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business: why once?

Buenos Aires, Once, Balvanera, dome, cúpula

Let’s clear something up. This isn’t the English word “once” but the mini-barrio known as Once in Buenos Aires. Say OHN-say… now you’ve got it.

A 12-block walk through the heart of Once will be the next release for Endless Mile, nicely ahead of schedule. Text & layout are already finished. The only big task remaining is to create a couple of graphics. The walk should be available soon! It’s a treat to show visitors a part of Buenos Aires that is centrally located (about the same distance from both Recoleta Cemetery & Plaza de Mayo) but rarely visited. Hopefully we’ll change that. Our introduction begins with the following text:

Mention the area popularly known as Once & most porteños furl their brow… with good reason. Noisy, cramped, & hectic, the area can be a sensory overload for the average person.

With an intro like that, the obvious question is: why bother writing a guided walk about Once? The answer is simple… there’s no other area in Buenos Aires quite like it. All of the above is definitely true, but knowing where to look reveals a lot of surprises usually hidden by the area’s intense vibe.

Once came to life as a marketplace —outside the city limits at the time— for wholesale merchants delivering fruit & vegetables to local resellers. It was an unpaved jumble of horse-drawn carriages & merchandise (photo below, circa 1867):

Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Once

Its hectic nature hasn’t changed much over the last 150 years since that photo was taken. The first train service in Argentina connected Once with the pampas, bringing even more goods to sell. Nouveau riche bought property near their successful businesses, & their prosperity gave the area some fantastic architecture. The following buildings are part of the walk:

Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Once, architecture
Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Once, architecture
Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Once, architecture
Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Once, architecture
Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Once, architecture

But the best part of Once is its diversity. Waves of Jewish immigrants settled there, adding a unique concentration of synagogues, community centers, theaters & other institutions which still survive today. Koreans came in the 1980’s, followed by a wave of immigrants from mainly Bolivia & Perú. The last piece of the multicultural mix is from Africa. Some 1,200 Africans live in Buenos Aires today & many sell their goods in Once.

Sure, lots of beautiful architecture has been demolished. Yes, the fact that Once is a commerical & transportation hub means that it’s a bit of a mess. But there are some wonderful reminders of a glorious past still visible… if you know where to focus. And while Once may be frustrating to navigate at times, the vibrant diversity of the area makes a visit worthwhile.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about Once… all the more reason to jump in & form your own. This walk will help you do just that.

Update (09 Nov 2011): The Once PDF guide was released today!

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