is the most famous Argentine slum. This neighborhood is huge, located in the city center between the most expensive districts. It is home to 30,000 people, and at the same time... it does not exist. It seems I have done the impossible by going there!
So Villa-31 does not exist. In other words, it is simply not present on the new, wonderful, beautiful, modern, and interactive map of
on the official website of the city. But nothing can be hidden from the all-seeing eyes of Google.
It's funny to look at the district, with a population of 30,000 people, in the center of one of the most famous cities in the world and to see that there are streets, which actually do not have names on the map. There is a church and even a football field; there are schools, shops, markets, sports grounds, hairdressers, restaurants, playgrounds... But officially it does not exist!
I was dreaming of visiting Villa 31 for a long time! But no one wanted to accompany me. Even the residents of
did not want to even think about visiting!
However, there are places in the city, from where Villa-31 can be overlooked at a safe distance: from the Retiro station, from the window of the train heading toward Belgrano Norte and from the bus terminal:
I considered Villa-31, without any exaggeration, to be the most important landmark in Buenos Aires. As beautiful buildings were everywhere. Beautiful parks, theaters, museums, cathedrals, squares, avenues, restaurants, and so on, were also everywhere. Poverty and deprivation can be found in many places in the world. But Villa-31 is unique, being a huge, squalid, illegal, self-built, dirty and dangerous district, which has existed for many decades in the very heart of the city, among the most prestigious and expensive districts!
The locals of Buenos Aires warned that if we visited this neighborhood, we may be robbed, raped, or killed! As the inhabitants of Villa-31 hate strangers.
Luckily, two tourists agreed and were very glad to visit Villa-31.
We left almost everything at the hotel, all we brought with us was some money and we dressed modestly. First, we went to the Retiro railway station, hoping to find a guide among the locals, or a policeman, who would agree to accompany us.
The policemen said that it was impossible, as it was very dangerous, and advised us to visit the usual tourist sights and attractions of the city.
Then we left the building of the railway station and moved closer to one of the entrances of Villa-31. Luckily, not far from the entrance we saw a police car, and I managed to make an arrangement with a policeman to accompany us during our visit through Villa-31.
When I arrived in Villa-31, I felt a kind of peace and tranquility! There were no pickpockets, hurrying to rob you, nor were there any muggers with knives, or any other monsters. And there was a simple, quiet everyday life of peaceful Peruvians, Bolivians, and Paraguayans.
The streets were narrow, similar to the streets of the old, medieval towns. This narrowness created a certain comfort. The atmosphere was home-like and blissful.
The houses were painted in bright, cheerful colors.
In general, everything looked very flamboyant.
We were walking in the oldest part of Villa-31. The roads were paved with stones!
The residents of Villa-31 were stealing electricity, gas, and water. The only thing they pay for and on a regular basis is a satellite TV.
Here are the remains of flags and banners. Rallies and demonstrations are the work of the residents of Villa-31. They are paid for them. 30,000 people are always ready for any challenge and any demonstration for all sorts of ideas. Other Argentines do not protest for a long. They consider it to be useless.
This is a local school:
Here are playgrounds:
In general, it is an original, self-contained, totally different world; different from the usual Buenos Aires.
This was the large, bustling local market.
I had a feeling that I was on some kind of machine that took me from Argentina to Peru in only 5 minutes! I saw Peruvian people there, a Peruvian market, the Peruvian style of housing construction - without roofs, and a heap of floors.
The authorities of Buenos Aires have nothing to say about how they allow the existence of an absolutely illegal area in the center of the world's largest capital. This district has been around for about 80 years. The Argentine government had tried a few times to eliminate the villa, but nothing came of it.
Although the locals of Villa-31 were quite friendly; there was no hostility or aggression. I had no feeling of danger at all: everyone was engaged in their own business - someone was washing the stairs, someone was hurrying to work, or to the city.
So, I suppose that the Argentines are very fearful of all "dangerous".
Author: Maksim Lemos - Ruar Source: ru-ar.ru
Translated by: Zoozi