Mataderos Fair: A Gaucho Market on the Outskirts of Buenos Aires

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Just outside the capital, only a few blocks away from where the city ends and the province of Buenos Aires begins, rural culture comes alive at the weekly Feria de Mataderos.

Argentine cowboys known as gauchos show off their wares, dancers and musicians cavort to Argentine folk tunes, and food stands offer various regional dishes.

In Spanish, mataderos means slaughterhouses.

Since 1889, the Mataderos neighborhood was known as the home to the region’s largest livestock market and meat processing plants.

Here 50,000 head of cattle were sold weekly until 2021.

A sign that says Feria de Mataderos

Update: At the end of 2021, the livestock market was relocated approximately 60 kilometers (40 miles) away to Cañuelas.

The long-postponed move is due to congestion and environmental problems caused by the market.

As the neighborhood is transitioning into a quiet residential area, Mataderos’ Sunday outdoor handicraft, culture and folklore fair will remain the biggest — and only — tourist attraction.

The move of the slaughterhouses means that horse games were discontinued (video link).

You will have to venture further out into the province to witness them.

San Antonio de Areco is a good alternative.

Stay in an estancia for the full gaucho experience.

Horsing Around: Equestrian Games in Mataderos

A smiling Argentine cowboy on a horse

Gauchos used to perform horseback riding demonstrations and games in full cowboy garb from 2 p.m. onward at the edge of the market along Lisandro del Torre Avenue and this was a main attraction at the weekly fair.

The corrida de sortija, or ring race, dates back to the 1800s.

A metal bar is strapped between two upright poles.

In the center hangs a small ring, about the size of a wedding band.

Players would gallop along the street from one end of the course, brandishing a small twig, and attempt to place it inside the ring.

Watching giant horses gallop through parked cars creates a startling juxtaposition, and was a testament to traditional and modern Argentina existing side by side.

Just as Buenos Aires had to recolate the central fruit and vegetable market from the center of the city (it’s now Abasto Mall) and get rid of the dangerous wooden carriages of the Subte Line B, the move of the slaughterhouses out of Mataderos was deemed necessary for modernization and public health.

Food at the Fería de Mataderos

The Sabores del Campo stand at the Mataderos Fair

Mataderos offers cuisine ranging from classics such as chorípan and empanadas; locro, a pampa stew of maize, beans and potatoes popular in winter and on national holidays.

There are also savory tamales, with meat or cheese in a corn-based flour wrapped in a corn husk, and Paraguayan specialties such Sopa Paraguaya, a savory cornbread with cheese.

In addition to lunch options, the market offers an impressive selection of high-quality homemade foods to take home including cheeses, olives oils and vinegars, charcuterie, breads, wines, liqueurs, and candies, at lower prices than can be found in Buenos Aires’ central markets.

Traditional Crafts and Souvenirs

A display of cutlery and leather goods

Traditional crafts on offer in Mataderos include steak knives, wine holders, silver jewelry and handcrafted toys.

There are also many quirky souvenirs available, such as boxes made out of orange peels, origami, 3D paintings and even Pope Francis memorabilia.

Live Music at the Feria De Mataderos

After the shopping, grab a seat — or a dance partner — and enjoy the live Argentine folklore bands that perform from the early afternoons onward in front of the old indoor market.

Traditional Argentine folklore music dancing outdoors

Argentine folklore, including Cumbia, Zamba and Chacarera, are uplifting rural alternatives to the more famous tango.

Every week a different band is invited to play, and crowds gather to listen, dance, and watch.

Chacarera is the favorite here and local schools also often show off their moves in traditional costumes.

Handpainted sign in the fileteado style that says 'Museo Criollo'

Other Attractions in Mataderos

The Herdsman statue (El Resero) marks the entrance to the old market.  

The statue of a gaucho cattle herder and his companion, a typical Creole horse by Emilio Jacinto Sarniguet was commissioned by the city and placed here in 1932.

From 1962 to 1968 Argentine currency had a coin depicting the statue, highlighting the importance of agriculture in Argentina and the craziness of its monetary history.

An Argentine cowboy on a horse holds up the ring he won in the corrida de sortijasMuseo de Criollo de los Corrales

Hidden in a nook between the food stalls lies the Museo Criollo de los Corrales, a small museum that shows a slice of country life and the history of the gaucho life in the province of Buenos Aires.

Low cost and worth the detour for those already in the area, the museum includes examples of traditional outfits and gaucho artifacts such as matés and horseback riding equipment.

La Pulperia inside the museum offers drinks, food, and a shaded patio away from the bustle of the fair where visitors will often find live folkloric music and dancing.

Bar OviedoThe historic Bar Oveida in Mataderos, province of Buenos Aires

The Bar Oviedo sits on the corner of Avenida Lissandro del Torre and Avenida de los Corrales, has been an institution in central Mataderos since 1900.

The restaurant serves beer, wine, the best locro in town and offers a great place to people-watch and take in the entire scene the market offers: the gauchos, folklore dancers, the crowds of mostly Argentine tourists and families and the sellers at their booths, waiting patiently for customers to ask about their products.

The Mataderos Skate Park

Skaters and those who enjoy their gravity-defying moves won’t want to miss the Mataderos skate park at Lisandro de la Torre and Av. De Los Corrales.

It’s got a street skating area with two bowls and there’s lots of action around the park with dancing and local women selling homemade cakes and pies.

The skatepark is open every day from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Folklore Peñas (Dance Parties)

If you snoop around Mataderos you will come across other peñas – or folk music parties, aside from the one in the main plaza. There is often an open-air peña right outside the skate park.

If it’s raining, check out the Federación Gaucho Porteña (Buenos Aires Cowboy Federation) at Lisandro de la Torre 2406.

When the Mataderos Fair Takes Place

The Mataderos Fair takes place every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., mid-March through mid-December.

In the summer months of January and February, the feria runs on Saturday nights from 6 p.m. instead of during the day.

How to get to Mataderos from Downtown Buenos Aires

Mataderos is located on Avenida Lisandro de la Torre and Avenida de los Corrales.

To get there, take the 36, 55, 92, 63, 80, 92, 97, 103, 117, 126, 141, 155, 180 or 185 bus lines. The trip takes over an hour by bus.

To save time you can also take an Uber, taxi or take Subte line E to Plaza de Virreyes and take a taxi or Uber from there.

Alternatively, make a day of it and discover the secret gems of Mataderos Fair by taking our private guided Mataderos tour with transportation. 

— by Sam Harrison (photos: Ande Wanderer)