There are a lot of ways of trying to understand Once, the area located smack dab in the middle of Balvanera, home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Argentina and quite possibly the busiest commercial area in town. But there’s probably none more telling than navigating it through the peculiar, somewhat odd way that the barrio’s streets have been laid out. Those in the know understand that there is one street and one street only where you go if you want to find fabrics, one if you need to find party supplies, another one for lingerie, another one for watches, and so on.
But what about when you need to find a mannequin? Is there really a street in Once dedicated to that? You bet your fiberglass face there is.
The two blocks between Lavalle 2700 and 2900 are quite possibly the weirdest 200 meters in Buenos Aires. Sure, for those that work here, life in these mannequin shops is business as usual from 9 to 5, and has been the case for some of them for the last 30 years or so. But for any pedestrian stumbling upon one of its window displays, it’s a gateway to a strange spectacle, one that features rows and rows of human like figures in all shapes and sizes, from the traditional male and female standards fed to us by the advertising world, to kids, babies, plus size models, and even a bizarre man with a dog head. If you look carefully you’ll find bundles of hands and feet, queues of legs and butts, and the occasional mannequin with a face staring creepily toward the horizon.
Think what you may, but this much is true: you really haven’t felt dread until you’ve looked a mannequin straight into its lifeless eyes.
Photos by Julian White-Davis | Texts by Pedro Camacho