Feria De Mataderos
I was surprised at what I saw when exiting the bus. Tarps laid out on the ground, worn out clothes presented in a grid like manner, stretching for meters on end around the perimeter of a barren grassy park. “Where’s the market?”, I thought to myself. As I walked on, my sense of peculiarity increased when I saw ponies and a llama. “Where the hell am I?”, I proceeded to see the familiar open market tent posts with tarp plastics hanging above and around keeping the sun out. I began to pay closer attention to the walkers of the fair. Noticing first the features such as darker hair and darker skin than the Porteños of inner city Buenos Aires. With this realization I began to wonder why there was such a vast change in the scenery from the capital of Buenos Aires. My overarching question then, was what does this fair represent for the people of Buenos Aires and how does the culture of Mataderos manifest itself into people who seem to come from such different parts of town; and of the world.
“These vendors, with their hair pulled back, plain t- shirts and denim jeans were farmers, artisans, and quite frankly people who were experts at crafting with their hands.”
The people of Mataderos consisted generally of vendors and walkers; whose interests did not stop at purchasing product at a tent but seemed to be invested in something intangible. As I walked, deeper into the fair I could see that there were vendors from all over Argentina and the world, which I knew because many of the tents held up flags or pictures of them. In addition, there were a large amount of vendors selling, leather, wool, seeds, wood work, olive oils, and wines, products of agricultural abundance that very clearly gave clues that the vendors of this fair were not from the inner city of Buenos Aires. These vendors, with their hair pulled back, plain t- shirts and denim jeans were farmers, artisans, and quite frankly people who were experts at crafting with their hands.
Walking past the opening of the fair and into the street where cars blocked off traffic, I could see about fifty or more tents completely covering the next four blocks ahead of me. I walked past these tents; silk headbands, dyed glass, dream catchers made out of thin strings of non-dyed wool and thick feathers. Taking a closer look, I could tell that nothing about those dreamcatchers were made in china. The Vendor at this tent encouraged me to touch her product; and I could feel from the distinctive design to the firm build and weight of each dreamcatcher, that these were made with wood and genuine wool, attentiveness to detail, patience and an expertise unmatched by anything you would find in a supermarket based in the United States.
Next to her I saw a man with white hair and small glasses. The glasses were connected to a thin string around his neck and resting about on the lower part of his nose; an inventor. I recognized him as an inventor because he was selling a unique product for mate, in which I have never seen before. A prism made completely out of wood and a glass window so that the customer could view the contents inside. The product had a latch, that was lifted to release essentially mate, but looked as if it could be filled with other small seeds and nuts as well. I thought to myself “This is genius.”, I excitingly asked in terrible spanish “Hiciste eso?”, and luckily he knew what I was trying to say. He stood up straight, smiled, and nodded with an equal amount of effort exerted in each nod. His reaction made me smile, because even though he may have been well over 50, I could still sense the child in his response, mainly in the way he showed pride for his work. A specialty that only he encompasses.
“The music was new to me. It was up-beat and the voice of the singer was rasp, strong and full of high energy.”
Continuing my pursuits to reach the opposite perimeter of the fair, I stopped at a gathering of people in front of a music band playing on stage. The music was new to me. It was up-beat and the voice of the singer was rasp, strong and full of high energy. I later discovered with a little research that he was singing folk music. “What are they gathering around?”, I was curious to find out why everyone was paying attention to the center and not the singer. I made my way into the many people who were gathering and found that the center of this unintentional half circle seemed to capture and provide the energy for the entire fair. People, young and old, with flags and men dressed in boots, belted wide legged pants, and with their longer hair pushed back into a ponytail. “This has to be what they mean when they say The Gaucho”, I said to myself, it was my first time seeing a gaucho. I watched the dancers for 10 more minutes, who were all dancing on beat and simultaneously so that it looked as if they were flowing together. As I watched I wondered about the relation of this dance, folk music and the representation of a gaucho living life free willingly on the country side. This center that I found seemed to be the defining factor for the entire Feria de Mataderos.
Feria de Mataderos is a place where the culture of rural Argentina meets the city, people from outside of the city come to this fair each Sunday to display their agricultural life. Bringing their horses, ponies, llamas, and artisan products such as specialty made wines, oils, seeds, wool, leather, home appliances and more to let people into their culture’s most remarkable resources; to let people witness their pride and joy. On the contrary, people from the area of the fair and tourists who are lucky enough to find out about this fair go on Sundays to witness a rare and uncommon culture that is not found in the city of Buenos Aires or anywhere else in the world for that matter. I went to this fair with expectations to find a market, but instead found a place rich in culture that may have otherwise been ignored if I did not go with an open mind and a willingness to learn. As a result, I’ve discovered Feria de Mataderos as a prevalent example of a distinct market culture. One that manifests itself into the lives of others through its dynamic people, music, and artisan products.