Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Sunday Afternoon at the Feria de Mataderos

Zamba Folk Dancers
By Roy Heale

Many visitors to Buenos Aires are already familiar with the well known markets in San Telmo, Palermo, and Recoleta. But if you want a real South American experience, be sure to visit Mataderos to see the gauchos---Argentine cowboys---and their families, who come from the countryside with unique displays of horsemanship, handicrafts, live music, folk dancing, and delicious foods at the Feria de Mataderos. In 2011 this Fair of the Argentine popular handicrafts and traditions celebrates its 25th Anniversary.

This is one of the best-kept secrets in Buenos Aires, a weekly event that takes place during the spring, fall, and winter months on Sundays, from about 11am and until around 8pm---during January there is no Feria at all, and then in February and March they hold a down-sized version on Saturdays nights, starting at about 6pm.

Unique Vendors

All the fun of the gaucho fair takes place in one of the poorest sectors of the capital. Mataderos, and its neighboring barrio of Liniers, were once where cattle traditionally arrived from around the country, were slaughtered, and then shipped out as meat to other parts of the capital. The name Mataderos literally means slaughterhouses – and the area is also often called Nueva Chicago, because of the cattle-killing heritage it shares with America's ‘Windy City’. For this reason there is an interesting mix of cultures including gauchos, porteños, plus migrant workers from Bolivia and Paraguay. The fair represents this colorful combination of traditions, dancing, and handicrafts.

To get to the fair from other parts of Buenos Aires is about a 45-minute-plus adventurous bus ride on one of the following colectivos: 55, 63, 80, 92, 117, 126, 141, 155, and 180. Of these, the 55 and the 92 are the ones that bring you the closest, with the others you may have to walk a little bit. Just ask the bus driver to let you off at the fair (if you are following your map, with the 55 and 92 buses, the exact intersection you need to get off at is Av. Directorio and Av. Lisandro de la Torre).

Inside the Museum Criollo de los Corrales

Once you have arrived you can spend a few hours taking in the gaucho culture by watching the locals perform their folk dances known as zambas, accompanied by live musicians on a nearby outdoor stage. The zamba---not to be confused with the extremely different Brazilian samba---is a pleasure to watch. It is danced in pairs, a staged routine of flirtation in which the man and the woman dance toward each other and then quickly whirl away, waving scarves or handkerchiefs in flirtatious gestures. The dancers wear traditional Argentine costumes from the countryside, often in bright colors. When the men break into rhythmic step dances---which is similar to tap dancing with gaucho boots---  it is very impressive.

Stage Entertainment

With the live band playing folk music on accordions, traditional bombo legüero drums, folk guitars, and vocals, this is a true fiesta, a street party, and people might grab you by the shoulder and laughingly try to pull you into their dancing circle. Participation is the name of the game here and you will feel the friendly Argentine spirit instantly.

Some of the best local Argentine food specialities are available at the outdoor parillas and vendor's booths. Try the BBQ beef or chorizo (sausage) on a bun, fresh fruits, empanadas, and more! Plus the market vendors offer a wide selection of cheeses, meats, wines, pickles, and local produce at low prices. There are also many inexpensive restaurants---most with outdoor seating---offering up delicious Argentine regional treats such as locro, asado, tamales, and torta frita.

Traditional Meats Cooking on a Parilla

Street vendors proffer plenty of local handicrafts, and often these will be some of the best deals in Buenos Aires. Specialities of the Mataderos fair are leather goods, stone and silver jewelry, novelties and good-luck charms molded from clay or other natural materials, key chains, wind chimes, and unique items that make great souvenirs or gifts. Usually the price the seller gives you is what you are expected to pay, although if your Spanish is good bargaining is a possibility.

Perhaps the most fun, interesting event at the Feria de Mataderos is the Carerra de Sortija---the “Race of the Ring”. This usually starts at about 3.30pm along a stretch of the road Av. Lisandro de la Torre, and it is when gauchos race their horses at breakneck speeds towards a small ring hung onto a raised metal frame overhead. Each time a gaucho is successful in spearing the ring, the crowds go wild.

