Never Too Old
For weeks before I left for Buenos Aires, I scanned Trip Advisor and old Fodor’s and Lonely Planet guidebooks. I wanted to get ideas on what might be considered must dos in a limited amount of time.
Eating grass-fed beef and sampling the national cookie, the alfajor, quickly went on my to do list. Of course, I had to catch a tango show and check out a milonga.
Buenos Aires is also famous for their ferias, their outdoor markets. Anywhere from thirty to hundreds of stands can occupy a neighborhood square or blocks of continuous streets.
The vendors might feature bric-a-brac, like old silverware or colored glasses, or small leather goods. At some markets, you might find handmade silver jewelry and antiques.
After some research, I set my heart on going to the Feria de San Telmo, the largest market in town. It starts at the Plaza Dorrego and runs all the way up Defensa Street.
About 300 vendors show their wares each Sunday. Fortunately, the weather was good on the last Sunday of my stay, and I found a cab driver that understood my imperfect directions.
Before I even got to the square, I saw several photographers and artists that had set up shop. I wondered how they were ready to go to work before noon when they probably only got in from their Saturday night a few hours earlier.
I came more to look than to shop, but it was hard not to buy a few things. I treated myself to a couple black and white prints of bandoneons, accordions used to play tango music, and I bought myself a scarf.
At the San Telmo market, I saw everything from gaucho pants to old copper teakettles to antique telephones to hand-drawn mandalas.
Entrepreneurial teenage boys wielded portable coffee shops (carts) down the brick road, serving croissants, coffee and yerba mate (a hot tea-like infusion). One man, zigzagging down Defensa, looking like Chicken Man, sold feather dusters from his back.
And on one corner of the square, in front of Brasserie Petanque, a fixture at the weekly fest, they laid down a 10 foot square piece of wooden board. A few musicians gathered nearby and an old couple danced the tango.
A bucket was set out to collect donations. Who knows if the man and woman were husband and wife, or brother and sister, or just good dancers, but watching them triggered such a sweet sense of romance in me. And hopefulness. I watched them dance for some time.
They were graceful. They obviously felt the music. There was a clear affection between them and a lot of shared history. They loved dancing together.
It was a strange sort of intimacy displayed in public. It was natural and inspiring. More beautiful than the toned and precise dancers I saw at the Madero Tango show.
Dressing up and dancing in the square on Sunday afternoons was just what they did.
You’re never too old to fall in love.
You’re never too old to dance in pubic.
You’re never too old to put on a fedora or don your lowest hanging earrings.
You’re never too old to hang out with the band.
You’re never too old….
My mind created a slew of ways to complete this sentence. It was nice to think about possibilities instead of limitations or excuses.
Not only did I get to see the merchants and shoppers at the Feria de San Telmo, I got to see the tango performed with unexpected tenderness and beauty.
Believing that I, too, can radiate love and vitality as I age, is no small thing.
Deborah Hawkins © reprinted with permission
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