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May 08, 2005

Going South - too far South

Well, this story happened a few weeks ago, but I'll write about it now.

If you start in the center of town and go north, the neighborhoods go from the Financial center, to the upscale hotel and convention district, to the super-rich residential old money district, to the water. If you go south from the same area, you go from the up-and coming artsy district of San Telmo (think a mid 90s East Village), whose main attraction is probably its market, to the old immigrant district of La Boca.

La Boca is most famous for two things - Argentina's most famous futbol team, Club Athletico Boca Juniors, and a small, very touristy district with Tango Shows (you can also get a picture of yourself with a tango dancer - I didnīt do it, but this fellow did), restaurants, and colorful old houses - and even cars.

Now, the rest of La Boca's the ghetto - but not really with a capital "O," if you know what I mean. The only real strange thing is all the poor stray dogs lying around - even outside of Micky Dīs. This kid even offered me that dog in the picture as a present (at least I think he did - my spanish isnīt really quite good enough to converse with Argentinian street urchins).

Anyway, if you walk down one of the main streets of La Boca, you eventually hit the old port. By the way, this makes the Gowanus canal - pre cleanup even - look like a pristine little mountain stream in the Rockies. There's two bridges going across the port - this one, which is completely abandoned, and the Puerte Niocolas Avellaneda, which is in use for Autos - and pedestrians.

Here's where my curiousity (and idiocy) got the better of me. The Lonely Planet guide says about La Boca Ļstick like glue to the few tourist streets, even in the daytime.Ļ Now, needless to say I didnīt really pay attention to that advice. Everywhere I went in La Boca was your typical Ļuse common sense - pay attentionĻ kind of urban area. However, the other side of the river was a completely different story.

If you - like I - make the foolish mistake of crossing the bridge south to the other side of the port, youīll end up in Avellaneda - and thatīs the ghetto with a capital O, and an capital G to boot. I later heard from Argentinians that itīs 10 times more dangerous than La Boca. This actually isnīt even Buenos Aires proper anymore. Itīs basically the equivalent of wandering across the Williamsburg Bridge from the Lower East Side into Brooklyn - 30 years ago. Avellaneda is mostly known for a huge shpping center and two football teams (Independiente and Racing) on the other side of town. Avellaneda is actually pretty interesting from an Urban Planning perspective. Thereīs a shantytown (not where I was, but close) thatīs not incorporated with the main part of town, and is fighting to be annexed so that they can also receive sewage and water hookups and such. Itīs an old story - my grandfather was telling me about a similar situation in Visalia, CA in the 70s when he served on the town planning commission.

Anyway, hereīs the story (as well as why I donīt have pictures of Avellaneda - at least not yet). Iīm a nut for bridges. And when I saw people walking across the Puente Nicolas Avellaneda I figured I would also, and maybe get some better shots of the abandoned bridge. I found the way up inside the bridge supports. The insides looked like they hadnīt been maintained in about 50 years. There was even old rusted escalators along with the stairs up to the deck. You could exit out on the pedestrian walkway on the side, or you could go up another flight and exit right out into the middle of traffic if you wanted to. I walked across the north walkway, and down the inside of the other support to the other side of the river.

Now, I definitely noticed it was a pretty dicey area. But it was during the day, some people were out, and I saw a cop on the shore a little ways from me. I took a few pictures, wandered around a bit, and went to go cross the bridge back to La Boca. As I was walking up to the pedestrian walkway, I passed a guy. I did not like the looks of him. Then I heard him whistle. I immediately thought ĻGoddamn it, my dumb ass is going to get mugged.Ļ So I headed back down outside to where I had seen the cop. The guy follows me, two other guys come up to meet him, and they mug me - RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE COP (as my friend Steve would say Ļnow THATīs Gangsta.Ļ) I mean, heīs not RIGHT there, but I could see him and he certainly could see me. I had heard plenty of times about how the cops here are all useless and corrupt, but I didnīt quite know the extent of it until then. To add insult to injury, I go up to him afterward to tell him Iīve been robbed and at least try and get a police report or something for insurance. Not only is he not going for that at all, he points to a little rowboat docked at the river and says Ļyou need to take the boat - thatīs for people who donīt want to be robbed.Ļ He didnīt even offer to give me the 50 centavos fare.

Well, I didnīt get hurt, didnīt lose anything I canīt replace, and learned a very valuable travelling lesson - street smarts differ greatly in different countries. If I had done what I had done back home, I would have been perfectly fine. Iīve still got to head back there to take my pictures again - I found both bridges really interesting - but this time with a cheap disposable camera and nothing I donīt want to lose.

Anyway, todayīs my last day in Buenos Aires - Iīm heading to Patagonia tomorrow. Iīm greatly looking forward to some clean air - my lungs canīt take another day of the pollution here.

Posted by Moses on May 8, 2005 02:21 PM
Category: Buenos Aires

Hello, MOSES, I know your name is MOSES, but are you trying to prove by going back to take photos in the area where you were rob?

Hope that all is well with you. What are the next steps in this adventure?


Posted by: eric on May 15, 2005 03:36 PM

Moses, as your grandmother I feel I must say this- Are out of your mind? And you are going back there? Oy vey.

Posted by: Ethel Seid on May 15, 2005 09:13 PM
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