Energy moving through the crowd. Children with their noses pressed up against the window, their faces illuminated by dim flickering light. Dusty televisions, crackling radios and the hiss of beers being opened. A sea of blue and yellow, red and white dividing neighbors, families, spouses.
As we made our way to our chosen bar, the clock inching ever closer to 7pm the city seemed to slow down. Imperceptibly everyone’s attention drifted, zeroed in on those brightly colored jerseys set against the green field. Servers craned their neck while taking orders, shopowners flipped their signs, kids passed their pesos across the counter on their tippy toes catching a glimpse of the tv in the back.
7:01, November 11th 2010. Buenos Aires was cerrado for the Superclasico.
We stumbled into the dimly lit unmarked bar blinking away the spots. A long elegant bar held portenos of all ages sitting forward in their chairs. A hushed silence filed the room, the only audible voices those with that unmistakable yankee accent. Bartenders dispensed drinks with heads swiveled.
Sliding into the last available seats at the bar we squeezed hands excitedly. Our first football game! In ARGENTINA! I was dying to make conversation with the locals but refrained out of respect. We ordered our beers and balanced on the barstool ready to engage in the most respected past time in all of South America.
“Was that English I hear? Are y’all American?”
I threw a glance over my shoulder at my husband. He was closest to the interloper so it was only fair he field the questions. He kicked my shin under the bar and reluctantly answered the litany of questions. “Where are you from? Why are you here? How long are you staying?” His voice droned on and on while I positioned my body to block out every strain of his nasally voice.
Boca and River fought valiantly on the field. Don’t expect a play by play here but suffice it to say these two world class teams were electric. A beautifully passed goal slipped though Boca’s fingers and the crowd erupted.
It was only then I looked around. In this hardscrabble neighborhood, the working class bario, we had stumbled into enemy territory. I scanned the men seated in groups throughout the bar and picked up on the neatly pressed slacks and crisp white collars.
“We are at a River bar!” I hissed through clenched teeth. Roem leaned away from our interloper who was now extolling the virtues of his $35 dollar lunch! For five people! With wine! It was then we noticed the River jerseys displayed proudly on all four walls.
Our street cred rapidly dissipating, we watched Boca lose one of the world’s greatest grudge matches while at a yuppie bar. Our Texan friend leaned forward and asked “So I take it the local team won?”
Not here my friend. Here in San Telmo we support La Boca.