Elizabeth Withers is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A double major in English literature and history & philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
In this week's post, Elizabeth talks about some of her favorite things: books, street art, burgers, and parks.
This week I decided to spend a day wandering through more of Recoleta and Palermo, where I managed to stumble across a few really extraordinary places (no surprise in Buenos Aires)! I started the day with a self-guided record store tour in mind. I’m no music expert, and I know very little about Argentine music, but I love the atmosphere of a second-hand record store. I was eager to spend a few hours sifting through various collections, hopefully learning a little more about what’s popular here.
Photo: inside El Ateneo
I started with El Ateneo Grand Splendid-- one of Buenos Aires’ most famous book stores (with a record and cd section on the lowest level). The building is a converted theater, and once held performances by greats like Carlos Gardel! There’s a wide selection of books and music, but the main attraction is the building itself. The architecture is absolutely stunning-- ornate gold trimming and wainscotting, pillars, and a gorgeous domed ceiling with a fresco painting. The layout is striking, too. What was once the stage still has red velvet curtains, and there are five oval-shaped stories surrounding it. There’s a nice little cafe on the ground floor, and a small, but interesting art gallery on the top floor. The records and cds are on the basement level. (Fitting, maybe, because I think it could have been an orchestra pit?) There I found lots of tango, classical music, jazz, and a wide selection of rock and pop.
Photo: not the biggest or most impressive mural I've seen here, but I liked this one because the style kind of reminds me of Ralph Steadman.
The next few stores I stopped in were around Palermo, and I dawdled all along my long walk, caught up in all the fascinating street art. Buenos Aires-- especially Palermo-- is full of murals, stencils, and graffiti of all a huge range of styles. Street art became popular here after the Dirty War, and so is associated with freedom of expression and celebration of art. It doesn’t hold the gang-related connotations as graffiti does in the US and other parts of the world, and businesses regularly pay artists to paint murals on their buildings. Many of the groups of artists sign their names, or even have social media accounts with personal information. There are street art walking tours all over the city for anybody who wants to find out more (I’m booking one soon), but there are beautiful murals just about everywhere you look in Palermo.
Photo: inside Bugerjoint
The record stores I visited each had a unique vibe. The most interesting decor was at Miles discos. There were a few different rooms with interestingly painted walls, some brightly colored, some dark with murals, and comfy cushions to sit on while browsing. I found a lot of jazz and tango music, 80’s rock, and a surprisingly large number of Natalie Cole albums. There was a small annex devoted to world music which was particularly interesting. I liked the selection at Exiles records a little better, though. There was a huge range of Latin American music, as well as rap, rock, r&b, and many more genres from all over the world.
I decided to walk along the street named after my favorite Argentine author: Av de Borges. Along the street sits a cafe/bookstore of the same name, and it was definitely worth visiting. (Buenos Aires has more bookstores than any other city in the world, so you can’t stop in them all!) One of the walls is a design of wood and glass, and inside are collections of classics from all over the world, as well as information about specific Argentine works and movements.
Photo: inside the Botantical Gardens
Also along Av de Borges is Burgerjoint. The name is self-descriptive enough that I probably don’t need to go into much detail, but this place had walls full of art and graffiti and sharpie writing from its many visitors in many languages. It also had the best burger I’ve ever eaten, probably due to the renowned Argentine beef industry.
Wandering for the sake of it ended perfectly in Buenos Aires’ free botanical gardens. Each section is home to plants from different parts of the world.. Eucalyptus to palm trees, to pine trees, to cacti. It’s a constant change of scenery, just like so much of Buenos Aires, where styles of architecture, music, food, and art from all over the world blend, and create new spaces, and new identities.
Thanks for reading! Next posts will be more informative (promise!)
Elizabeth's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned!