Buenos Aires observes all the usual holidays and many special events on top of that. The summer months of January and February, when most porteños leave on vacation, are generally quiet; things pick up after school starts in early March.
Dates for the pre-Lenten Carnaval (Carnival), in February or March, vary from year to year; unlike Brazil’s massive festivities, Carnaval here means neighborhood murgas (street musicians and dancers), and celebrations take place on weekends rather than during the entire week.
Since 1998, when it began on Gardel’s December 11 birthday, the Festival Buenos Aires Tango (www.festivaldetango.gov.ar) has moved twice before appearing to settle around mid-August, immediately before the Mundial de Tango (World Tango Championships), which run to the end of the month. Despite its recent beginnings, the tango festival has already become one of the city’s signature events, spanning two weekends and including music, song, and dance that ranges from traditional and conservative to imaginative and even daring.
Unlike the mass spectacle of Carnaval, it’s a decentralized series of performances at smaller, often intimate venues around the capital. As such, it offers opportunities to see and hear not just established artists but also developing performers. Most funds for the city-sponsored festival go to pay the artists, and admission is either free or inexpensive; tickets are usually available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the performance.
Mid-April’s three-week book fair, the Feria del Libro (www.el-libro.com.ar), is Latin America’s largest and has been a fixture on the literary scene for nearly three decades. Most exhibitors at Palermo’s Predio Ferial (entrances at Cerviño 4474 and Avenida Sarmiento 2704, tel. 011/4777-5500, US$1) are from the region, but authors of international stature, including the English-speaking world, make notable appearances.
Late April’s Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (International Independent Film Festival, www.bafici.gov.ar) has become a fixture over the past decade. Featuring independent films from every continent, it takes place at various cinemas but mostly at the Mercado del Abasto.
Not an official holiday, June 24 commemorates the Día de la Muerte de Carlos Gardel, the anniversary of the singer’s death in an aviation accident in Medellín, Colombia. Pilgrims crowd Chacarita cemetery to pay tribute, and there are also tango events.
For more than a century, late July’s Exposición Internacional de Ganadería, Agricultura y Industria Internacional (www.ruralarg.org.ar), the Sociedad Rural’s annual agricultural exhibition at the Predio Ferial, has been one of the capital’s biggest events.
Though the tango festival has moved to late February and early March, the city still closes the street near the Central Cultural San Martín on Gardel’s December 11 birthday for the Milonga de Calle Corrientes, dancing to live and recorded music.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition