The barrio La Boca, in Buenos Aires, is an explosion of colour: here the houses are painted in bright colours and are unique. La Boca is located on the bank of the Riachuelo River, just before it flows into the larger Rio de la Plata, and forms the border between the capital and the province. The name derives from its strategic location (Boca, as in entrance), which allowed it to be a thriving port in the past.
In the late 19th century, immigrants from Genoa founded La Boca as we know it today. To make the sheet metal shacks in which they were forced to live more beautiful, at night, the Genoese would steal the leftover paint from boat maintenance.
Xeneizes (Genoese in dialect) is the name by which the inhabitants of this barrio are called. But not only that: the fans of Boca Juniors, the football team based here, are also known by the same nickname. Il calcio, qui a La Boca, non è solo uno sport. It is faith. As many as seven teams from Buenos Aires play in the Argentinean league. The two most famous – for the rough game, the heated fans and the centuries-old rivalry – are Boca Junior and River Plate. It is said that both teams were born in La Boca. The former was founded by Genoese dockers, while the second was founded by shipowners, mainly of English origin. A social clash, as well as a footballing one, led River Plate to move to the north of the capital, to the wealthy district of Núñez, where it is still based today.
The Superclásico is the derby par excellence of Argentine (and perhaps the world) football and sees these two teams face each other in a life-or-death duel, so much so that the Xeneizes are considered player number 12 for Boca Junior. And if you do, seeing a Superclásico at the Bombonera, Boca’s stadium, is truly an unparalleled experience. In fact, it is said that La Bombonera no tiembla. Late (La Bombonera does not tremble. It beats) as the almost 60,000 fans start jumping to support their team.
La Boca is not an easily accessible neighbourhood, if we exclude the Caminito, the most touristy area, which can only be visited during the day.
One morning in February, after a few days wandering around the barrio, I wanted to immerse myself in its colours, also looking for the people who live here, the hues that so characterise this place. And so, between one portrait and another, between a building and a street, between a mate and a choripan, evening arrived. And I saw La Boca change its face: the streets empty of tourists and return to being owned by residents, and the rules of the barrio changed.
Contrast, light and dark, black and white, pastels and fluorescent: this is the beauty of diversity we can find here.