San Telmo Sundays: The beat of the Buenos Aires street scene

san telmo buenos aires“For six days of the week, the historic San Telmo neighborhood is just another pocket of gridlined streets that make up the bustling Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires.

Trendy women’s apparel sits overstretched in the windows of modern storefronts, and the cobbled streets of Calle Defensa serve as a bumpy conduit for cars that seem to have someplace to go. The neighborhood’s quaint parks and squares are closer to empty than full, and the late afternoon tango shows are more charming than they are lively. For six days of the week, the neighborhood of San Telmo is just another neighborhood.

All of that changes, however, when the wee hours of Sunday morning–which by Argentinean standards is still considered Saturday night–slowly drift into those of afternoon, and the dormant neighborhood of San Telmo finally comes alive. Refreshingly bohemian, artsy, and historic in nature, the San Telmo Sunday market features scores of local merchants and cheeky street performers that range from mimes to magicians to full fledged 6 piece jazz bands. Anyone in need of a new mate cup, some handmade glass earrings, or any sort of leather good imaginable can find it on the pedestrian thoroughfare that snakes down the now energetic Calle Defensa.

If all of the shopping has suddenly gotten your stomach grumbling, a wide array of restaurants and outdoor cafes sling gastronomic delicacies that range from a simple empanada and cafe con leche to thin crust pizzas and heaping plates of Argentinean asado. The perfect perch for people watching, you can enjoy your meal while simultaneously taking in the market’s spontaneity, such as an elderly grandmother who originally came in search of an old tango album but has suddenly lost herself in the beat of an impromptu street band.

As the afternoon slowly wears on towards night, the alleyways that surround San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego become a hotbed of activity with visitors and locals alike gearing up for the outdoor tango milonga. A place where the general public can showcase their tango prowess, it is only fitting seeing as the sultry dance is rumored to have been born in this very neighborhood. With music crackling from the speakers and the sun setting low in the sky, the market reaches a cultural crescendo as the people of San Telmo literally take to the streets and dance.”