Back in the old days, I mean really "the old days", the gauchos (cowboys) from the surrounding ranch lands used to bring the cattle into the outskirts of Buenos Aires just as you might imagine they would .... in huge herds all walking from the finca (ranch) to the processing yards. As time passed, the trucks and trains began taking over that job. Little by little, the old way of life disappeared and was replaced by the newer and more modern ways of processing.
As this was happening, the city of Buenos Aires was growing. New housing and more factories spread out and eventually engulfed the area where the beef processing took place. That area became known as the barrio of Mataderos. A lot has changed since the old days and with that in mind, a few people decided that it would be a shame to lose the history and traditions surrounding one of Argentina's most prized resources, that being the growing and processing of good beef.
In 1986 these folks put together the "Feria de Mataderos". Now ... literally translated, it means Fair of Slaughter .. but to regard it as only that would be a dis-service. It is much more. The traditions, folks songs and dances, as well as the handicrafts and art work of the rural people in Argentina are very special and need to be preserved and kept alive. The Feria allows that to happen. Every year, on Sundays, the fair opens its doors (or should I say closes the streets to traffic) and invites everyone to the party. There averages some 300 stalls and booths selling the arts and crafts. There is a stage set up and bands play, groups sing old songs, and people dance in the streets. At various times during the afternoon and evening the gauchos appear with their horses and provide displays of riding prowess as well as demonstrations of the variety of skills that they need for working on the average cattle ranch.
Surprisingly, Gouchos are still employed on these ranches in the old tradition although do they augment the horse work and old methods with newer tractors and jeeps for use around the farm. They are very proud of their heritage and taking a day to go out into the pampas and watch the men at work tending to the requirements of the finca is an education in itself. A number of ranches make themselves available for visitations by tourist groups, as well as visits by local Argentinians who may be out for a day in the country.
We went to this weeks grand opening of the Feria for the 2012 season. There were a lot more stalls and vendors than when we were at the fair last year. However, the parillas (barbeques) were marvellous, the dancing great and this year the museum is open, having been refurbished during the off season. Very educational. For those who might be contemplating a visit to B.A., try to make it during a time when the Feria is open. It's closed mid December through to the end of March.
note: Cruise ships come in mostly on Sundays, and the fair is open on Sundays. Great fit for those who are interested.
For more photos go to http://globalodyssey.ca/p979078641