Bookstores, bars, cafés and secrets of the cultural scene: the B-side of the Argentine capital according to one of the country’s most celebrated writers. The video above was based on his impressions
Some 30 years ago, to boast the title of bohemian in Buenos Aires you had to follow the coordinates of a precise map: Calle Corrientes, with its sleepless theaters, movie houses and bookstores, Café Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo, with its melancholic Spanish airs, and the neighborhood of Abasto, where tango still had the privileges that it would eventually lose to the thousands of “little latino-américas” – immigrant communities – that occupied the area.
These days, even the word “bohemia” is a thrift shop rarity. Its legendary illicit connotations went through a thorough detox process. Conspiracy, alcohol and marginality – starting with Baudelaire, sealed at the bohemia factory – were dislodged by the trio autonomy, hedonism and independence. The tormented, ingenious bohemia of yesterday is today’s relaxed, sensitive, tolerant hipster.
A hangout for writers
I’ve seen some pseudo-libertarians that patrol Buenos Aires going to Varela-Varelita (Avenida Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz, 2102), which, in my opinion, is the only authentic bar for writers that’s left in the city, and I’ve seen them leaving right after, afflicted. The reason? The unbeatable beard of Héctor Libertella, the author of La Arquitectura del Fantasma, a genius, avant-garde writer that lived, wrote and “was paid” at the bar until his death (and these days protects its tables, occupied by a legion of clandestine disciples). Avenida Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz, 2102
In order to be considered as such in Buenos Aires, all it takes is a pair of scissors and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Let’s get this straight: even though Salón Berlín (picture above) has one of the most inspiring counters in the city, you don’t get to drink bourbon there (unless you ask for it). The bottles of Jack Daniel’s at issue are used as sprays, to moisten the heads and mandibles and to materialize, in a rock’n’roll (only vinyl) backstage and Western saloon atmosphere, this repertoire of Dostoevskyan beards and strict haircuts that mark the “in” style of the moment in Brooklyn, Brussels or Bremen. Humboldt, 1411
I bet most of the hipsters go shopping or have lunch or read or seduce foreign students at Galpón Lacroze, an organic pole that’s blooming in Chacarita, a few steps from one the most emblematic cemetery in the popular city. The locale is a large warehouse with curved plate ceiling, and when there’s a deluge in Buenos Aires, it produces an apocalyptical sound. In Lacroze you’ll find the most immaculate meat cuts, vegetables, fruits and cheese in the city, which explains the high concentration of outsiders under 35 that, avid for chia seeds, multigrain bread or organic pumpkins, queue up in front of the stands with their eco-friendly bags on their shoulders. Avenida Federico Lacroze, 4171
Coffee and blankets
Everything at Birkin (picture above) is in perfect syntony: the lighting (incredible, as if it were imported from Williamsburg), the design’s strict elegance (with its minimal dose of vintage), the blankets that customers can take outside when it gets cold. And the lattes, the locale’s specialty, that take coffee to a new, almost artistic dimension. República Arabe Siria, 3061
Lights and shadows on Honduras
Librosref! The bookstore owned by Fernando Gioia is the most sublime secret of the Buenos Aires book club. Worthy of the locale, which features a large vault formed by the top of tipa trees, Calle Honduras might just have the most beautiful contrast between lights and shadows in the city. What does Librosref have to offer? Everything: essays, poetry, foreign literature, smart esotericism. But it’s this unique Everything, subtly orchestrated, that someone, who is the happiest when he reads, chooses to share. And using a truly original artifice: there’s a mix of new and used books. Honduras, 4191
The new headquarters of Club Cultural Matienzo (picture above) is one of the latest developments in the Buenos Aires cultural scene. I like that they use “Club” instead of “Center”: the word accurately describes the place’s private sociability, which is much more diffuse, fluid and harmonic than usual in “cultural centers.” Matienzo is basically a venue for watching indie music bands and theater plays, for poetry readings and art exhibits, for eating homemade food (try the knishes), for drinking and observing the stars (the bar extends to a voluptuous terrace). Pringles, 1249
24-hour table tennis
Popular among fanatics about the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival, “San Ber” (abbreviation of San Bernardo) is a combination bar and pizzeria in Villa Crespo which has become famous for three reasons: being open 365 days a year, with no exception, and 24 hours a day; incorporating table tennis into Buenos Aires residents’ nocturnal habits; tolerating with a smile the crowds, the behaviors and sleepless vexed people that not even the most permissive after-hour establishment would accept. Avenida Corrientes, 5436
To recharge your energy, whatever the case may be, in Costanera Sur you’ll find the immense ecological reserve (picture above), an expanse of nature where the city enters an amazing, full-of-oxygen, delightful, noise-free limbo. A territory of hipsters, who spend the nights there, and the healthy tribe, that cross it riding their bikes, ears armored with music, the reserve is a mental space more than a physical one, a point of view, an exterior perspective that allows us to see differently what we see all the time: the real Buenos Aires. Avenida Tristán Achaval Rodríguez, 1550
Writer, journalist, screenwriter and film critic, Alan Pauls (Buenos Aires, 1959) founded the magazine Lecturas Críticas, was editor-in-chief at the magazine Página/30 and subeditor at the Sunday complement Radar. In addition to being a contributor at several media channels in Latin America, he hosted the independent film festival Primer Plano, on the cable channel I-Sat. Essayist, narrator and columnist, among his most popular novels are El Pudor del Pornógrafo (1985), Wasabi (1994), El Pasado (2003), Historia del Llanto (2007), Historia del Pelo (2010) and Historia del Dinero (2013).