I am sitting here in Houston waiting for my flight back to Oaxaca after an incredible trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina with my sister, Cheryl.
Though I have traveled a fair bit in Latin America, I am always struck by the difference (both culturally and physically) between Buenos Aires and most of the rest of Latin America. It is a large city (13,000,000), with wide avenues, tall modern buildings and an old European charm (perhaps that is why people call it “The Paris of Latin America”) that harkans back to the time approximately less than a century ago when the city was at its height. Its inhabitants are mostly of European origin and the Spanish you hear sounds well, not Spanish but Italian! There is a huge population of “porteños” (people from Buenos Aires) who are of Italian descent and that influence combined with the “ja” sound (ll) (not sure where that comes from!) makes understanding the language quite entertaining at times.
These European roots are what defines Buenos Aires and makes it so distinctive in Latin America. It is both European and very Latin at the same time, resulting in fantastic restaurants, great cafes, insane drivers, and a die hard night life that goes on well into the morning (by that I mean daylight! )
Because my sister and I are fascinated with local crafts, we did manage to do some serious shopping for leather and silver goods, of which there is an abundant supply. (If you would like to know where to go for leather in particular, write and I will be happy to give some suggestions.) As far as indigenous crafts or textiles in particular, there sadly was little to be found, just as there are sadly, few remaining indigenous groups to be found in the south of Argentina either.
However, as one of my personal passions is collecting horse paraphenelia wherever I travel, I had a ball looking at all of the wonderful gaucho textiles and tack available. (Look under “Markets, Buenos Aires” for images). There were very worn, very old ponchos, stirrups and bridles as well as incredibly beautiful, finely woven sashes and leather used for special events. As every one knows, Argentina is famous for its beef and as such, the gaucho (cowboy) has huge importance in its folklore.
Should you want advice/recommendations if you are planning on traveling to Buenos Aires or even Uruguay, please feel free to write. If you are interested in knowing Uruguay or Patagonia on horseback, try http://www.rideandes.com
My next blogs will be about written from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, where I will be traveling this coming week to look for more handmade textiles to sell at my Latin Threads Trading trunk shows coming up this November/December (see Trunks Shows on this site for details)