It’s a short walk from the apartment to “Redondo”, the nickname of the Church of The Immaculate Conception, where my journey into The Hidden City will start.
The church is the oldest in continuous use in Belgrano, the barrio where Ale and I live, and it has a long history of working with the addicted and homeless.
My walk takes me straight down 3 de Febrero. The street name, February 3rd, commemorates the Baptism of Fire for San Martin who is the Argentine version of America’s George Washington.
Belgrano is a leafy neighborhood with embassies from about a dozen countries scattered throughout. Plazas, or parks, sit in almost random spots and provide places where people can read while they drink the strong Argentine coffee and contemplate life. It’s an environment that is diametrically opposite from the environment of The Hidden City.
Getting to the church, I wander inside and take a seat in the pew in the back corner. Tuesday Mass is being said as an old man with two canes moves slowly in and sits next to me. With the homily being delivered in Spanish, I have no idea what is being said, but I do find the interior of the 100+ year old structure to be relaxing
After a few minutes, I slip back outside. Walking around to the corner of the plaza, I find a door with a sign on it that says, “Privado: No entre”. Never having been deterred before by a Do Not Enter sign, I ring the brass bell.
While I wait, I admire the heavy oak doors with the cast iron fittings infront of me. I wonder how many hands have pushed this door open over the years and I also wonder what I will find on the other side.
A small opening in the door is slid open, a gnarled hand comes out and I pass the note which a friend of mine wrote for me in Spanish that details my goal and mission.
Taking the note, the hand disappears and the opening slides shut again.
Lighting a cigarette as I wait, I stare at the centuries old trees in the plaza and around the church. Lost in thought, I don’t hear the door as it’s pushed open and I see the body which belonged to the gnarled hand that took my note.
Ushered inside, I’m led down a marble hallway with statues of Argentine patiots interspersed with marble sculptures of Biblical heroes.
Turning the corner and into a small office, the secretary writes an email address and phone number of a square piece on blue stationery. As she hands it to me, the gentlemen that guided me in escorts me back to the door.
Next stop? Metropolitan Cathedral and one step closer to The Hidden City.
Paco and Pepe consists of a series of stories and photographs about my efforts to get into The Hidden City in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. CLICK HERE to read just the stories connected with this latest adventure and follow along. Together we will find out if penetrating this shadowy world is possible; and if it is, what do we find when the journey is complete.
- Paco and Pepe: The Hidden City, Argentine Mafia and Me. The Story Begins (journeyamerica.wordpress.com)