So round-up some companions and spend a Sunday afternoon at the Feria de Mataderos to experience provincial Argentine culture and relaxation. Enjoy the colorful music and dance, wonder at the gaucho horsemanship, try some of the foods, take some awesome photos, and don’t forget to find a singular souvenir to take home as a memory.

For Further Information Visit:

Local Handicrafts

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gender Identity Law Makes Progress in Argentina

2010 Pride March Buenos Aires
By Roy Heale

Argentina's gay community has been aggressively campaigning for a new “gender identity” law for several years and following the Same-Sex Marriage act of July 2010 they increased the pressure on the national government. Under the motto “Let’s Go For More” Argentina’s gay and lesbian community have been campaigning for a “gender identity” law to enable individuals to change their gender on birth certificates and identity cards. The lack of a specific “gender identity” law has been causing transgendered Argentines difficulties when dealing with the government using documents that no longer matched their expressed gender.

The visibility of the campaign increased on the Saturday following the 2010 Gay Pride parade when thousands celebrated Argentina’s status as the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. The proposed law had been stuck in Argentina's senate since 2007, but there was greater optimism following the passage of the gay marriage law. “The gay marriage law helped open the doors to discuss LGBT issues in Argentina,” said Socialist Deputy Roy Cortina. “And that's going to be beneficial for the gender identity law”.

Argentina's Congreso

Earlier in November of this year a package of four bills, commonly referred to as the Gender Identity Law, successfully obtained a majority of votes during a joint meeting of the General Legislation and Justice committees of Argentina. Presented earlier this year with the full support of various LGBTQ and trans organizations, the four bills together would make it easier for transgender people to obtain accurate government documentation and services.

Stating that gender identity is an internal and individual experience that may or may not correspond with that assigned at birth, the law would allow name and gender corrections on all documentation through a simple procedure at the National Registry of Persons. Additionally, the text does not set specific requirements for the change of gender, except for the applicant’s request, thus bypassing the need for costly and medical, psychiatric, or surgical treatments.

Currently, transgender people who wish to correct their documentation must go through a lengthy legal process that includes medical and psychological examinations, with no guarantee of a favorable ruling.

“We hope for the rapid advance of the Identity Law in the National Chamber of Deputies, so that the right we currently obtain judicially can be a right for everyone throughout the country,” said Marcela Romero, Secretary General of the Argentine Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people (FALGBT) and President of the ATTTA (Asociación Trasvestis, Transexuales y Transgénero de la Argentina). “We want equality and identity for the trans collective and the opportunity to advance strongly the guarantee of integral health care, which is one of the principal demands of our collective.”

On November 30th., 2011 The Lower House granted preliminary approval to the Gender Identity bill and sent it to the Upper House floor, where senators will continue to debate the new legislation. The much-debated Gender Identity bill, allows Argentina's citizens to officially change their name and sexual identity if they wish to do so, without the need to request a special permission from the courts.

The bill, drafted after four different bills coming from four caucuses in the Lower House, enables transvestites and transsexuals to officially change their name and gender identity no matter what their biological sex is.

As it became clear that the bill would receive preliminary approval, human rights activists and members of several homosexual, transvestite and transsexual rights organizations cheered as lawmakers voted in favour. Members of the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals (FALGBT) were present during the Gender Identity bill debate and celebrated its passage through the Lower House.

In neighbouring Uruguay, a law on the right to gender identity was passed in 2009, but the name change procedure requires the involvement of a family court and an evaluation of the person in question by a multidisciplinary team at the civil registry office.

"In Colombia, people can get their names changed on their documents, but not their gender, while in Brazil rulings are being handed down in favour of the identity card change, but only for transsexuals: in other words, people who have actually had surgery," Romero said.

Argentina continues to take positive steps towards equality for its LGBT citizens.