Sunday at Feria de Mataderos

IMGP6933 By Sunday this past weekend, I desperately needed a day out in another world. Last week was exhausting – many late nights, countless tangos danced, plus several practical matters regarding my future to be dealt with. The Mataderos barrio (district) of the city offers something completely different. It is famed for its Sunday markets, folk music and street dancing. So, at 2pm on Sunday afternoon Gabriella, Jorges, Carlos and I were on the 180 bus from Abasto, making the 45 minute trip to Feria de Mataderos, at a cost of 80 centavos (less than 20 pence) each.

The hours we spent here were enchanting. We took a long time searching the many craft stalls for the perfect mate gourd for Gabriella to take back to the USA. In the end we found a craftsman who engraved a plain silver mate with a design of her choice for only $10 pesos all in. Perfect. Gabriella and I also bought ‘panuelos’. The ‘panuelo’ is the scarf used in the argentine folkloric dance, Zamba. After buying them we secreted them in our jacket pockets with a plan to impress the boys later if Zamba music was played…

Other artesans were selling foods such as cheeses, chorizos, breads, olive oil and of course every possible product on earth made with dulce de leche. A person could survive a day here on the countless free samples available, but to combat the cold we stopped at the hot food stands too. Later, Carlos bought Gabriella and I huge tubs of dulce de leche to bring home. If I eat it all I am going to be as fat as a big mate gourd! Ah well, maybe just a spoonful before a night’s dancing won’t hurt.

A highlight of the day for me was the horseback sport being played by the gauchos – old and extremely young alike. One street is turned into a track. The gaucho races down the track towards a target hanging above his head. In his hand he holds a  small stick. The target is a tiny ring, like a curtain ring, on a cord. The object of the sport is to hook the stick through the ring and remove the ring. I was mesmerised by the beauty of the horses, the speed of the approach and the skill of the game. The target was lowered for the children and some approached it more cautiously but these ‘chicos’ are gauchos in training and I was impressed by their ability. Seeing the horses reminded me that the last time I rode was months ago and I am now longing for a trip to an estancia (ranch) in the countryside.

As the light faded, we sat on boxes and crates behind the olive oil stall of a friend of a friend, drinking mate and chatting over our day. We listened to the folk music being played in the main square. Suitably refreshed we could wait no longer. We joined the groups of people dancing. I danced the Chacarera (which I now know) and by copying local people, other dances which I don’t know yet. Gabriella and I longed for Zamba, but it never came. However, nothing stops us girls. As we walked to the bus stop we launched our ‘panuelos’ and while we waited for the 180 to arrive, we danced. Jorges was our teacher. He sang the music and helped us with our steps. Carlos danced Zamba for the first time. Gabriella and I were trying hard because so far we have only taken one class. Jorges encouraged us on. Anywhere else we might have looked more than faintly ridiculous. But not here in Argentina, with the folk music drifting down the street. The truth is that I got my wish of a refreshing day in another world. By Sunday evening in Mataderos, nothing mattered to me, except to dance on the pavement in the dark with my friends, with my beautiful new pink ‘panuelo’ floating in the night air.

See pictures of my afternoon at Feria de Mataderos

Watch a gaucho try to hook the target. But does he succeed?

Watch a gaucho in training try to hook the target…

Watch El Puchu dance Zamba in La Ideal


One Response

  1. Finally! I made it to July. I leave for Seattle in two days. I hope I will meet your friend Gabriella either in class or in one of the milongas.

    That would soo cool to dance a tanda or two with her.

    Well, I best be off to bed. It’s 1:30AM and I need to get up in 5 hours to do an oral presentation on Medicare in the U.S. among my peers at work.

    G’night, Sally. *muah!* Smiles, “Sly” 🙂

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