An eerie silence blankets Avenida de Mayo on a Sunday morning. Gone are the restless protestors and screeching buses, replaced by just a handful of perplexed tourists and falling autumn leaves. The city sleeps, or so it seems.
A few blocks away, vans trundle down cobbled streets and traders start unpacking. Within minutes throngs of tourists flood Plaza Dorrego, and the Ferria de Antigüedades San Telmo can begin.
Even after a dozen weeks, it seems impossible to tire of a Sunday afternoon in San Telmo. Without a permanent home to decorate, the gramophones and silver cutlery stands invite a desire for domesticity which the backpack fails to satisfy. Others hark back to the elegance of Evita, with graceful jewels nestled between fur coats and silk gloves. With the purse-strings tightly pinched, however, watching waiters rush around the ageing corner café is enough to transplant one decades.
Back on Defensa, modernity blends with it’s past as a troupe of twenty-somethings wheel a piano past tango dancers and begin to play. Other street performers abandon their static poses to chat for a while; the white-painted man and his multicoloured co-worker seem inseparable. And although supermarkets close their doors on the day of rest, there will always be baskets of piping hot empanadas and fresh orange juice to cure the effects of a Saturday night in
And so for just one afternoon a week, the broken pavements and pollution of San Telmo are forgotten, replaced by affection for a neighbourhood that has become home. But familiarity inevitably invites surprises, and I abandoned expectation the day a llama took a stroll down Defensa on a Sunday afternoon.