One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
Like everything in Argentina, the Abasto neighbourhood is a contradiction.
During daytime hours, my biggest worry is avoiding poop from roosting pigeons.
The neighbourhood is home to many of the country’s Orthodox Jews. It also has a large South American immigrant community, from my old Colombian roommates to the Peruvians running the fruit-and-vegetable shop down the street.
From my old window, I could see the Abasto Shopping Centre, a big, beautiful building constructed in the early 1930s. The location has been a shopping staple of the community since the 1880s. It now holds many fancy stores and an amusement park.
But as the sun goes down, sly creatures – robbers, stabbers and grabbers – come out. More people sit on curbs with beer bottles jeering at passersby. Shouts and the high-pitched shatters of glass fill the otherwise calm night air. Blue police lights flash through the streets frequently. I’ve seen the occasional bloodied person – and I’ve read that the occasional body is found outside of a particularly seedy bar a few blocks from my doorstep.
* * *
I was walking down my street around 8 p.m. last Saturday, on my way to a friend’s barbecue.
Half a block from my apartment door, a family-and-friend gathering had a barbecue of their own. Partiers had lit a fire in the middle of the street – literally, in the middle of the street – and a few roasts were sizzling happily above embers and a few licks of flame.
How nice! I thought. I would love to take a photo!
Then I noticed the man holding a handgun. Laughing, he handed it to another man nearby. He then rummaged through a shoebox of what appeared to be more weapons.
Sorry, dear readers. I decided not to take the photo.
As I crossed to the other side of the street and quickened my pace, I realized it’s probably a good thing I was leaving the neighbourhood.
And so, Abasto, it was a slice. But I needed to get out.
* * *
Here I am now in San Telmo. Lying on my Juliet-style balcony that looks onto my courtyard. We’re on the main floor, my two Argentine roommates and I. Above us lives a family from Senegal.
My first night in, my roommates made me and a friend of mine a large chicken dinner, complete with potatoes and a delicious cream sauce.
Almost every night I go out walking in the touristy neighbourhood. Things are more expensive here. English is abundant. Although I always address people in Spanish, they talk back to me in English.
I do live near some wonderful friends, however. And that’s what matters most to me.