Buenos Aires: Colorful, Cheesy El Caminito

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One scroll through my Instagram feed and it becomes clear: I love, love, love to photograph colorful things, particularly when traveling. In the past, I’ve gone nuts for the color-soaked streets of Venice’s Burano and swooned over the colorful little pocket of Rue Crémieux in Paris. So when I saw pictures of Buenos Aires’s vibrant El Caminito area, I knew a visit was in order.

What I found there was, indeed, a riot of color. Bright hues were everywhere: on walls and murals, on signs and flags, and on tacky, cheap knick-knacks for sale in the many, many gift shops. In a sense, it was exactly what I was looking for: color!

But in another sense it was disappointing and perhaps even a little sad. El Caminito is a classic tourist trap, with all sorts of cheesy accompaniments: over here, a duo of dispassionate tango dancers performing for the camera toting masses, over there, a life-size statue of Pope Francis fake waving at the crowds. The neighborhood is beautiful to look at, to be sure, but there’s a ring of inauthenticity and tackiness that is hard to shake. I found it beautiful, but only on the very surface, only at first glance.

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My recommendation isn’t to avoid El Caminito altogether; after all, it is beautiful in a lot of ways. But go there and then go lots of other places in Buenos Aires too: go to neighborhoods filled with more locals than tourists and go to spots where things aren’t specifically engineered to be photo opps. Go to El Caminito, but don’t forget it might be little more than a pretty picture.

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