During his 2004 trip, the Monkey explores one of Buenos Aires’ hippest barrios, Palermo.
Palermo is a very large residential barrio historically characterized by its ample parks and courtyarded homes, but more recently known for high-rise luxury apartments and chic boutiques and eateries. If Palermo has a center point, it might be this colorful little square, known alternately as Plaza Serrano or Plaza Julio Cortázar; the latter name commemorates one of Argentina’s most renowned 20th Century authors. Cortázar was a resident of Palermo, until he went into exile in 1951 during the Peronist period.
Most nights, Plaza Serrano/Cortázar fills up with porteños enjoying its cafés and bars. The Monkey was too early to catch the crowds, mainly because porteños can give anyone a run for their money when it comes to staying out late.
El Mono enjoys a porteño standard: the late afternoon cortado (a shot of espresso with a tad of milk floated on top). He’s in the warm, inviting space of Bar Abierto, a Plaza Serrano fixture.
In the early 20th Century as immigration swelled Buenos Aires’ population, Palermo became a middle class refuge from the crowded city center. One- and two-storey patio homes in Palermo, like those behind the Monkey, which open onto enclosed courtyards offering oases from the city outside, were much aspired to. Palermo retains a wealth of these low-rise, single-family houses, which distinguish it from other central barrios where high-rise apartments of various vintages predominate.
The Monkey checks out a narrow Palermo street.
The Monkey examines a fancy paperie in Palermo. The barrio has become a center for trendy shops, though many of the goods remain far from the grasp of most porteños. Window-shopping is more El Mono’s style, anyhow.
Aside from Julio Cortázar, Palermo was also home to other Argentine arts luminaries, such as author Jorge Luis Borges and painter Xul Solar, who were friends. Here, the Monkey visits the sleek, redone interior of Solar’s former residence, now a museum dedicated to the eccentric artist’s oeuvre.
Las Cañitas is a small pocket of flashy homes, clubs, and eateries cut off from the bulk of Palermo by railroad tracks and some major thoroughfares. It’s become one of Buenos Aires’ most exclusive micro-barrios in recent years. Here, the Monkey admires a thoroughly modern take on the classic Palermo-style house. Parked out front is the ubiquitous Ford Falcon, once manufactured in Argentina and now an emotionally charged reminder of the 1970s and 1980s dictatorship, when the authorities patrolled in their Falcons hunting for purported “subversives.”
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