Tucked in the Paseo La Plaza on Corrientes Ave, the “street that never sleeps” and a center of theater and tango, is the Cavern.
Named for the Beatles’ frequent venue, it’s a Beatles-themed complex that includes a cafe, a club, a theater, performance spaces, and a museum.
The Museo Beatle belongs to one of the most charming categories of museum, “personal collection that got way out of hand.” In this case, Rodolfo Vázquez began collecting Beatles stuff at the age of 10, and by 2001, he had the Guinness Book of World Records certified biggest damn Beatles collection (re-certified in 2011 by Guinness as having 7,700 items).
The museum is organized chronologically, and how else would you start, but with the Fab Four’s frickin’ births?
Don’t worry, Pete Best fans, the museum’s got you covered.
I’m not actually a big Beatles fan; I don’t know much about them. I was surprised by how meteoric their rise really was. They added Ringo and recorded their first album in 1962, released it in 1963, and by 1964, the merch production was insane.
Continuing on through Beatlemania…
…and on to Sgt Pepper’s something something.
I understand Beatles memorabilia, not unlike their aesthetic, gets weirder from here.
There are various records, advertisements, and autographs of anyone even tangentially related to the band throughout the museum. All that is well and good, but you want a photo op. Of course you do.
You do, eventually, come to that point on the timeline when things, as all good things do, come to an end.
But as I’m sure every other person on the planet knows, because I know this, the Beatles didn’t just vanish in 1970. They all had solo careers!
Visitors will find nooks dedicated to each man’s solo efforts and life decisions.
Ringo…well Ringo did some things I was entirely unaware of until five seconds before I took this photo.
After visiting the museum, you can walk across the courtyard to the cafe and have a typical and filling Argentine lunch for 250 pesos (about US$5.50).
If you’re a Beatles fan or just want to see a bunch of Beatles stuff, you’ll find The Cavern in the San Nicolás barrio at Av Corrientes 1660, inside the Paseo La Plaza, which is a actually a really lovely complex of shops, restaurants, performance spaces, and trees in the middle of a busy place. It’s close to the D line and B line of the subway, Congress, the Obelisk–a thousand ways to get there. The museum entries are 250 pesos (about US$5.50) for foreigners, 200 pesos for Argentines and residents, and free for kids 10 and under. Check the website for the hours.
I’m working at a tiny disadvantage today, as I visited the Museo Evita a couple of weeks ago and photographs are not allowed, but fortunately for potential visitors, the website is well done with a lot of information.
The English-speaking world is often introduced to her first via the musical “Evita,” which is unfortunate, as it was sourced in anti-Perónist accounts and is historically inaccurate. In any case, regardless of the facts of her life, Eva Perón is subjected to the sort of scrutiny and sneering criticism that male political figures are rarely, if ever, subjected to.
It would be difficult, or even impossible, to overstate the cultural impact of Eva Perón in Argentina (as a foreigner here, I am reminded of this Sarah Glidden comic often). She is memorialized in very large ways, including the 100 peso note…
Small wonder then that the museum dedicated to her appears to be well-funded with a very engaging community presence. The vexing question of why the English-language Wikipedia identifies her primarily as an actress is perhaps a larger one.
Incidentally, wanna see how she’s identified in her Latin American Google results?
The building that houses Museo Evita and the cafe was built in the early 1900s and acquired by Eva’s social aid foundation in 1948 as Temporary Home #2, serving as a transitional support home for women and children.
These sorts of buildings present a bit of a challenge for chronological presentation, as you can see on the map that visitors receive:
But it’s not so difficult to navigate. There are signs and an abundance of security staff to make sure visitors know where the chronology goes next. Honestly, I would not change the set up at all; who ever feels like life moves predictably?
The museum assumes visitors have enough familiarity with Argentine history to understand the context of things, and the treatment overall is kept rather light. Most of the signage is translated into English, so English speakers will not be lost. Video clips are also subtitled with English.
Since I don’t have many photos to offer, I’m going to briefly mention my biggest impressions from the museum.
The woman had an exceptional amount of hustle. Evita was born in the sticks, the fifth child in a wealthy man’s illegitimate, side family. That man abandoned her family, leaving them in dire poverty. She went to the big city at age 15 to be an actress, which had to be at least as unforgiving an industry to women in the 1930s and 40s as it is today. She worked hard and was active in her unions, helping found the Argentine Radio Association and serving as its president in 1944. Evita took no half-measures and was probably incapable of doing so.
Women’s suffrage. Evita is widely credited with driving the issue of women’s suffrage to its political fruition, legalized in 1947 and first exercised in 1951. She also organized a women’s political party. The museum has a newsreel on the women’s vote, showcasing the government’s preparation of the new voter rolls and how to vote, and featuring a scene in which an Evita lookalike argues passionately with reluctant female family members on the civic duty of women to exercise their right to vote.
