The cats of Buenos Aires - The Botánico

I’m sure that two ideas come to mind to every porteño – the inhabitants of Buenos Aires – who is asked about “the cats of Buenos Aires” as I was by Tamás a propos of the cats of the Tower of the Souls.

In the first place, even though understanding that one was of course asked about the quadruped mammals of the feline species, one has to make an effort to leave aside the vulgar meaning of “gato” in lunfardo, the argot of Buenos Aires, and therefore forget the young ladies of an ancient profession or those who, even though amateurs, assume a quite peculiar aesthetic and do not hide a marked interest in the economic capacity of their possible conquests (whoever should need further explanations, refer to Puto el que lee. Diccionario argentino de insultos, injurias e improperios [He’s a faggot who reads it. Argentine dictionary of insults, affronts and verbal abuses], Editor. Gente Grossa, Buenos Aires, 2006, s.v. ‘gato’.)

Secondly, and now without second meanings in his head, the porteño who is asked about the cats of his city will indefectibly think about one place: the Botánico.

Buenos Aires, Jardín Botánico
The Botanical Garden of Buenos Aires, inaugurated in 1898, occupying six or seven blocks in the district of Palermo, was designed by the great French landscape architect Charles Thays, designer of the majority of Buenos Aires’ most characteristic squares and parks. It has had better and worse times, receiving more or less maintenance, but for me, it always keeps its charm.

This affection is special, moreover, because up to my seventh year I lived just three blocks away from the Botánico and I cannot avoid associating that part of the neighbourhood of Palermo with the years when I was small (and an only child!). The walks in the Botánico were daily: before taking me to my kindergarten, my mother took me almost ever day to the playground just outside it. (The anecdotes about my first feints in social relationships, so many times recalled by the family, I prefer to leave under a charitable mantle of silence… let each one imagine what he wishes.)

All these personal digressions, only to explain the pleasure with which I undertook the photographic mission which arose from Tamás’ question: “how are you concerning cats in Buenos Aires?”

It was a grey day in the beginning of Autumn and a very special one for the whole country because we were bidding farewell to the remains of Raúl Alfonsín, our first President after the return of Democracy in 1983. After participating in the multitudinous farewell, we took our daughters on a photographical safari to the place where I played and strolled during my childhood.

But let’s talk about the protagonists. I don’t know when the Botánico became the reservoir of cats that it has been ever since I can remember. There have been periods of discussions about it and also attempts of murderous razzias, but those times are over. I have just found out that there is a Voluntary Association who looks after them. I hope it’s still active because its Web page has not been brought up to date for some time (apart from having appalling spelling mistakes.) The fact is that nowadays the cats in the Botánico look clean and vivid. But of course, they’re desperate for a little affection, or maybe that is what they make you think, when in fact they approach you in search of food… But it’s the same thing. Because for cats, and more so for stray ones, food and love go hand in hand.

Buenos Aires, Jardín Botánico
At the Santa Fe Street Entrance, a sign appeals to the compassion of owners who abandon their cats here. “Don’t abandon your pets. They need: shelter, food, vaccines and, above all, love and care.”

Buenos Aires, Jardín Botánico
This lovely grey cat helps, with his melancholy attitude, to show us the pathetic situation of many abandoned pets…

Buenos Aires, Jardín Botánico
However, most of the Botánico cats were born here and would have difficulty in adapting themselves to the more comfortable confinement of an apartment, away from their fellows, from the countless trees, hiding places and perfumes that they can enjoy here.

Buenos Aires, Jardín Botánico
It’s also curious to realize that many of the visitors in the Botánico wander through its paths searching not only for the solace of vegetation in the midst of the city but also, as we did on that second of April, in pursuit of the cats, photographing them, fondling them and choosing their favorites.

Buenos Aires, Jardín BotánicoThis is mine.

So, to answer at last Tamás’ question, I think that we are doing very well concerning cats in Buenos Aires. We, cat addicts or philofelines or however you would like to name those of us who enjoy, love and admire cats, are many.

To conclude, a wise reflection by one of the latest and best cats in Argentine comic strips: Fellini, created by the brilliant Liniers.

Felini, the cat in the LiniersI don’t know why you only look to one direction.
There are so many.

4 comentarios:

Studiolum dijo...

An excellent post has just been published on the Jardín Botánico in «Le Petit Hergé» which also includes a link to our post.

TC dijo...


It was a delight to find your lovely black and white cat among the other feline geniuses of the Botánico.

Here is a Buenos Aires cat for you.

Julia dijo...

Thank you, Tom. (Sorry again for the delay, "it's beyond my control")
Yes, my avatar came from here, an anonymous cat, although I have so many in my family but I love this photo took by my husband: a melancholic cat surrounded by white and sky blue (our colours, you know).
Your "porteño" cat and its friends are great!

Unknown dijo...

Last year I lived in an apartment for rent in Buenos Aires and it was near "The Botanico" and.. wow.. so beautifull... it was a pleasure living in front of the nature