When you see post cards or pictures of Buenos Aires, you’ll often see a neighborhood called La Boca and its famous Caminito Street filled with brightly-colored houses.
What you can’t see is that its nestled into one of the dodgiest neighborhoods we’ve been in since Rio (where there are dodgy neighborhoods everywhere and you usually feel safe unless you try to walk directly through them). First of all, it’s quite far away from any subway line (here it’s called the Subte) and as we’ve already established you need your doctorate in urban planning to figure out the buses. So we walked a good 20 blocks or so straight through the heart of the ‘hood… at dusk (and let’s be honest everything looks a lot sketchier at dusk and there were definitely lot of sketchy looking characters lingering about.)
We headed out that way not only to see the brightly-colored houses but because La Boca is also home to La Bombonera, the famed stadium of Argentina’s premiere football club – La Boca Junior (think: Diego Maradona). There was a match on that night so I figured we’d take pictures of the brightly-colored houses while it was still light out and then head over to a popular neighborhood eatery – El Obrero – to watch the football game. One of the coolest things we did in Rio was go down to the local bar in the middle of a match. Even if you don’t know who to root for or exactly what the rules are, it’s just exciting to be in the midst of all that energy.
But after walking for what seemed like forever through the wrong part of town (with Nellu going into full Jason Bourne/urban recon mode), we hit Caminto Street when and most of the street vendors were packing up for the day. There were a few tourists stragglers but it seemed like there were more of the wrong kinds of stragglers too. We snapped a couple of quick shots and then headed over to the restaurant. It was another 15 or so blocks back in the direction we came. We passed a few groups of young men drinking and partying in the street (maybe for the game, maybe not). It just didn’t feel right.
When we arrived at the restaurant it was empty. (Of course it was. It was about 6:30pm. The game didn’t start until 8:30pm and most Argentinians don’t eat until 10pm). We didn’t even go in.
We had planned our exit strategy before walking over. We’d take the 152 bus all the way back to Palermo, the neighborhood where we are staying. And we did. It took us straight through the center of town and an hour and a half to get home. But we did. Safe and sound. Could we have stayed in La Boca and been safe too? Probably, but this time around the pay off didn’t seem worth the risk.
I did a little more research on the neighborhood after the fact. The guide books mention the higher crime rates and suggest not to go off the beaten path. They also recommend going to El Obrero but as one book says, “You should arrive here by cab and have the restaurant call a cab for you when you leave at night.”