Another backpacker, a hippy-artist type, stalked through the city, chanting the idea behind his next English lesson. On a footbridge joining San Telmo and Constitución, he stopped to examine some loose threads caught in the network of metal wires that formed the overhead enclosure, thinking something poetic no doubt. Looking both up and down the gently inclined bridge, he openly offered a philosophical question to the rush of noise that rose from the Ninth of July below his feet. Who was being protected here?
Two misery-town boys rushed towards the centre, the flap and wrap of their baggy denim jeans and polyester zip-ups, almost audible above the transit. They had oily smudges on their faces and Boca logos on their beanie hats.
It would be normal to think that the metal cage had been put there to protect the drivers on the ultra-fast tarmac rise below, to keep them safe from those who need protecting from their desperation and their desolate selves.
Even a teacher of diplomacy, however, would be hard pressed to know which way to start walking faced by such an obvious attack. To the Latin, or better yet French quarter of San Telmo, where a private table in a café awaited, or to Constitution and the open arms of some haggard street hooker.
The backpacker froze, but once his pockets were empty, he plumped for the direction of San Telmo, which he had made his home away from home, despite it having neither the fashion of Palermo, nor the architecture of Montserrat—less Recoleta. But it was the cross guard of the city’s sword, encrusted with precious diamonds, making it the most protected area, a comfortable hilt away from both edges of the blade.
The incumbent artists could in both their wildest dreams and drug trips saunter through the most bobo environment on offer. They surrounded themselves with the intelligentsia pariseña and Spanish Cubists whacked out on absinthe. Perhaps they were taken back by the European hatchbacks that buzzed through the barrio, but that was the only intrusion on the dream. In every other respect they restricted themselves to lunfardo habits. Only if street culture had a name for it would they do it. They took bondis when they wanted to go to Fifth Avenue on Santa Fe; they smoked puchos, took merca and ate choris. If it was bad for them—and no matter where you go, the street only names that which is detrimental to your health—they would chuck it down, spraying vices into their throats as if their souls burned.