One hot Sunday, I decided to make the 45 minute “colectivo” trip out to Mataderos for the Sunday fair – Feria de Mataderos. Mataderos is now a suburb, but once upon a time, it was a town outside of Buenos Aires – a town where cattle was brought in from the expansive countryside to be slaughtered and the meat distributed to Buenos Aires and surrounding areas.
Mataderos, literally meaning slaughterhouse, now hosts a street fair every Sunday. Originally the home of genuine “gauchos”, Argentinian cowboys, it still attracts people from
all around, some of whom will dress up in traditional gaucho attire to attend the fair.
The streets were filled with stalls selling handmade goods, including clothes, jewellery, ornaments and knick knacks, tango related items like shoes and souvenirs, and lots and lots of cowboy type products – cow hide cushions and rugs, leather goods, knives, etc. Like the St Kilda Esplanade on steroids but, well, with cowboys. A whole street of stalls was dedicated to homemade food products – salamis, olive oils, cheeses, and an abundance of dulce de leche in many forms.
The overwhelming scent in the market is the smell of the many competing street parrillas, cooking up choripans, bondiola, lomo, etc, and also selling delicious homemade empanadas. A lot of stalls sell other ready-to-eat treats, with a big emphasis on desserts – homemade cakes sold by the generous slice ranging from lemon meringue pie to black forest cake to flan, and everything in between. A friend here has recently told me about the Argentinian “3 P’s” diet – parrilla, pizza and postre (dessert), and all were available in abundance in Mataderos!
One thing I had to try was a skewer of pineapple and strawberries, coated in a thin toffee similar to, but finer than, our toffee apples, then rolled in popcorn. Delicious, albeit a little sticky!
In the centre of all the street fair activity was a large stage set up in the Plaza, with a selection of bands playing throughout the day. People of all ages, some dressed in traditional gaucho clothes, danced folk dances in the streets. There were very few tourists, with the fair attracting a lot of Argentinians from surrounding areas, particularly families since Sunday is such an important family day.
There is a little museum which I decided to take a look at for the entry price of a few pesos. It was interesting and contained some great old guacho artifacts including a full sized wildwest style wagon, and a whole room dedicated to meat! There was a small courtyard where a band was set up, and several costumed couples dancing. It really was lively and a lot of fun, with people gathered around the courtyard clapping along and enjoying themselves.
Before leaving, I took a little walk around the surrounding streets to take some more photos. As I was taking a photo of one of the signs, one of the old waiters saw me and insisted on having our photo taken in front of the sign. They were amazed that I had come all the way from Australia, and we had a good laugh. The people are more than often friendly, welcoming and fun.
A little of the usual beaten tourist track, it was an interesting and fun day out that is certainly worth the trip.