Corrientes Avenue and Anchorena Street, the very heart of the City of Buenos Aires. People coming up and down the sidewalk. Cars and buses do not give pedestrians a break. The images seem to be projected in fast motion. However, and almost suddenly, the environment begins to change.
In the twinkling of an eye, the streets become crowded with characters from the arrabal
(poor areas of town) looking for some mango
(money) by doing any changa
(temporary job). Inside the rented houses and conventillos
, tango music becomes mingled with the voices that pronounce words in various languages and dialects. It seems as if the clocks were about a hundred years slow.
This is the atmosphere breathed in the neighborhood every time a company of actors performs on theme tours along with surprised tourists and neighbors in order to show what this place used to be like and part of the city
's history. This is organized by Asociación Cultura Abasto
and the Abasto Plaza Hotel.
The tour starts at the gates of the shopping mall, when some canillitas
(paperboys) wearing the typical costumes and hats from the early XX century hand out the newspapers announcing news already thrown into oblivion by many and that take us back to the days of the guapos
(cocky men), cafishos
(pimps) and bacanes
We walk along Anchorena Street and, as we reached Zelaya Alley, an Italian woman comes up. She has just arrived from Europe and she scolds a young attractive lively woman who lives in the same conventillo
. She accuses her of using her grace and innocence to seduce her husband, whom she brought along from the other side of the Atlantic. They disappear as they turn round the corner, while we imagine those disputes for men, women, customs and origins, the raw material that has given shape to the porteño
culture and identity.
A few meters away, at the gates of the very beautiful Carlos Vía Boutique Hotel, located at 3119, Lavalle Street, a couple is dancing tango to the rhythm of the bandoneón
masterly played by Raúl, one of the many musicians that take part in this event.
A boy polishes the boots of a man who, maybe came to the Abasto area to conquer some young lady or to make contact with some of the women who show their long legs in a sexy attitude a few meters away.
Flowers, fruit, meat. Everything is sold at the improvised stalls that resemble the old Abasto market that has become one of the main shopping malls in Buenos Aires. Men, women and children fight over some imaginary customers that watch the show amused and fascinated as they travel back in time.
The tour takes us down to the great and colorful Paseo del Fileteado
and then to Carlos Gardel's house
, located at 735, Jean Jaures Street and today turned into one of the most popular museums among both local and foreign tourists.
Leaning on her walking stick, doña
Berta Gardes, “Carlitos”' mother, listens to the fatal news on her old radio and breaks down: her son's plane has crashed in Colombia. The audience aplaudes the woman's performance, which transmits grief to all of us.
As the audience finally find themselves in the old Buenos Aires of sainetes
, the tour comes to an end. This is the moment when the actors hand out papers among the tourists. Afterwards, everyone sings “El día que me quieras”
, one of the odes to our Abasto.