Feria de San Telmo
If you’re ever in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, you might consider enjoying the “good air” and making your way over to a lively outdoor market in San Telmo. Part art fair and part antique bazaar, the Sunday San Telmo Fair, Feria de San Telmo, is lined with a hodgepodge of artisan goods and forsaken heirlooms. The feria is an outdoor bazaar, true; but with its live music and spontaneous dancing, it feels like a neighborhood block party. Locals and foreigners intermingle on narrow, cobblestone paths, strolling past puppeteers and street performers, sidewalk cafes and roaming food carts, painters and tango dancers.
Follow the pedestrian traffic from Plaza Dorrego at Humberto Primo Street, and soak in the colorful artistry. Nab warm empanadas from a vendor with a tray, sample dulce de leche from an often overlooked table, pop into a hipster cafe if you’re really hungry. If you continue walking up Defensa, you’ll eventually find yourself at Plaza de Mayo (and Casa Rosada) in the bordering neighborhood of Monserrat. Oh, and you’ve now just visited the two oldest plazas of BsAs.
There will be music, there will be empanadas and mate, there may even be a percussion parade. The steady pounding of drums might bounce off the alleys and carry across streets, sweeping you up in a rhythm-filled march that attracts revelers faster than a conga line on a cruise ship.
The historic neighborhood may be a bohemian stomping ground today, but it once was, before an epidemic of yellow fever, one of BA’s wealthy neighborhoods. As such, it’s no surprise that antique shops linger in corners, and the Sunday fair might present you with stunningly genuine treasure. As BA’s oldest neighborhood –in fact, the city’s first barrio– San Telmo is an interesting example of the old living in the present. Its 18th Century Plaza Dorrego and adjoining Cafe Dorrego are juxtaposed by a 21st Century Starbucks across the street, as well as a nearby El Baqueano restaurant, which, if Michelin ratings applied to Argentina, would have at least one star.
Despite slow-encroaching gentrification, San Telmo is stubbornly holding on its cultural soul, its alma. Its choice of weapons? Wall murals on seemingly crumbling facades that belie affluent colonial architecture, coupled with themed tango for every night of the week. In evolving from a Spanish settlement in the 1500s to an immigrant haven in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the district has become a bastion for history and diversity. And during a Sunday fair, both history and diversity are evidently, unabashedly on display. May the bailarines and artistas help keep it that way.