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Tango and La Boca - 149 years on.

La Boca. You have probably heard of it. It´s a barrio down in the south east corner of Buenos Aires, squished between Barrancas, San Telmo and the River Plata. It houses famous tourist delights and tango milongas, but outside of this tourist area, it remains a relatively poor neighbourhood. However, this year it has a big celebration on its hands. 

Celebrating 149 years, this barrio (and indeed the tango dance itself) was heavily influenced by the many immigrants coming from Genoa, Italy in search of a better life. Together with African, Spanish, English, Italian, Polish and Russian cultures, this melting pot crafted out the beginnings of the Argentine tango  which has morphed and changed into what we know it to be today. Its beginnings are murky - indeed no direct origin for the word ´tango´ can be found - but it was born from gatherings of slaves and lower class free people, before gaining popularity and being taken out into the word by the traveling rich young upper class of Buenos Aires. Apparently in 1789, authorities placed a ban on tango musical gatherings which probably only served to make it more tantilising than it already was. It is worth noting, that the music and development of tango was not restricted to La Boca, but also was found in Montevideo, Uruguay as well, making it truly a gem of the River Plata.

Back to La Boca. This barrio is proud of its connection to tango, the musicians and writers that have come from its streets, and, of course, being the home to the infamous football team Boca Juniors. La Bombonera is their home stadium and it stands proudly in the middle of this barrio. Come game day, the streets are a mob of blue and yellow, and loud with the music from members of La Doce (or the Twelfth Player) who also dictate which songs are sung throughout the game.  You can practically taste the passion. There is even a saying that ¨La Bombonera no tiembla. Late¨ or ¨The Bombonera doesn´t tremble, it beats¨ since its one unique vertical side of seats was known to shake when fans started jumping all together.  And the fans jump together often. And wave their arm letting their hand shake towards the team. Their excitement is palpable. Many players have come and played on its holy ground, but probably none arguably as famous as Diego Armando Maradona who returned to finish his playing career for the Boca Juniors.

You have probably also seen the gorgeous pictures of brightly painted walls and the sultry tango couple striking a remarkable pose in front of it. This is El Caminito, a street musuem that was created in 1950 when neighbours and local artist Benito Quinquela Martín, decided to regenerate the area. Martín used the wood and sheet metal buildings as canvas, which were traditionally painted by whatever coloured paint was had left over from boat painting, so they say. El Caminito itself follows a dried up stream that linked to the river, and what had previously been a railway line. The conventillos or communal dwellings were where people lived but also gathered to dance.

If you are out and about over this weekend and want to catch some of the festivities, check out https://www.infobae.com/deportes-2/2019/08/23/el-emotivo-video-de-boca-para-celebrar-el-149-aniversario-del-barrio/. It also has a lovely video about the barrio that is worth watching. 


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