barracas

buenos aires: barracas revisited, odds & ends

A neighborhood as large & complex as Barracas has a number of elements that don’t fit into any of the previous categories. Rail networks divide the neighborhood, but the stations themselves are pretty fantastic. Named after its plaza, the grand Estación Constitución (Brasil 1128) is usually overlooked thanks to its hectic & messy surroundings. But go on a Sunday morning, weave through the drag queens walking home from nearby bars & take a close look at the station… both inside & out. The Art Deco extension on the east side is just as attractive as the main façade:

Buenos Aires, Barracas, Estación Constitución
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buenos aires: barracas revisited, services

With a population of about 80,000 people, Barracas has lots of space to provide all the public services necessary. Unfortunately, the barrio has few parks for the large area it occupies, but the green space available is nice enough. The gigantic Parque Leonardo Pereyra is the largest, Parque España was the former location of a corral & slaughterhouse (now home to the fabulous Hernán Cullen Ayerza statue “El Aborígen“), Plaza Colombia had wonderful sculptures by Julio Vergottini (who knows when they’ll be replaced) & tiny Plaza Díaz Vélez is one of my favorite… just a few blocks from the Riachuelo:

Buenos Aires, Barracas, Parque Leonardo Pereyra
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buenos aires: barracas revisited, residential

Given that Barracas has been divided into so many different parcels & has such an industrial character, few people consider it a prime residential area. That wasn’t always the case. Prior to the 1871 yellow fever epidemic, a list of families that called Barracas home was like a high society directory with last names like: Álzaga, Balcarce, Berisso, Brown, Guerrero, Llavallol, & Montes de Oca. Most of those mansions have been demolished, but a few remnants hang on… like the beautiful Cambacérès family home, now a school (Avenida Montes de Oca 123):

Buenos Aires, Barracas, residential
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buenos aires: barracas revisited, industrial

Buenos Aires, Barracas, industria

Probably its most defining characteristic, factories & warehouses can be found scattered all around Barracas. Everywhere. There’s no escape.

According to James R. Scobie‘s classic work “Buenos Aires: Plaza to Suburb, 1870-1910,” there was a concentrated effort to move industry south after 1890. Occasional fires & the reliance on soft coal from Cardiff & Glasgow for producing electricity & steam prompted city officials to move risky/dirty business as far away from populated areas as possible.

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buenos aires: barracas revisited, divisions

Buenos Aires, Barracas, map

Barracas is big. It’s bulky. And this southern barrio has a reputation for being bad. But it’s one of my favorite areas of Buenos Aires. Hopefully this series of posts will dispel some of the misrepresentations about Barracas & encourage people to explore it. I walked just about every block in Barracas back in 2007 & recently returned to see what’s changed. Quite a bit.

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housing for the masses: microbarrio monseñor espinosa, 1923

Microbarrio Monseñor Espinosa, 1923 • Barracas
Perdriel & California

Contrasting greatly with the previous complex, these semi-detached chalets are like a little piece of paradise. Also built with fundraising money from the Unión Popular Católica Argentina, land was donated by the Pereyra Iraola & Herrera Vega families. Gardens cut through 60 units in a cross shape, & note that this is not the size of a city block… but it’s about half of an overly large block. In fact, the odd shape is due to following the diagonal line of the existing layout. Designed by Carlos Cucullu, it has been wonderfully maintained & I would love to live there.

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