Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Once (pronounced uhn-se) is a non-official neighborhood in the city of Buenos Aires. Perhaps that's why some people call it "the non-place." Once is actually an area of a larger neighborhood called Balvanera.

Once could be described as a chaotic labyrinth of numerous shops and discount stores.

It's name comes from the train station located in the center of the area, Once de Septiembre (September 11) which is the day that Buenos Aires separated from the rest of Argentina, in 1852. Sadly, some tragedies have occurred in Once; last February´s train accident, the bombing of AMIA and the fire of the night club Cromagnon.

Once is characterized by a large presence of the Jewish community (although in the last years it's Peruvian, Korean and Bolivian population has increased significantly, turning it into some sort of small Hong Kong). The Jewish people in this area are traditionally fabric manufacturers, businessmen, creatives and shopkeepers. There are also several synagogues, theaters, schools and Jewish clubs. Many Jewish intellectuals grew up in this area such as film director, Daniel Burman who won the Konex prize as one of Argentin'as top five film directors, and who makes fun of Once in his latest film "La suerte en tus manos" (Luck is in your hands).

It is different by day and night. At either time you always have to watch your back (and your things!). During the day, it's mostly frequented by people in the textile industry and interior decorators but also by passer- byers and people looking to buy anything imaginable.

This is where they buy all their provisions (from buttons, thread, and zippers to fabrics for curtains, sofas, etc.) all at a very low price. These provisions are used to make all sorts of things from clothes to lamps, curtains and bedspreads. The final products are later sold at reatil stores throughout the city and the country.

Aside from the diversity of shops, bizzare joints and chaos here, there are a few architechtural sights such as the one you see in the last photo. This place is called pasaje Colombo.* Due to it's particular physiognomy, it is often required as a setting for local and international film and ad campaigns. However, most of what you see in Once is not too attractive.

*people and companies are charged a minumum of $9000 ARS (a little under $2000 usd) yes that's right, to photograph or film in Pasaje Colombo. Naturally, we were approached by a guard who kindly asked us to leave as it is "private property" so we could not take more photos.

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