‘La Salada’ is a large informal fair in the Southern suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Although the fair is in principle a place of work, it has also become the main place of identification for the Bolivian community in Buenos Aires, who hold their annual religious festivity ‘Virgen de Urkupiña’ there. As a reaction, the Argentine community organises concerts of Argentine folklore and horse-breaking shows. The fair was established by a group of Bolivian traders in the early 1990s and expanded very soon, including large groups of Argentinians. Each community found in the traditional festivities an ideal way of making their presence clear in the larger context of the fair.
The place where the fair is held used to be a lagoon where the families of the area enjoyed recreation during the summer. In the late 1940s the national government built a set of public pools aside the lagoon, and the whole location was officialised as a public leisure site. By the late 1960s the lagoon was dried and the pools had been closed due to contamination, but the memory of the site survived in the local oral history. Nowadays the fair stands in front of the land of the dried lagoon, and is beginning to advance over the earth-filled abandoned pools.
This paper will argue that La Salada’s site was not only a key place of recreation for the families of the Southern area of Buenos Aires, but also a place where identity was and is continuously constructed. The history of the site will be illustrated with maps and photos. Finally, a comment will be made on the visibility of La Salada fair, which develops its activities in the margins of the formal economy but is widely recognised as an important node in the area.
Adriana is undertaking a PhD in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Architecture on urban planning and informal settlements in 1950s Buenos Aires.