This week at La Rural, the convention center in Palermo, is having its annual La Feria Internacional de Artesanías. In Buenos Aires where we already have our famous, very accessible weekend fairs that are filled with all kinds of regional arts and crafts, I wonder why we need another one and what makes it so special that requires an entrance fee. Since Christmas is just around the corner, it’s time to do my Christmas shopping anyway, so with a skeptical mind I went to check it out.
The fair is held over 6 days from December 3 – 8, and I picked a weekday to go so as to avoid the big crowd. It was a right choice because I really got to take my time going from one stall to another, examining the products and even chatting with the sellers who were also usually the artisans who made the products themselves. The selection and the quality of products were definitely of a much higher quality than the weekend fairs. Some of them were truly creatively designed, and even if they were not as unique as the others, they were very well-made. I was worried that these amazing handcrafts would throw me off my budget, but it was to the contrary, they all had a good range of affordable options. I actually had seen something similar in a regular store that charged way more. At the point, I knew I was at the right place for my mission!
The shopping experience became even more interesting when I realized I got to watch these talented craftsmen in action demonstrating their skills. I was able to see in first hand the techniques they used, which were passed down from generations. You got to see how they weaved beautiful patterns with bamboo, making them into baskets of different shapes and sizes, you got to see how they polished intricate woodwork, and some even brought in their traditional looms and made colorful yarn in front of you from the materials that their region is famous for. In many ways the fair is not just a commercial market, but a showcase of traditions and regional arts. Folk music and traditional dances were also performed during the evening hours.
I was genuinely impressed by the International Artisan Fair. Not only I was able to complete all of my Christmas shopping in one go, I was also able to find real cool gifts for everyone in my Argentine family-in-law, which in itself was no small task since getting them a well-crafted mate or another leather belt just would not cut it. So, whether you love to shop or hate shopping but you have to do it like me, then I’d highly recommend you to give this fair a shot. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, you may learn one thing or two about different cultures and traditions.