The funeral room. The room adjoining the funeral room shows a large video of the Cabildo Abierto del Justicialismo–a massive rally where the assembled people pressed Evita to accept the nomination for vice president–and the Renunciation, a radio address made nine days later where she declined the nomination (these would be among her last public acts; she would die of uterine cancer less than a year later). The visitor then turns and sees silent footage from her 14 day funeral, during which more than two million people came to pay tribute. Her voice from the Cabildo rally and Renunciation in the room behind is still heard over the funeral images, creating a moving impression of memory and legacy.
Before exiting through a nicely stocked gift shop, visitors can participate in the Millones photo project, taking a self-portrait with a photo of Evita using a mounted digital camera. I took one, but it doesn’t seem like the website has been updated in awhile.
Finally, I had some fun in the swag room, where I picked up the museum guide and the lady’s autobiography.
At 180 pesos (at the time, anyway; about US $6), it’s one of the more expensive museums I’ve been to. But it is certainly worth a visit! It’s easily accessible via the D line of the subway, and is very close to the botanical gardens. The cafe is really nice, too.
Tango, as you might have deduced if you’ve spent 15 seconds in Buenos Aires, is kind of a big deal here. There are tango street dancers, tiny stages for performers at touristy restaurants, and ample opportunities to be tutored. There are big, flashy tango shows, small tango shows, tango shows at historic tango bars/restaurants. Tango postcards, tango art, tango CDs, tango souvenirs. Hand to god, I have seen a wooden statue of Jesus playing a bandoneon for sale in San Telmo. I totally should have bought it.
But the tango isn’t just for the tourists. The dance and the music are very real and integral parts of the Buenos Aires cultural identity. There are milongas of all sorts, where people go to dance. The two parks closest to my place roll out temporary dance floors on Sunday evenings in the summer. Tango music is everywhere.
Gardel was born Charles Gardès in 1890 in Toulouse, France, to a young laundress and a dude who was married to someone else. Berthe Gardès did officially call out her baby-daddy, but we know how these things go for women, and when little Charles was two, Berthe moved them to Buenos Aires to begin a new life as a “widow.” There, they would be called by the Spanish version of their names, Berta and Carlos Gardel.
Incidentally, Paul Laserre would show up in Buenos Aires to ask Berta to marry him and “legitimize” Carlos when Carlos was around 30 years old and had conveniently released his first hit record. Carlos told his mom that if she could live without the guy, so could he, and didn’t see him. WELL PLAYED.
Carlos himself would muddy the facts of his birthplace by claiming Uruguayan citizenship, stating he was born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay (he then acquired Argentine citizenship). This was probably done to smooth over an upcoming tour of France, has he had never registered for military service, as required of French citizens. This paper trail has led to different early biographies and native son claims, but look the museum has a copy of his French birth certificate so Uruguay should pipe down.
The museum is inside a house in Abasto that Gardel bought for his mom (he lived there for awhile, as well), and consists of four rooms. The first room is dedicated to his early life. In a museum dedicated to a musician, the multimedia experience is pretty important, and the Museo Carlos Gardel does a pretty credible job providing it, including the rather touching addition of the sort of song Berta would have sung for little Carlos.
Gardel would develop as a musician, and in 1917 create the “tango canción,” the form of tango vocals that united the voice with the musical and dance themes of tango, when he recorded Mi Noche Triste (listen to it here). This style became an enormous part of tango, and tango became an enormous part of Gardel’s life.
The next room of the museum is the recording room. It’s quite small, but here you can see artifacts from his music career and select from over 300 recordings made by Gardel to listen to at the listening stations.
To continue on from the record room, you go through this doorway:
The room on the other side of the heavy curtain is the funeral room. Gardel died at the age of 44, at the height of his music and film career, in a plane crash in Colombia.
The final room is the cinema room, which I think is a fitting way to end the museum, not only in terms of floor plan, but also in terms of image. After all, Berta would continue watching Carlos’s movies to see him again, and this is a lasting legacy for a performer.
The room includes a timeline of his movies, photos from the production, and posters.
So, if you’re super into the history of tango, 1930s cinema, or turn of the century music, Museo Casa Carlos Gardel is worth a visit (not to be confused with the Gardel museum outside of Tacuarembó because Uruguay just cannot let it go). The signage is all in Spanish, but they do have an English language handout that will walk you through the rooms.
The museum is located at Jean Jaurés 735, close to the H and B subway lines, in Abasto. As always, check their website for current information, but as of this writing, the entry is 30 pesos (about US$1 right now), free on Wednesdays and generally for students, school groups, retirees, disabled visitors and their attendants and those under 12. It’s closed on Tuesdays. It’s a residential area, so there are some places to eat here and there. There’s also some pretty nice fileteado-style murals across from the museum.
The Espacio Fundación Telefónica is the community cultural center for a multinational communications company, Telefónica. It hosts workshops and small but nicely curated exhibits, such as this Houdini one, which recently finished its run. It only took about 45 minutes to see everything, and while it was light on Houdini-related artifacts, it did have some pretty cool vintage magic and illusion objects, as well as a good layout and use of its small space. Houdini’s biography was presented and given some contemporary context, and the signs were in both Spanish and English. It was free, fun, and interesting. Here’s my photos. Sorry this is so short, but I need a nap.