by Elisa Diodato, Vayable guide shares one of her favorite places to take travelers to in Caballito, a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, that is richly woven with the stories of its community.
If you wish to make a trip back in time, I know a special place in the ancient neighborhood of Caballito. What makes this place so special? It is home to an incredible old barbershop and gaucho’s bar (gauchos= Argentine cowboys).
Besides offering traditional services, the barbershop is also a living museum; and the only living one of this type on this hemisphere! At this barbershop there are over 10,000 collectibles and historical items. The collection includes a 1910 English phone booth, which is still in operation, and the first barber’s chair used in Argentina. Many of the antiques were donated by the shop’s neighbors, while others were rescued from basements and antique shops. Some of these unusual items are more than a hundred years old, making it difficult to guess which is the most valuable or most antique item in the exhibit.
Miguel, the owner of the place, confessed to me: “The piece that cost me the most to get was the basin, the first symbol of our profession. It took me almost nine years to find it. Barbers used to place this kind of metal plate under the neck of the customer when they perform teeth extractions (because the barbers were the first teeth-pullers).”
Those wishing to use the services sit on an armchair from 1905 and dress in old-fashioned clothing. Miguel invites everybody to enjoy his “cultural salon” to develop cultural and social proposals for charity. This is the chosen place in Caballito for the organization of cultural events: from celebrations of national holidays to shows with musicians and guest artists: tango dance shows, and folk and jazz music. All these events serve to help hospitals, homes or schools who need it.
Next to the barbershop there is another invitation to the past: an incredible “pulperia” or gauchos’ bar. Is the only one in the city of Buenos Aires and it is also a museum. Pulperias also provided the gauchos with the possibility to socialize, joining other gauchos to: drink, chat, dance, gamble or play “Payadas.” Payadas was the name of a sort of “duel of words” between two or more gauchos. One of them, accompanying his words with a guitar, would share his misfortunes and reflections with another, creating rhymed verses as he went along.
Payadas are one of the several elements that gave rise to the Argentine Tango creation. Some historians claim that tango was originated in a “pulperia” like this one, and if you join me on this adventure you might find that you agree with them too.