The stories of La Boca and La Recoleta
The last few days we had my friends Janine with us here in Buenos Aires. Janine and I know eachother from my previous employer Farner and she is currently living a view month in Santiago de Chile. She flew back today already but we will see her again by the end of March in Chile :D.
We used her visit to explore the district La Boca together. The BA Free Walks Tour of La Boca starts at 11 am and we missed the start since it took us over 1 hour to get there from our place in Palermo. Luckily we found the group and were able to join them anyway. La Boca has quite a striking history. When the city was founded the immigrants from Europe (mainly from Italy and Spain) and the Slaves from Africa lived in this part of the town. They worked at the doks (up to 17 hours a day...) and used the stuff they found lying around to build their houses. Like corrugated metal sheets which they then painted with colour. The houses were built around a courtyard which contained the kitchen and bathroom for up to 40 families who lived there together. Maybe you can imagine how hot it was within those houses and how it smelled. People are still living in those houses today... La Boca is until today one of the poorest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.
Tango was invented right here in La Boca. It had nothing to do with the sensual dance and the images we have in our heads today when we here the word "Tango". The dance was created and first danced by two men and it was - at first - a dance battle. The music that accompanied the dance came from the instruments the immigrants brought with them from their home countries (violins, accordeons, flutes etc.). Tango was not appreciated within the upperclass of Buenos Aires and therefore forbidden until the European started to love Tango and it was danced in Paris. Then the Buenos Aires upperclass decided that it was not just a dance for the slaves but something chic they wanted as well.
La Boca confronted us again with the not so nice parts of Argentinian history and presence. The tour ended at La Bonboniera which is the footbal stadion of the Boca Juniors. The stadion and the vibe that surrounds it makes one thing very clear: Footbal means a lot down here and as long as there is football, live is pretty much alright 😉.
The graveyard of La Recolate was of course again part of our tour with Janine. This time we did the guided tour with BA Free Walks. We already knew the guide (Fernando) from our previous tour through La Recoleta. We strolled through the cementery for two hours with a small group of people and heard amazing stories about the people who are burried there.
We would like to share one with you that stood out. It is about a young woman named Rufina Cambaceres. Her father had died when she was only four years old and her mother (an Italian dancer) was in various relationships with men. During that time (19th century) beeing a dancer meant about the same thing as beeing a prostitute and that's what she most probably became after the death of her husband. One of her customers also took an interest in Rufina (who was by then 19 years old) and she in him. When one of Rufinas friends told her after a while, that he also was the lover of her mother, Rufina suffered a shock and stopped breathing. She was declared dead from several doctors and her family burried her on La Recoleta that same night. It was the night of her 19th birthday in 1902. All this wouldn't explaine why she got such a pompous mausoleum. They say, that the day after her funeral one of the cementary employees noticed, that the coffin had been moved and shattered at some places. The family was contacted, they went down to the grave and did nothing but move the coffin back to where it was supposed to be. Then, her grandmother arrived from France about four weeks after Rufina had died. She demanded to see the corpse and when they opened the coffin they saw something horrible. Ruffina layed on her stomach and the coffin was marked with scraps from her hands when she tried to free herself. They say that the family created the mausoleum out of guilt. There are a lot of stories like this that are connected to the people who are burried at La Recoleta and of course not all of them are true. One thing is for sure true about this story: Rufina died in 1902 on the night of her 19th birthday and the circumstances of her death are unclear.
We started on our way home and enyojed a quiet and very tasty dinner at ther Parilla Don Julio later that night. Cheers to the Stories and to Buenos Aires!