El Otro Porteño: Not Your Stereotypical Tour
Article by Sharon Salt.
I don’t wake up early on Monday mornings, and certainly not in winter, and certainly not to venture out of the house. (God forbid!) But last Monday, I woke up with the sun, had my coffee, and ventured over to Caballito for a historical walking tour. To my delight, it was easily the best part of my week.
The tour was arranged by El Otro Porteño, a new startup founded by Ariel Eiberman. It aims to get expats out of their Palermo and San Telmo comfort zones and into lesser-known neighborhoods, the kinds of places even Porteños only know if they live there, including landmark but lesser visited cafe, Las Violetas:
Case in point: A friendly Australian introduced himself at the beginning of the tour and told us, “All my friends in Palermo were like, ‘Why are you going to Caballito? What’s in Caballito?’” And it’s true — if you don’t know what’s there, you’re unlikely to have a reason to go. To be fair, I had been to Caballito before, but maybe three times tops, and always to visit a friend. I never thought to explore it. So, just like the friendly Australian, I was glad to be discovering so much of its history and so many of its secrets with people who know its ins and outs so intimately.
Our guide, Elisa, was a Buenos Aires native who had relocated to Caballito from another neighborhood some years ago. Not only was she buena onda, but the breadth and depth of her historical knowledge consistently impressed me. She even corrected a few popular stories with the real explanations, admitting that she knew the truth because, as a history buff, she had read the original documents.
From the statues of Parque Rivadavia and the stalls of Mercado del Progreso to the stained glass of Las Violetas, we visited a variety of sights. We stopped at the most beautiful (and interesting) church I’ve ever seen, which also happens to be where Pope Francisco was baptized and also where Carlos Gardel sang as a boy. We took a walk through the English neighborhood, too, which boasts some pretty nice white houses with little yards and iron gates. (I have since been inspired to start a savings account for one of these babies.) For me, though, the highlight was stopping by La Catedral, a popular milonga – who would’ve thought I’d ever get to see it in the light of day!
I also left with the address of a side-by-side barbershop and bar, both of which double as mini-museums. According to Elisa, neighbors sing there in the early evenings as a kind of casual peña, and anyone who wants to stop by is welcome. I, for one, definitely plan on doing so! With Elisa, I truly felt like I was getting insider knowledge, and this is why I won’t divulge any of it here. (It’s her secret to share, so you’ll have to go on the tour to find out!)
And it’s true, too, that much of Caballito remains unknown to the casual tourist, expat, and even some locals. As of last week, Elisa was unaware of any other tours in Caballito, and at Mercado del Progreso, for example, a woman stopped us to ask whether we were price-control inspectors working for the government. Elisa explained that we were on a tour, and the woman said, “Why? What is there in Caballito?” But after the morning was through, it was apparent that the answer is, simply, “So much!”
El Otro Porteño currently offers three walking tours – Belgrano on Sunday, Caballito on Monday, and Boedo on Wednesday – and the best part of all, perhaps, is that every tour is free! Tours can be booked in advanced for large or private groups. For more information, check out El Otro Porteño’s website or Facebook page.