I’ve heard plenty of stories of Boca. “It’s the Compton of Buenos Aires”; “You don’t want to be there after dark”; “It’s rough”; “It’s dangerous”; “The vendors are pushy and get in your face”; “The taxi drivers scam you”; “It’s a really poor area of town.”
It’s also quite picturesque.
We went to El Obrero, a parilla restaurant of some fame (thanks for the tip, New York Times). We walked there from San Telmo using backstreets (during the day, no need for wailing and gnashing of teeth, Mom and Dad.) And it wasn’t bad. True, the streets were a little on the deserted side, but it had plenty of artsy warehouses and charming buildings — and we were nowhere near Caminito, the tourist-trappy street of colorful buildings that is probably the most recognized feature of Boca.
I’m amazed that we could get so close to the boats in Boca. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)
It got even better closer to El Obrero. It’s an easy walk from there to the waterside, where it is possible to still see ships and boats docked. Bjorn told me that Puerto Madero used to look like Boca before it got thoroughly overhauled.
Which brings me to my pet theory: I’m pretty sure Boca is next on the gentrification list. I don’t see how it can avoid it: Boca is close to the water, it’s right next to tony Puerto Madero, tourists already flock there (during the day) — all systems point toward go.
Plus, culture is moving in. The Usina del Arte is right across the street from El Obrero, housed in a gorgeous, renovated, red-brick building that used to be an electric factory. The Usina del Arte is a cultural center that houses Buenos Aires’ first symphony concert hall and the Buenos Aires’ Philharmonic and National Symphony Orchestras. The center also plans to hold art, dance, music and theater programs. (For more on its backstory, read the Argentina Independent’s article.)
And, the artists are arriving. A few doors down from El Obrero, we stopped in awe in front of a beautifully painted stairwell. A man noticed us gawking and invited us into the compound, which turned out to be a newly-opened art space, Caffarena 86 (Avenida Caffarena 86, phone: 15-4179-7362). The owner described it as a place where artists would live and exhibit their work. Uh-oh, an artist’s collective. You know what that means — where the artists go, the hipsters follow.
That all being said, I would still only visit Boca during the daytime. For now. But 15 years from now, I’m looking forward to visiting a brand-new Boca.