Saturday, April 14, 2007

Palermo, the Forever Creative Neighborhood of Buenos Aires

When I was small I used to walk through Palermo Viejo so I could go play in the park. With my small legs, it was torturous to drag my tricycle through broken sidewalks with old and neglected houses.

Around that time, the architects Jorge Hampton y Emilio Rivoira had already started to remodel the area, although most of the changes were unnoticeable. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that those early XX century houses with ample spaces, high ceilings, picturesque balconies with forged bars, began hosting decoration stores, clothing boutiques, specialized restaurants, and boutique hotels.

Little by little the neighborhood started to change until it transformed itself into the epicenter of Buenos Aires’ bohemian-contemporary movement; an area where artisans, clothing-designers and artists get together at Placita Cortazar to sell their accessories, paintings, bijouterie and other crafts.

Some people believe this artisans and artists are a new addition to the neighborhood. However, Palermo’s neighbors say that since the beginning, this neighborhood was tranquil and creative; a place where people got together to chat and have intellectual talks in plazas, cafes, clubs and neighborhood associations.

At the same time, there are stories that try to explain how the neighborhood got its name, although there is no official story. Some say Palermo carries its name because years ago they used to venerate the Virgin of San Benito de Palermo there.

Others say that the Chief of State Juan Manuel de Rosas gave this name to the first lands he bought in the area because his mistress thought of Sicilia every time she looked at the stream that ran through it.

The most popular story assures that the neighborhood carried this name to honor chacarero (person that dances chacarera) Juan Domigno de Palermo, the first owner of these lands.

I doubt we will be able to ever know the exact precedence of this neighborhood’s name, a neighborhood that has been parted and renamed in the last couple of years into: Palermo Holywood to the North of Av. Juan B. Justo, Palermo SOHO, to the South of this avenue, and the rest, simple Palermo.

Nowadays, it is fun to walk through Palermo during the weekends to live and experience the subculture that has been created in this neighborhood. At the same time, there are good and varied restaurants where you and eat and spend some pleasant time with your friends.

My favorites:
La Baita–Italian Restaurant
Thames 1603 (Thames y Honduras)
Price: Around $25 per person

Gardelito – Argentinean food
Thames 1919
Price: Around $25 per person

How to get there:
Córdoba and Scalabrini Ortiz / Cabrera and Scalabrini Ortiz:
140, 106

Plaza Italia / Güemes and Borges:
12, 29, 39, 68, 152

Plaza Italia / Charcas and Borges:

Placita Cortázar:
34, 36, 55, 93, 161

Line D to Plaza Italia

More about the neighborhood:

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