The barrio of Mataderos, former home to Buenos Aires’ slaughterhouses, has always been tightly linked to gaucho culture and the meat industry. In fact, the neighborhood is also known as “Nueva Chicago”: a nickname the local football team still plays under.
Though the days of gauchos leading herds of cows into Mataderos for the slaughter have long passed, the neighborhood still strongly identifies itself with gaucho culture. The connection is never more evident than on Sunday, during the Feria de Mataderos, a wonderful celebration complete with music, food, trick riding and stands selling everything that can possibly be made from a cow.
The barrio is far outside the normal tourist haunts of Buenos Aires, but if you have a free Sunday, it’s absolutely worth the effort. In fact, it’s one of the best things we did during our months here. Stepping off the 126 bus, shopping was our first order of business. There was so much to browse through, from knives and matecitos to leather vests and wine flasks made of cow hooves. With friendly vendors and incredible prices, it was a blast to browse around; I bought a leather belt with “Argentina” stitched into the loop for $40 (US$10).
Our shopping was interrupted by the beginning of a dance concert. A group of young gauchos and chinas got onto the stage and proceeded to tear the place up. They were from a nearby town, and in a very flamboyant performance, demonstrated that gaucho culture isn’t all machismo and mate. I never thought I’d find myself enthusiastically clapping for a group of dancing cowboys, but there you are.
The food was great, too, though getting any required herculean patience. While Jürgen hunted for a place to sit, I waited in line for nearly an hour, to order empanadas, tamales and sweet red wine. Arms precariously full of food, I stepped through the crowd searching for Jürgen, finding him at a table with an Argentine family, with his mouth full. They were forcing him to try their locro, a corn-based stew, and regaling him with stories of the different Argentine cities he simply had to visit. I joined in the conversation, and we enjoyed one of the most entertaining meals we’ve had in Buenos Aires.
After eating, we said adiós to our new friends and went to watch the horse riding competition. Gauchos propelled their horses at breakneck speed down the street and attempted to spear a ring with a stick. I mean, a regular ring meant for a finger. A nearly impossible task, and the few competitors who succeeded happily soaked up the crowd’s appreciation.
Overall, the Feria de Mataderos met our expectations, and then some. Check out the video and pictures, and if you have the opportunity, don’t skip out on this fair. Tons of fun.