Thirty of December, the next to last day of the year. Friday brought the hottest day of the season so far. Summer has arrived in Buenos Aires and the city empties as thousands of porteños drive towards the beaches. Overnight storms carried a welcome cooling but the heat will soon be back.

This morning I was in need of freshness. I found it walking along Av Brasil. For those unfamiliar with Buenos Aires, Av Brasil is in the southern part of the city and starts near the lower edge of San Telmo and passes through the barrios of Constitución and Parque Patricios.

The sky was still cloudy as I got started around nine. The man running the nursery on Brasil in San Telmo was just setting out his plants for the day.

Passing through Constitución

Crossing into Constitución I decided to walk through the historic train station rather than around it this time. The exterior is beautiful but the massive interior is quite breathtaking in its own way. Even though a recent renovation has resulted in significant improvements, the main hall remains rather dim. Still it’s quite a sight.

Whenever I walk out of Constitución station and pass by the shops on calle Lima or Brasil, I indeed feel like I am in Lima or, perhaps, Caracas. For a couple of blocks surrounding the station, the whole area is filled with stores selling cheap goods. (But not everything is cheap, for the first time I noticed that there is a huge Frávega electronics/appliance store on Av Brasil). The area has a noisy, hectic pace that reminds me of more distant lands.

Evidently a lot more people have that far off feeling in this area. Maybe it’s the train station bringing in travelers. Stretching along Av Brasil is a series of dilapidated hotels with names that try to strike an exotic feel: Casablanca, Bahia de Brasil, Esquel, Asunción, Sol y Luna. At one time, I assume this must have been a prime tourist section of the city though now these hotels cater mostly to immigrants to Buenos Aires from surrounding South American countries.

In keeping with that one-time tourist theme there’s even a place whose sign advertises itself as a “restaurante turístico”. In this barrio? The tourism revival for Constitución still seems a long ways off.

“Destroyed”, but lovely

The barrio of Constitución, once you get a few blocks away from the train station, is quite appealing in a an unusual sort of way. At the corner of Brasil and San José are four, large weeping willow trees. This section of Brasil is lined with early twentieth century buildings which indicate that this was once a prosperous area. (Remember that an Argentine president once lived on Av Brasil). Yet the buildings are now falling apart, though a few manage to retain a glimmer of their former style.

There is also a rustic, tough feeling to the barrio. Pasted on the wall of a 24 hour hot dog eatery is an advertisement for a boxing match in neighboring suburb of Avalleneda. Inside the diner is room for only two tables, four stools in front of the counter, and a pool table with a red felt top.

A Street Unknown

I know most of the streets in this part of the city or, at least, have vaguely heard the name. So, it’s a pleasure to come across a new street, particularly when it’s one of those cobblestone roads that extend for only two blocks. This one had a peculiar name, that if I had heard it before, I know I would have remembered it: Mompox. I’m curious to find the origin of that name. Some place I’ve seen a book that describes the history behind the street names of Buenos Aires. Yet, another title to be added to my collection. (Ok, a quick Google search tells me that Mompox has something to do with Colombia and Spanish colonization but I still don’t know how a tiny street in Buenos Aires came about to be called that).

Whether it has any relevance or not, if you walk directly down Mompox to where that street ends at Av Brasil then you will find yourself in front of the Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica. Later in the morning I saw more evangelicals wandering around Av Brasil, all dressed nicely, carrying black bags, Bibles, and knocking on doors. I kept walking.

Into Parque Patricios

Crossing Av Entre Rios one passes from the barrio of Constitucion and into the barrio of Parque Patricios. Initially, I had lost my bearings. At this point Av Brasil widens from two lanes to four and the area becomes modern, quite boring, and sterile. To my left was some large industrial-like complex, a factory of some sort that seem to have been surrounded by a green space, but oh so bland. It seemed that no one had ever lived on this part of Brasil. Turns out that it was not a factory at all, but the word sterile was quite appropriate. The huge complex was the Hospital Nacional de Pediatria Garrahan. I’ve often heard of Garrahan hospital on the news due to the many strikes and problems at that facility but never realized it’s exact location.

Looking over to the south I realized that the hospital and park was located just behind the old prison on Caseros. I’ve seen this area from my visits to the prison (you’ll have to read about that to understand) but didn’t realize that this was the other side just down the street

The End of Brasil

At about the 2600 block, Av Brasil returns to a nice, shady cobblestone street with an abundance of early twentieth century buildings that are in decent shape.


Like most of Buenos Aires the interesting, older buildings are mixed in with newer places, sometimes houses, stores, garages, or maybe a warehouse. Poking out of the doorway of one warehouse I saw a foot, a bare foot hanging out over the sidewalk. Coming into view was the rest of the person, a bearded man around twenty who was in a deep sleep. He didn’t quite look homeless. Evidently he had a late night. Then I came across another surprise. In the very next doorway was obviously the man’s friend, a shirtless guy about the same age who also was sleeping through the morning. (Later in my return trip down another street I saw these same two guys stumbling around, evidently they woke up and were trying to find their way home).

At the 3200 block of Brasil the traffic pattern suddenly changes. What had been a two-way street suddenly (without any signs that I saw) became a one-way street going east. The very next block is the last of Av Brasil, which ends at Sánchez de Loria. There’s an interesting looking restaurant at that corner, La Taberna de Roberto. I’ve been by there in a taxi late night and it was crowded, always a good sign. This Saturday morning all the staff was out sweeping the sidewalk, taking deliveries, and preparing for the day.

I spent more time wandering further west into the barrio of Boedo, where I took quite a few photos. Boedo is full of incredibly charming places. But I’ll save those for another post.