Danger in the Dark in Buenos Aires
Rease Kirchner knows better. As a regular traveller to Buenos Aires, Argentina, she knows all the con games and what to do — and where to avoid — to stay safe. But then, one night…
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Like any big city, Buenos Aires, Argentina, has areas that are best avoided, especially after dark. The La Boca area is known for being a huge tourist attraction during the day. The brightly painted buildings, craft markets, tango dancers and museums bring in constant crowds of people. However, once the sun goes down, tourists get out of there as fast as they can. At night, La Boca is arguably the most dangerous place in Buenos Aires. It seems the locals put up with the tourists during daylight because they recognize how it benefits their economy, but the gloves are off after sunset.
I know all this. I had visited Buenos Aires twice before I moved there, and I had been continuously warned. Once I settled into the city as an expatriate, I kept my distance from La Boca. When people told me their stories of being attacked and robbed in La Boca, I simply shrugged my shoulders, telling them they should have known better. If you go to La Boca at night, bad things will happen. It is as simple as that.
But then I went anyway. My fellow traveller friends Stephanie and Ayngelina had heard about an incredible steak and pasta restaurant. Supposedly, the food was delicious and the prices reasonable. The name of the restaurant was El Obrero, or “The Worker,” because it was meant for hard-working locals, not tourists. To top it all off, it was located in the heart of La Boca.
Maybe a year without any incidents in Buenos Aires had lured me into a false sense of security. Or perhaps being a seasoned traveller had made me cocky. Whatever it was, it landed me in the streets of La Boca on a pitch-black night.
Stephanie told us she would meet us at the restaurant, so Ayngelina and I travelled together. We were extra stubborn, and scoffed at the idea of taking the much safer, but far pricier, taxi option. Instead, we hopped on the bus with the locals. As soon as we crossed into La Boca grounds, we could feel eyes upon us. The streetlights seemed to extinguish as soon as La Boca territory began. We frantically searched for street signs, but eventually we just had to buzz and get off the bus so we could search for ourselves.
As we walked through the dark streets, we clutched our bags to our chests and tried not to look out of place. We were horribly lost, but we knew whipping out a map would be the equivalent of sending up a searchlight for any criminal lurking in the shadows. As we speed-walked through the streets, men with their faces covered by hoods stepped suddenly out of alleyways, leering at us. Every time someone appeared, we were sure the attack was coming.
Eventually, I gathered up the nerves to whisper the address of the restaurant to a convenience store worker, who kindly pretended we were just inquiring about prices. Once we had the directions, we walked as fast as we dared and took the last block at a near sprint.
We made it safely inside and immediately scolded each other for not being the voice of reason when this plan was made. We kept repeating, “This is exactly what we tell our readers not to do!” Even though we had made it to the restaurant without incident, we were still shaken up and knew we would not be that lucky again. We called a cab to pick us up directly in front of the restaurant, happy to fork out the cash in return for a safe ride home. So, remember: Do as I say, not as I do!