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The Magic of the Feria de Mataderos

The tantalizing smell of empanadas wafted through the air as the smoke from the neighbouring parilla threaten to overwhelm the crowd of onlookers in front of the stage. The toffee apple and caramalised popcorn cart had a throng of children standing around it, all vying for best position to get the biggest apple. The MC's voice announced the arrival of another band of musicians and dancers to the stage as a row of older women shared yet another round of mate (tea) with each other, sharing the straw as a group of teenagers would a bottle of softdrink.

Set in a large plaza in the suburb of Mataderos, Buenos Aires, this is Feria de Mataderos - the folk/artisanal answer to the tango/antique market of San Telmo. Here you'll find handicrafts, cheeses, deli meats, wooden crafts, musical instruments, leather goods, bottles of jams and honey, along with all the usual types of souvenirs. You also get live folk music, spontaneous crowd dancing and gauchos/horse riders that race up and down the road.

We got to the market early to ensure we had the majority of stall wandering over before the crowds and mid day sun made the more fair skinned of us run for cover. Within moments of arriving in front of the large stage, we were torn between joining in the dancing or checking out the stalls first. Music and dance won us over as more patrons emerged from the small but growing crowd to dance the chacarera. Danced in two lines facing each other, the atmosphere is energetic as the music and clapping begins. Rhythmic and uplifting, the chacarera is a seduction dance that is festive and vibrant, which also means one song is never enough. We ended up staying for the whole set before managing to detach ourselves and head back into the now much larger crowd.

Street food is one of the best parts of markets and Mataderos does what Argentina is famous for - asado and empanadas. For vegetarians, it’s hard to resist the gorgeous parcels of hot cheesy goodness that empanadas offer, and the meat eaters have heaven just waiting to be wrapped up in a bread bun. After stopping beneath the towering church to eat our food in the shade of the jacaranda trees, we meandered down the third arm of the street fair to watch the gauchos (cowboys) giving their horses a good workout, galloping down the street littered with hay bales.  That was, until the strains of chacarera and zamba brought us back to the mainstage. Zamba is a slower folk dance that is much sweeter in sentiment, gentle in rhythm and engaging to watch as each of the two dancers have a hankerchief that they dance with, waving it above their head and using it to shyly shade their faces from their partner.



Located in the south west of Buenos Aires, it is a decent one hour bus ride to get out to the market from the central city. Luckily for those of you in the city on Saturday 2nd August, Feria de Mataderos is “moving” to Palermo.  From 11am until 5pm, the similar event will be held on Avenida Sarmiento and Belisario Roldan, near the Planetarium.   Upwards of 300 stalls will be selling traditional crafts (such as jewellery and ‘mates’ - gourds for tea) and local products while the main stage with have dance and music shows, giving you a chance to hear some great musicians. The traditionally dressed gauchos will also be there, demonstrating their horse skills.

The festival and all the activities are free of charge and will be suspended if there is bad weather.  Head to http://agendacultural.buenosaires.gob.ar  to double check any of the details.



(Photos credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia)


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