Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires contrasts

Homesteading along Godoy-Cruz

There a street, Godoy-Cruz, which runs a very long way from the big park near where I live, crossing my street, and going off for about 20 or so blocks until it disappears into a parallel street called Juan B. Justo. Juan was probably somebody in Argentina. I don’t know who Godoy-Cruz is, either. For about 7 of these blocks, between Av. Paraguay and Av. Honduras, running alongside the street for this distance, is some crumbling, abandoned, derelict structure that at some point must have been a giant factory. All the windows are gone, all the doors are covered by sheets of construction tin, bricked up, or boarded over. In a number of places the walls have caved in. On the other side of the street along here are mainly small old apartment buildings, a couple of love hotels, a cheap hostel, and the sorts of businesses that produce a lot of grease, grime, and dirt. But just a block in from that, on parallel streets like Uriarte, Thames, Oro, there is the bar, cafe, and restaurant area known as Palermo Soho.

On the other side of his long building, parallel with Godoy-Cruz, are the tracks for trains in and out of the villa miseria — the slums. Beyond that, the ritzy restaurant-cafe-club area known as Palermo Hollywood. So this massive but broken down building sits untended between two of the rich folks playgrounds of the Palermo barrio. Zoning here is a bit haphazard. The twin skyscrapers are across the street and across the railroad tracks. The price of one apartment in one of these buildings would feed all the homeless people now camped out in the abandoned factory mentioned here for the rest of their lives. Just for perspective.

I noticed a while back that it was evident a small group of homeless people were living in a less destroyed section at one end of of whatever this building used to be: stolen shopping carts were parked in a former driveway by a large door (probably a shipping/receiving door at some point) where some of the barricade doors had been pulled away. In the winter, smoke drifted into the air above the occasional roof. A couple of lazy dogs started hanging around by the shopping carts. Then, a few days ago, walking back from a rich person’s cafe, I noticed a family had moved into one of the tumbled down sections, built some steps to get in and out, and had found a place to wash their clothes. One small part of this has an intact roof, and they probably sleep there. In this open, roofless part, they have their parilla — a BBQ.

As a point of casual interest to the foreign observer, the word “pinguina,” standing out among the graffiti, refers in a derogatory way to Argentina’s Botoxed, Silicone boobed President, Christina F-K.

On the wall running alongside the railroad tracks just opposite the area of the picture above, I came across these folks who prefer camping out to the comforts of the family who have moved into the building on the other side of the tracks.

Roughing it, city style

Downtown Buenos Aires, which has among its derelicts, some pretty damn nice architecture, there is what is known as either the most beautiful or the second most beautiful bookstore in the world — I suppose it depends on who’s asking the question. It is called El Ateneo.

The most beautiful bookstore in the world

I think about things like this too much, and do far too little about it.

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3 replies »

  1. My son, who just turned 9, doesn’t realize what much of the rest of the world is like. I’ll be showing him these pictures later. Thanks for posting them!

  2. I could put up photos like this all day, from all over the central city, and never venture beyond the rich zones. I just happen to walk by this place frequently.

    Bet you can do the same in Mexico.