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This story appeared in the September/October 2011 issue. Photo by Graciela Cattarossi.
There are two different sides to Palermo Viejo, in Buenos Aires: one that conforms and another that pushes boundaries. The mainstream side is full of conventionally fashionable restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The other side is what we call el under, or the underground, which celebrates art that’s authentic, original, and full of life.
I remember that back in the ’80s and ’90s, Palermo Viejo was an edgy place. My parents didn’t want me to go there because I could get my sneakers stolen right off my feet. But I was intrigued by the neighborhood’s dark side.
At that time, Palermo Viejo was a hub of alternative music and street art. It was also the place where film studios first set up shop. I remember rave-style parties, like the famous La Nave Jungla, and raging all-night bars like Podesta. These events, and everyone who went to them, helped shape the neighborhood’s underground scene. Since then, some of these people have translated their creative vision into successful small businesses, such as the owners of Home Hotel or the designer Mariana Cortés of the label Juana de Arco. But many others don’t have a voice. That’s why I started Wicked. The magazine is an expression of emerging art, music, and literature in Buenos Aires.
Palermo Viejo is especially rich with artistic talent. I like the neighborhood’s smaller galleries that support up-and-coming artists, such as Turbo Galería, This Is Not a Gallery, and Hollywood in Cambodia. I also love the vibrant murals on the city streets. Look for them around Godoy Cruz and Juan B. Justo Avenue. Writers and philosophers gather at bars on the south side of Plaza Serrano. Stroll around any block and you can find some of the neighborhood’s charm—the bikers and skaters, people walking their dogs, beams of sunlight shining down on corner cafés.
At night, I go to parties where all kinds of people can interact. At those under events, there isn’t one accepted style—there’s room for everyone as long as they come with open minds. There are music performances in the bathrooms, body painters, and circus performers swinging from the ceilings while the crowd dances below. One time I wore a hollowed-out computer monitor on my head to a party just because I felt like it.
First-time visitors to Buenos Aires might need to ease into the scene by going first for vodka cocktails at Olsen or for Peruvian-Japanese food and sake at Osaka. They’re expensive but original. The way I see it, if you’re going to spend money, you might as well go to the coolest places. And the coolest places are in Palermo Viejo.
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