Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cucarachas y Santas, Villa 21

This is La Villa 21.
Yesterday in Buenos Aires was a feriado (a holiday), called El Dia de La Virgen (The Day of the Virgin) to celebrate La Santa Maria. A celebration was held in her honor yesterday in La Villa 21. "Villas" are basically the slums of Buenos Aires. The majority of the residences of the greater BsAs area have never and will never go there, it's "peligroso" (dangerous" reputation makes sure of that. However, when Agustin, a faculty member of IES who has been working with an organization to help La Villa 21, invited me to come to this festival to take pictures, I couldn't refuse. He told me he didn't think I should have any problems at the event, but still, he couldn't promise anything.
We took the colectivo (bus) 37 to Barracas, a barrio (neighborhood) just past La Boca, the colorful neighborhood which draws in tourists, but is unsafe outside the main areas. From Barracas, we walked down a long road to get to La Villa; one lined with factories behind tall brick walls and barbed wire. Agustin tells me that the vast majority of inhabitants there are Paraguayan immigrants. As the road continues, the mounds of trash thicken, and nearly carpet the ground.
La Villa is like a different country altogether. El Centro (downtown), Recoleta, and Palermo, resemble a combination of Paris and New York; urban, progressive, yuppie. Here, the expression "third-world" completely fits. Yet, I came on a very different day. Yesterday was a religious day. Everyone was there with their family, their children, their grandparents, and despite the fact that my Nikon stood out in the sweaty masses of arms holding up cellphones to take a picture of a small statue of La Virgen, I didn't feel unsafe. The neighborhood was clearly poor, but they didn't seem to see each other that way; just as family. There was singing, dancing, clapping, and praying. At the end, around 10 o'clock, after some something 0r other (it was kind of hard to see) everyone began hugging and kissing each other on the cheek, saying what I believe translates to "May you go with God." (What a way to spend Chanuka, huh?) Despite my camera, despite the fact that my skin was noticeably lighter and my eyebrows not drawn on with pencil, I was treated with the utmost kindness. It was an incredible experience. (Though, not a neighborhood I'll be returning to any time soon, and surely not by myself.)

If you care to read a little bit more, you can find an article about La Villa 21 here.
Photos coming soon!! (The one about isn't mine)

Be well, everyone

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