On a bright sunny weekend in Buenos Aires, right up there with a browse through one of the city’s many buzzy markets and a lazy afternoon in one of Palermo’s parks, is, for us, a visit to La Feria de Matadores.
Held in the working class suburb of Mataderos (‘slaughterhouses’ in English), La Feria is a market and fair that celebrates gaucho (cowboy) life and all things rural. You may still see a handful of tourists (nervously wearing their daypacks front and centre like parachutes!), but La Feria is a decidedly a local and very down-to-earth affair.
You’ll still find tango dancing here too, though don’t expect staged performances for tourists of the kind that you’ll see in el centro. Rather, these are tango lovers and learners, enjoying and practicing their moves in jeans and t-shirts, under the arches on the main square, oblivious to whether they’re being watched or not. You certainly won’t find anyone carrying a hat around for tips here!
The highlight of La Feria is the informal, traditional folk dancing on the main square. Anyone who knows how to dance can join in and this is what Buenos Aires’ nostalgic Porteños come for, to watch and dance the touching, romantic chacarera and chamamé, and we were happy to see the same faces dancing here when we visited this time, as we did when we were here a few years ago.
There are stalls selling wonderful gaucho-themed arts and crafts, as well as practical goods, so you can expect anything and everything from ponchos and hand-knitted socks to saddles and guitars, often made by the person running the stall.
There is delicious, traditional Argentine food – another reason everyone comes here – and the smoky aromas of the asado (BBQ) wafts over the whole place! While you can pull up a seat in a simple local parilla or bar, it’s easily as much fun to grab a cerveza (beer), a choripane (sausage sandwich) and some empanadas, and eat standing up at the stall or while you wander around taking everything in.
If you’re still hungry after that, and have a sweet tooth, look out for the local women selling slices of their home made cakes and tarts. They’re amazing!
The only thing we missed on our visit this time was one of the highlights of our previous trips here – the sortija, where handsome horsemen dressed in traditional gaucho gear, stand on their saddles and ride full speed down the street to spear a tiny ring dangling from a ribbon. No hats are handed around here either, and no tips expected, this is a tradition re-enacted purely for the locals. And that’s what we love about it!
Feria de Mataderos