La Feria de San Telmo

Above: the main street in San Telmo where the weekly feria takes place.

Every Sunday, hundreds of people and vendors crowd the narrow, cobblestone streets of San Telmo — a “barrio” (neighborhood) south of downtown Buenos Aires — for the weekly “feria” (market). I’ve been to my fair share (pun intended) of such bazaars, but this one has a few unique characteristics.

The feria starts in Plaza de Mayo in central Buenos Aires near the Casa Rosada (“the pink house” — the Argentine equivalent of the U.S. White House), and stretches for blocks down one single street that bring you into San Telmo, though occasionally branching off onto other side street. At the opposite end from Plaza de Mayo, the venders congregate in a town square, as well as in a nearby building, which seemed to be the center of the market. While various restaurants and cafés line the streets — my friends and I enjoyed an early afternoon coffee at one of several Mexican eateries we found — food vendors also wander through the masses, offering sustenance to the hungry shoppers. You can find everything from warm empañadas wrapped and stacked in large baskets to coffee and mate tea dispensed from thermoses on a cart.

There are, of course, the traditional tchotchkes — shirts, key chains, scarves, postcards, etc. — but there were also some things that I haven’t seen in other similar markets: assortments of random and unique antiques, racks of leather jackets and other fancy-ish leather clothing, some very nice handmade purses also made of leather (hey, I guess they gotta to something with the rest of the cow after using the beef!), tables of books (mostly in Spanish) on every possible subject, creative and singular pieces of artwork and much, much more! The special pot and straw required for making and drinking mate (“ma- tay”) tea (more on this in a future post) — a very popular drink in Argentina — are some of the most popular items available for sale; of course, they come in numerous shapes, colors, materials, and designs.

I did hear a bit of English at the feria, but not as much as one might expect, which suggests that the market is not solely for tourists. In fact, I haven’t noticed many American tourists at all; perhaps it’s not the tourist season (it is winter here, after all), or maybe we’re just not in the right areas. The lack of obvious foreigners is rather surprising, but I’m glad the city isn’t overrun with other clueless Americans with unwieldy maps and gawking smiles — it’s more fun when my friends and I are the only ones 🙂

One response to “La Feria de San Telmo

  1. Glad you’re soaking in the local flavor. The absence of other touristy people reminds me of my trips to Russia. In a free afternoon I went to one marvelous art museum and made a point of trying to spot possible non-Russians there. The count at the end of my visit: zero.

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