A colorful tour in Caminito

Poor families from the Boca neighborhood sneak into the port in order to take advantage of the leftover paint that is used for ships and with it brighten up their homes. The story may be touching but it has nothing to do with the vibrant tones of Caminito’s window sills and walls. There are at least three reasons why this tourist tale is rubbish.

One: the owners of the ships and shipyards were never generous to the point of allowing others to take any of leftover materials.

Two: Carnival was never celebrated at sea. The ships that went through the port never had such contrasting colors like orange, red and green.

Three: the boats with wooden hulls of the early 20th century weren’t painted. Instead, they were waterproofed with polish.

Caminito Street and its striking colors are the creation of a fine arts artist that always complained about the grey city. His name was Benito Quinquela.

An orphan, Quinquela was adopted by a couple when he was 7 years old. His new parents were the owners of a charcoal warehouse, a material used in old kitchen stoves. With pieces of charcoal he began to draw. At fifteen, he made money by making portraits of neighbors. Later, he traveled to Europe to show his work and earned a substantial amount of money with them.

By the 1930s, the artist was rich and began to revitalize La Boca neighborhood, where he had grown up in. He provided land for a school, a daycare, a movie theater, a playhouse, an orthodontic institute and a museum.

Quinquela also convinced various residents to paint their houses according to the palette he suggested:

“I didn’t just use the colors from my paintings since I also tried to incorporate them within the idyllic reality of Boca. On the same land that I donated for social and collective benefit purposes, I painted and decorated the buildings myself. Not only did I convince a few neighbors to paint their houses with color but also to choose the colors that I gave out.”

Quinquela was one of Caminito’s idealists and wanted the place to become a street museum, using works by local artists. The outdoor museum had its inauguration in 1959.