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This ramshackle place is alive today as the memory of the many thousands of poor immigrants who came to the country looking for a better life. Admittedly La Boca itself was not that, given the stink of surrounding industry and the then busy port, but this has its own kind of piratical charm. Today La Boca is a Mecca of art and football, without losing any of its former edge.
A trip to La Boca during a tour in Buenos Aires will go in one of two directions—to the Caminito or to the Bombanera (the Football Stadium). The former will guarantee an enjoyable afternoon’s photo binge, replete with an exhibition of tango (said to begin here among the brothels and boarding houses) and many art stalls. This is not a bad place to do some souvenir hunting either. The latter is almost certainly more to experience the energy and joy of the crowd than the actual game.
One of the first things one notices upon arriving in La Boca are the intense colors everywhere. The buildings are alive with solid primaries: yellows, blues, reds mismatched in an almost kindergarten manner. This compelling look has historical roots, for the poor inhabitants at one time relied upon whatever was left over from boat paint to beautify their homes. Similarly, the makeshift appearance of many buildings was due to the uncertainty of the river next door, which flooded regularly, making investment in property somewhat futile. So while enjoying the liveliness and the color, keep in mind that this was a place of profound hardship, and continues to be outside of the tourist area (which is quite safe).
After taking the necessary stroll up the Caminito, Garibaldi and Magallanes streets it is an excellent idea to visit a few of the museums. A quick, inexpensive and deeply interesting one for the region is the Museo de Bellas Artes de Boca. Located in the former house of Boca native, Benito Quinquela Martin, this museum is at once an historic walk, and a chance to see art inspired by the area. Most of the collection are from Martin himself, and feature the Boca’s port, deserted ships, and men working. As part of the museum, go through Martin’s preserved home, see some artifacts from the ships that plied the port, and go out on the roof to see some truly good sculpture as well as a wonderful view of the Caminito. Other options include PROA, a new installation with good exhibitions, and a variety of Boca focused museums, one of which is entirely focused on the football/soccer team, the Boca Juniors.
Even an avid sports fan from the northern hemisphere might have trouble understanding exactly what goes into being a fan in Argentina . Since most people’s firsthand knowledge of Argentina primarily is of its good football team with sky blue and white uniforms, one should consider doing one of the related tours and excursions in Buenos Aires . These include either a full-on, several hour tour of La Bombanera (the Boca stadium) and museum as well as the rival River stadium. Alternatively, one can opt to suit up, enjoy a meal and go to a game.
Any tour in Buenos Aires must include this colorful and edgy part of town. Whether opting for the art, the game, or both—it will be an experience worth having.