Day 7

Koreatown in Bajo Flores

Korean Buddhist Temple on Avenida Carabobo

I went and visited the Buddhist Temple in Flores and spoke to the priest there, who herself had only just arrived from Korea 3 months ago. She was middle-aged and had a provincial Korean accent, I think from the southern part of Korea. She was very easy to talk to and extremely helpful– she lent me a book on the history of Korean emigration to Argentina (which is unfortunately written in Korean! and will take me 2 months to read!) and knew a lot of people whom I could talk with. I love her! She came to BsAs to be the temple’s priest-in-residence without ever knowing any Castellano, and she wanders about Koreatown of unsafe Bajo Flores without any fear or molestation. Pure admiration. : ) I don’t know– I am of the same opinion as she is– how can you say that some place is unsafe if there are people who live there everyday and deal with it? Of course, that’s not to say that I disregard people’s warnings– because I’m sure it is unsafe. But I also think it’s unhealthy to live in fear and suspicion all the time. Even robbers/muggers have families and are people too. Anyhow, she showed me around Koreatown, which is based on the Avenida Carabobo and took me down to Avenida Castañares, which separates Koreatown from the villas miserias (slums) that are mostly inhabited by bolivianos, apparently. Interestingly enough, the priest told me that Koreatown actually began where the villa miseria is currently located, but we did not go in because even the local police are supposedly afraid of entering. Also, Koreans become a target in that area because Koreans tend to employ Bolivians in their businesses– so I guess there is definitely that tension between rich employer and poor employee. I read online (follow wiki footnote link) few years back in 1993, the Argentine media uncovered Bolivians working in inhumane labor conditions in Korean businesses– and this tarnished the Korean identity/reputation in Argentina. They were seen as exploiters and exclusive.

The villas miserias reminded me of the ones I saw last summer surrounding the train station of Retiro and on the route of the Tren de la Costa that runs down the coast to Tigre in the provincia de BsAs. Maybe I should explain: There is the city of BsAs, which is often referred to as La Capital Federal. Then, there is the province of BsAs, which encompasses the area outside the capital and  is just one of the many provinces of Argentina. So you usually refer to to as la provincia de BsAs.

a rather empty Koreatown on a weekday

Anyways, as we were walking, I noticed that there weren’t very many Koreans walking about. The priest explained that most Koreans moved their business to Avenida Avellaneda where they felt it was safer and more secure. So even Koreans don’t like going there during the weekdays– except on weekends, when they visit the businesses after going to some religious service. I asked if Koreatown on Carabobo was then dying out– and she replied that it would still be hard for Koreatown to disappear on Avenida Carabobo because that was where most of the religous and social organizations were still located– and most of these orgs had not yet relocated to Avenida Avellaneda. So for this reason, it was still considered the center of the Korean community in BsAs.

We also visited some stores, but I will blog about that later. It’s rather late and I’m going to meet the priest again bright and early tomorrow! : )

But I will say that I bought some ramen from a Korean supermarket!

Korean ramen and snacks!

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