It’s the weekend so it’s time for the tourists to descend upon San Telmo for the antique fair. San Telmo is actually much nicer during the week when it is not so crowded. I’m reminded of something that Borges had said about San Telmo and the southern barrios of Buenos Aires.

This is from the lecture titled Blindness; unfortunately, I only have the English translation of this particular lecture:

For everyone in Buenos Aires, the Southside is, in a mysterious way, the secret center of the city. Not the other, somewhat ostentatious center we show to tourists — in those days there was not that bit of public relations called the Barrio de San Telmo. But the Southside has come to be the modest secret center of Buenos Aires.

When I think of Buenos Aires, I think of the Buenos Aires I knew as a child: the low houses, the patios, the porches, the cisterns with turtles in them, the grated windows. That Buenos Aires was all of Buenos Aires. Now only the southern section has been preserved. I felt that I had returned to the neighborhood of my elders.

I know that some of these words are not quite how it is expressed in Spanish but it will have to do, for now. For instance, “Southside” is likely “el Sur” in the way that Borges wrote when he referred to this area.

Almost thirty years after Borges gave that lecture, people still don’t make it to many of the southern barrios other than San Telmo and the ultimate tourist trap that is Caminito in La Boca. Of course, nothing is like it was a hundred years ago. It’s debatable even if it was in 1977 when Borges gave this lecture. Of course, by that time he had been blind for twenty years and, perhaps, was fortunate not to see, literally, the changes. Yet, the southern barrios do have a certain feeling not found in Barrio Norte or Palermo.