Beauty in Barracas?

Under the autopista, Barracas I am the sort of girl who sees beauty in the lines of concrete columns supporting a motorway, rubbish being blown about on a dusty pavement, derelict buildings… but as I searched for a different kind of beauty in Barracas, I honestly did find myself wondering if I could possibly be in the right place.

Carlos has been replacing the entire gas system of a house on the far border of this barrio for the last two weeks, and yesterday the lovely couple who live in the house invited me to visit for lunch. We ate homemade ham and cheese tart, talked of the brave Italian immigrants who travelled so far by boat to settle in Argentina, like their parents, like Carlos’ grandmother. We froze in a cool internal room designed for the heat of the summer rather than a winter with the gas cut off, drank rich coffee enterprisingly brewed on a glowing ancient electric contraption, and I asked them how to find the Calle Lanin. Carlos had work to do and I wanted to explore.

I got the impression that both Carlos and my hosts were slightly nervous about me walking out alone, but they let me go with instructions to get a taxi if ‘you see anything that bothers you’ and to ‘call Carlos if anything happens’. They got me to memorise my route so that I wouldn’t have to stand around on a street corner with a map. After that I confess I felt a bit anxious heading under the ‘autopista’. And I do not think I would have walked there in the dark. It is just not my normal experience to look down a Buenos Aires street in daylight and have the impression of ’emptiness’, but on a Saturday afternoon here the back streets are silent, shop fronts are shuttered and there are few people. Calle Lanin is well hidden. It is therefore also the most wonderful surprise. Just as I was thinking I must have made a mistake, I arrived.

I read the sign on the wall. It began, ‘We are among those who believe that the city has soul…’

a street with soul At first I was alone there. Completely and utterly alone.

There were no cafés that I could see. The only ‘shop’ was three children outside their house selling a few plastic-bead bracelets they had made themselves. This made me smile as I thought of La Boca’s Caminito just some fifteen blocks away,  and imagined the possible scene a few years from now…

Right on cue, a pristine white bus parked at one end of the street. Maybe 20 people got out. The bus drove on. The people walked, rather too fast for my liking. They took a few pictures but talked to each other constantly and I wondered if they even noticed the sign I had just read. Before I could say, ‘ceramic’, they had boarded their bus at the other end of the street and I was alone once more. A few folks cycled by, around the corner a small film crew filmed, some locals wandered through with their dogs. I took my time, walked the street twice, tried to capture the colours on my own little camera, but more importantly tried to absorb the spirit of the place into mine.

As I walked back under the ‘autopista’ I realised that Calle Lanin had changed me. I did not feel nervous any more. I walked slowly, I stopped and looked. I tried to feel the soul in the pavements, in the architecture, in the eyes of the people I passed. My phone rang and it was Carlos, ‘I was worried about you. You didn’t call me,’ he said. ‘Two blocks and I’m with you,’ I replied. ‘Don’t worry. I am fine. I found everything,’ I said. And I had.

Find out why Calle Lanin is special and how to find it, in photographs


2 Responses

  1. Sallycat! Your photos are lovely! The wall murals and the tiles, all the colors…I don’t blame you for wanting to explore and take lots of photos.

    I am like you, and find something interesting (if not conventionally beautiful) to take a photo of almost every day. That is my recent practice.

    Just this morning, I found myself early in the morning in a place I visit regularly, Chinatown. Because it was quite early, the streets were practically deserted and it was like I had a whole quadrant of the city to myself to enjoy. The experience affected me so much that I wrote a post about it today (before coming here to read yours). Being alone but in the midst of a city is a remarkable and also lovely feeling.


  2. Tangobaby

    I have been following your recent journey into photography and in some ways it has pushed me to start getting my camera out again. It is always in my bag, but in recent months it has often stayed there.

    I remembered that I love bringing my world here alive a little on this blog both with photos as well as words, and looking back at the photos (as I do from time to time) always makes me smile.

    You are right that finding yourself alone in a city space can touch you in an unexpected way. I hope that your city walks continue to inspire you and that you keep taking beautiful photographs.


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