by Miss Bolivia*
The Bolivian neighborhood in the City of Buenos Aires is compactly located in the heart of the bustling barrio of Liniers. An explosion of color and sensations, it is formed by the constant mixture of folklore and Bolivian roots mixed with the speed and communication and consumption of the city. Audio anarchy is abound as explosive sounds overlap in several keys of cumbia, wayno, saya, ear-splitting reggaeton. The Pachamama and Babylonia present to us an intense and hypnotic cry, shouting to be experienced. Like any area that straddles the border between worlds, it oozes an extreme beauty. Come, walk with me through this fascinating place.
If you go up to the 11600 block of Avenida Rivadavia, you reach Calle Jose Leon Suarez (the tree trunk of the market). Here is where a series of four blocks of grocery stores, local vendors and clothing and music stores starts. You can also walk and turn down the little side streets crossing JL Suárez and build your own journey. The Bolivian community is apparent in all areas of the city of Buenos Aires, but it is here that you find the concentration of the majority of services and businesses such as dentists, hairdressers, phone calling stations, love shamans, and money wiring places.
Inside the food stores sprout clusters of colors, smells and flavors to enjoy. The spiciest chilies in the city, huge ginger roots and a great variety of potatoes. Medicinal herbs and spices, dried fruits and vegetables that are hard to find elsewhere in the city are sold in bulk in all stores. Mangos, bananas and coca, garlic, honey and cilantro…. I take advantage of it all and make my purchase for tonight‘s dinner.
There are doors and passageways that lead to huge stores with great imitation sportswear usually cooler than the originals. Shoes, shirts, jackets, thongs, bijou and karaoke CDs, everything must go. Each store plays its own music all at once! As if it were a competition for who can play it the loudest. FYI - They don’t like it when you take pictures.
Party time! For celebrations, there are piñatas for christenings, birthdays, communions, weddings, along with other colorfully baroque party favors and decorations found in Bolivian parties. Traditional costumes, native instruments, typical shopping bags, make up, and Santería paraphernalia lean and hang from the awnings and shelves of each room.
Both stores and street stalls are attended by cholas (Bolivian women with indigenous roots) who are experts in their merchandise. Roots Cholas, sport Cholas, high tech cholas, Cholitas, Cholonas…The female energy is truly present on this urban corner.
If you get hungry during your visit, you can buy tamales on the street (with chicken or corn wrapped in chala leaves) chipas or salteñas with meat (the Bolivian version of an empanada) and to drink, fresh juices of peaches, flaxseed, and the traditional api.
The commercial markets are mazes where you can find electronics, telephones, interesting décor such as lamps, electrical boxes, and artificial flowers, typical food, Bolivan music, and sexy underwear, among other things.
If you have time, do not miss the market surrounding the Santeria Church of San Cayetano, on the street Cuzco (continued JL Suarez crossing Rivadavia). There you will find a feast for the eyes, the spirit, and the heart. Santería: A powerful and eclectic mix of stores selling objects and images from various religious backgrounds and practices. The vendors are very polite and are more than willing to explain some uses and stories of each saint or talisman.
To end my trip, I bought a bottle of Singani, Bolivian spirits which remove every last pain or worry, and return heat to the coldest soul.
*Miss Bolivia is a hip hop and dancehall MC
Photos: Nati Marcantoni