Americas, Argentina, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires’ Waterside Barrios: La Boca and Puerto Madero

No Comments 17 July 2010

Buenos Aires’ Waterside Barrios: La Boca and Puerto Madero

As part of his 2004 visit to Buenos Aires, the Monkey explored some of the waterfront neighborhoods of this great port city.


Caminito, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
El Mono en la Boca. La Boca is one of Buenos Aires’ most charismatic neighborhoods, a diamond in the rough that the proud working-class locals like to call la República de la Boca to emphasize their distinctiveness from residents of the capital’s other barrios. Boca is a low-lying neighborhood along a small river called the Riachuelo that serves as part of the city limits (though by no means the end of Buenos Aires’ urban sprawl). The neighborhood was settled mainly by Italian immigrants, who brought with them the custom of painting their homes in a rainbow of colors. Here, the Monkey takes in the charms of La Boca on its colorful Caminito, Boca’s—and perhaps Buenos Aires’—most famous street.

Caminito, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Monkey sits on a wall in front of one of Caminito’s brightly painted homes. Aside from paint in primary colors, another common trait of La Boca’s houses is their use of ridged corrugated tin siding. Because of its unique ambience and historic role in the growth of porteño traditions—from pizza to tango—Boca retains a strong cultural resonance for many Argentines.

La Bombonera, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Looking over the roofs of Boca from atop the sleek Fundación Proa cultural center, the Monkey eyes the home of Argentina’s best football club, the celebrated Boca Juniors. Their stadium is called La Bombonera, or the Candy Box, not because of the sweet play that goes on inside (though there’s much of that), but rather for the manner in which the spectators are crammed into its vertiginous stands like chocs in a box. Boca’s best known player is undoubtedly the inimitable Diego Maradona, who is also a hero to supporters of Argentina’s national team.

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina
In recent decades, Puerto Madero has gone from a derelict district of crumbling dockside warehouses to one of the flashiest spots in the city. Puerto Madero’s four docks (one of them is visible here) were built in the late 19th Century, but proved unable to handle the volume of ships coming and going. The docks and the Victorian brick warehouses fell into disuse. Nearly a century later, the real estate potential of the locale—near the microcentro and a nature reserve—dawned on developers, who quickly converted the area into a fashionable new destination. The warehouses (at right in this shot) were renovated into apartments, offices, and restaurants—all pricey enough to be beyond most porteños’ reach. Despite the barrio’s pretensions, it is a pleasant place for a weekend walk, and there is some interesting modern architecture in the area. If you look past the Monkey, on the right, you’ll see one of the old cranes that once lifted products onto and off of merchant ships.

Puente de la Mujer, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Monkey rests during a walk along the diques of Puerto Madero. Behind him is Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s Puente de la Mujer, a bizarre and clever 2001 structure that pivots on a center point to let boats pass, not that so many boats pass through the dock these days.

The tall, vaguely Parisian looking building beyond the bridge is the Edificio Libertador, the headquarters of the Argentine Armed Forces. Given the intrusive role the military has often taken in Argentine politics and civic life, the building could also be regarded as the unofficial but de facto seat of the Argentine government at several points in the 20th Century. Thankfully, the armed forces have stayed in the barracks during Argentina’s recent crises, perhaps recognizing the ineptitude of their past attempts at political leadership.



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Argentina

   FAST FACTS


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Population:

40,482,000 (2008)

Land area:

2,736,690 sq. km.

Capital:

Buenos Aires (city: 3,000,000; metro: 12,000,000; 2005)

Economy:

In 2006, Argentina ranked 34th in the UNDP Human Development Index and 30th in total GDP, with a per capita GDP of $5,471.76. Public debt accounts for 59 percent of total GDP, while 23.4 percent of Argentines are beneath the poverty line.

Main language(s):

Spanish

Monkey's name:

El Monito (El Mo-nee-toh)

Fun fact:

Argentina is the world’s 5th largest wine producing nation, and rests in 6th place for total consumption (France tops both lists). The Argentines love their wine: they rank 8th in the world in per capita consumption, with the average Argie drinking upward of 35 liters per year.



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