Tuesday, May 01, 2007

San Telmo, An Neighborhood of Antiques that Lost its Kingdom to Modernity in Buenos Aires

I confess. I am a Fair’s girl. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t juggle and I’m not into acrobatics, I am a Fair’s girl because on the weekends I like to stroll down the different Artisan’s Fairs that are organized across Buenos Aires: at Juramento, Plaza Italia, Placita Cortázar, Plaza Francia or San Telmo.

Each of the fairs has a unique touch to it. For example, at Placita Cortázar you can experience how traditional art fusions with modern art, and decorative art with clothing items; at Plaza Francia you can see how street artist’s presentations wrap around artisan’s crafts; and at San Telmo you can be the protagonist of how history and tradition mingle with modern society and tourists.

It had been a long time since I had last walked around this area of town, and I was surprised to see how much the Fair that grown and evolved. About ten or twelve years ago, San Telmo, one of Buenos Aires’ first neighborhoods, was characterized for being the host of antique stores during the week, and a renown Sunday Antique Fair where businessmen exchanged and their merchandise to curious people passing by.

Even though nowadays Buenos Aires’ most renowned and emblematic antique stores are still located in San Telmo, as I walked down Defensa Street Sunday afternoon, antiques got lost among rustic and modern art crafts that were sold by street artists. Nevertheless, the neighborhood still conserves a gallery where you can find old and strange objects, some almost forgotten that take you back to your childhood days, and other completely unknown for young generations. Antiques continue to play a central role in the neighborhood, even though they no longer rule the place, and now they have to share their kingdom with modern objects.

Although San Telmo has been modernized in the past couple of years, it still conserves its rough spirit: tango groups fill the streets with profound beat of the double bass, harmonious notes of the violin and the agile two by four of the bandoneón; dancers adorn the cobblestones with firuletes and eights, turns and history; and painters portray moments, figures and people attempting to immortalize the moment.

At San Telmo I enjoy being a Fair’s girl because I travel through time, experiment the past and experience the present changes at the same time.

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