to kill you, and that people are there to live rather than to work. It’s a lot cleaner, there’s less dog crap everywhere, and you don’t feel like if you don’t cling to the zipper of your purse, you’re going to be robbed. There are fewer piropos (really!), and the lovely green plaza is a place for old people and students to hang out rather than sketchy bums. In the cafes, people sit calmly using laptops — a HUGE sign that this is a safe neighborhood, because well-meaning people will jump all over you if you attempt this in the center. But the reason I like it here most is that people aren’t obsessed with me being a foreigner, and don’t treat me differently as such. It used to seriously upset me — in a way that I’d have to do something nice for myself, to calm down after — when people would constantly ask me where I was from, what I was doing here, assume I didn’t speak any Spanish, or try to take advantage of me for being a foreigner. And here in Devoto, despite throwing my accent around all over the place, not one person has even asked me where I’m from. I love that, because it implies a certain acceptance, of my right to be here, of my legitimacy as a person regardless of where I’m from. And it gives me a lot more confidence to go up and talk to people if I know they’re not going to disregard me because of my nationality.
This morning I met the woman living next door to me, and she cracked me up; she was so sweet and funny and welcoming. I had knocked on her door to see if she could give me her internet password, but she actually didn’t know it — when she kicked out her last ex-boyfriend, he changed the password and left. A year later, she’s still trying to figure it out, and told me she can’t believe that bastard is still affecting her life. But anyway, this woman represents how different things are in a true barrio, where some of the distrust fades and companionship emerges. It’s isolated, and too far away from everything, and not that interesting once you’ve seen the pretty houses. So I would never want to live here for good. But for now, I like it. 🙂