This week, the city and/or our building owners decided to dig up the paths on our block. They periodically do this, usually just a section or two at a time, presumably to fix a pipe or some faulty wire. But this week was unusual as it is almost our entire block. I keep crossing my fingers that we don’t wake up to no water or gas.
In Buenos Aires, the paths, known in castellano as las veredas (las aceras in most other Spanish speaking countries) are worthy of pause. When we first moved to BA, I found it so interesting that the sidewalks all look so different block by block. Each building or peice of property is responsible for its sidewalk. Your building fees (not necessarily city taxes) are used for the upkeep of the paths.
The design, materials, and, crucially, the quality of sidewalks change every 20-30 feet for this reason. Some are tiles, some are poured concrete, others are brick or cobblestone. Some are well looked after, others have weeds growing out of them or have crumbled, wobbly tiles. This is particularly treacherous on a rainy day or when a portero has just hosed down his path. When stepped on the wrong way, these tiles shift, drench your shoes, and splash dirty water up your leg. I have a theory that this is why so many Argentine women wear flatform shoes.
Dirty water is just one of the many menaces you can encounter on a Buenos Aires sidewalk. I frequently trip over tree roots, or roll my ankle into a large crack. And beware, picking up dog poo is not mandatory here. So when you’re walking the las veredas de Buenos Aires be sure to look where you step!