We’re all guilty of living in our own private bubble sometimes. It’s so easy to get caught up in our day to day lives, rushing from one thing to the next and rarely taking the time to pause, reflect, and marvel at the city around us. This can all change thanks to Jane’s Walks, a global movement of free, locally-led walking tours taking place from May 4 – 6.
Over the course of the weekend, 24 walking tours will take place all over the city, each examining the stories, transformations, and people behind Buenos Aires’ varied barrios. The tours are led by local volunteers who each share their perspectives on the multi-layered history which makes our city so unique.
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The festival is a global phenomenon. Every year, the first weekend in May sees more than 1,600 walks in 220 cities in 37 countries all around the world, encouraging us to form connections with the places in which we live. The idea is to discover the human stories behind the buildings and the communities who have shaped our barrios, promoting a more active, friendly, and pedestrian city.
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Inspired by the urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs, the initiative was established to commemorate her memory. A journalist by trade, she was known for opposing car-centered urban planning in New York and Toronto, thereby preserving the unique styles of areas such as Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park.
Jacobs was a staunch proponent of neighborhood activism and believed that local residents should be able to shape the way their cities develop. She encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the places where they live, work, and play, defying homogenization and instead celebrating the messy vitality of life which shapes the cities in which we live. Last year a documentary was released, coinciding with what would have been her 100th birthday, and is well worth watching to understand more of her urban philosophy and local activism.
The documentary opens with a quote from Jacobs: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody,” and this is particularly true of Buenos Aires. It is a city shaped by waves of immigration and diverse cultural influence; each newcomer to the city has added layer upon layer to make it so much more than the trite ‘Paris of South America.’
With so many neighborhoods and themes from which to choose, it’s a bit daunting to narrow it down to just a few recommendations. One walk which looks particularly interesting is ‘Palermo: #KintsugiUrbano’. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing shattered pottery with gold, turning the broken into art and celebrating visible scars. This walk looks at the visible scars of BA, the imperfect and improvised repairs that show the city’s history and the work of its inhabitants in shaping it.
Also intriguing is ‘San Juan and Boedo,’ a walk looking at the relationship that writers have had with the city, and ‘Desmistificando Parque Chas,’ which will showcase the design and community behind Buenos Aires’ most perplexing barrio and discuss Jacobs’ urban activism in the context of the area.
Meanwhile, if you’re always on the hunt for those sweet, sweet likes, join the #Instawalk, a guided tour of some of San Telmo’s most instagrammable sights, let by prominent Argentine Instagrammers. Even if you’ve already strolled the cobblestones of San Telmo, this walk will help you discover beauty in places you hadn’t looked before.
Whether you choose to explore your own barrio or others is up to you, but with so many on all over the city you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy. The walks are free and open to all, but some have limited space and so require prior sign-up. You can find more details about all the walks and how to join them on their website as well as Facebook.