Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Outside to Inside

If you step outside the carefully drawn tourist boundary in La Boca, you’re recognized as foreigner no matter how much you think you blend in with the background. I chose to be conspicuous and went wandering through the off streets. I passed a man working at the local market twice, and the second time he gave me the Argentine hand signal for ‘ojo’ (pulling down the skin under one eye with the index finger), meaning watch out. A woman passing by simultaneously turned to me, confirmed that I wasn’t from Boca in any way, and warned me to turn around. The neighborhood is addicting though because you sense it’s the roots where Buenos Aires was born. At least, I think so. There are extreme amounts of poverty in Argentina, around 40% live beneath the poverty line, and La Boca only begins to reveal the truth about a majority of this country. Without much, the neighborhood becomes their playground and theirs alone; with every step, I found an image behind my lens that said something so much deeper than its two-dimensional form. This girl intrigued me. Forlorn yet independent, she walked down the path. Her body language was one of a woman’s intimate with loss. Where was she going? What was she feeling? To what distant corners of her imagination was her mind taking her?

These people are proud of their culture, their lives, their barrio that has so little yet so much. They wait patiently behind the twinkling tourist zones either waiting to reclaim what’s theirs or content knowing what they have is so much more timeless than a over-priced picture with an overly done-up tango couple.

From the streets, I wandered over to Fundación Proa. Unbeknownst to me, it was opening night of a new art exhibit, “El Tiempo del Arte.” That means that all wealthy patrons with all their glitz & glam came to play. The contrast from where I just came from was staggering. Music played and the artsy citizens perused the book collections while sipping wine and snacking on cheese and crackers, waiting for the exhibit to officially open. I felt dizzy while trying to reconcile the two worlds. I sat next to Carlos: a comfortable companion and a solid Spanish practice session. He told me a little about his life before we went on our way. The exhibit explored the transformations of love/hate, power/daily life, life/death, and mind/body through five centuries of art. The result was powerful.

This piece burned this image onto my brain, done by León Ferrari in 1965. Ferrari is a contemporary conceptual Argentine artist. His art often deals with the subject of power and religion. This piece in particular, called "La civilización occidental y cristiana" (“Western-Christian Civilization”), blatantly comments on issues of United States influence and protests against the Vietnam War. Forced into exile from 1976 to 1991 because of the military dictatorships, Ferrari’s art speaks a truth that others cower from and sends a message that is equally if not more applicable today.


  1. This is a well-written article. Are you a writer? I found you on bloggersinargentina.

  2. Hi Bruno, thanks for your comments. I'm not a writer (I wish), just a student soaking up Argentina. What are you up to here?