When Porteños want to get out of Buenos Aires, the closest option is the suburb of Tigre, the gateway to the Paraná delta. Barely half an hour from downtown’s Retiro station, Tigre is a riverside greenbelt city that’s the terminus of the Mitre railroad, a commuter line for the Argentine capital’s prosperous northern suburbs. It’s quick and cheap to get there - believe it or not, the fare to Tigre is 1.35 pesos, approximately 35 US cents!
My Thursday excursion, though, started from the barrio of Belgrano, whose station is closer to my own Palermo apartment. I made a stopover at Béccar, five stops south of Tigre, to see Villa Ocampo (pictured here), the country home of writer Victoria Ocampo (1890-1979). Ocampo, born to wealth and privilege, created the literary journal Sur and entertained world-class writers, including Graham Greene, Federico García Lorca, and André Malraux here, not to mention her own countrymen such as Jorge Luis Borges and novelist Adolfo Bioy Casares (married to Ocampo’s sister Silvina, a poet).
Open to the public, now a museum and cultural center, Villa Ocampo is a Belle Epoque house built by her parents on an enormous lot that once stretched all the way to the river. Today, the grounds are much reduced - though most of us would still consider the gardens enormous - and it’s only a seven-block walk through wooded streets from the train station. It’s best, though, to time any visit for a guided tour, as self-guided visitors may only see the ground level - the first floor, where Ocampo herself slept and her distinguished guests had their own spacious rooms, is otherwise off-limits.
In Tigre, meanwhile, my primary goal was to visit the new Museo de Arte Tigre (MAT), occupying the spectacularly restored Tigre Club (pictured here, dating from 1913). Though it once housed a hotel and casino, it now displays figurative works by Argentine artists from the late 19th to the 20th century, stressing but specializing in landscapes, portraits, and still lifes linked to Tigre. The first-floor terrace that extends to the riverside offers great rivers of the river and its parkland.
Artists represented include major figures such as Antonio Berni, Benito Quinquela Martín, and Juan Carlos Castagnino, but it also holds special thematic exhibits. Currently, it’s hosting a series of three dimensional pieces by “Artistas Plásticos Solidarios en el Mes de la Memoria” (Plastic Artists in Solidarity in the Month of Memory), memorializing the victims of Argentina’s 1976 coup and subsequent “Dirty War” in conjunction the March 24th anniversary, now a holiday for reflection - and protest - in the country.
I’ve not even mentioned my favorite Tigre-area destination, the bedrock island of Martín García, a full-day excursion reached by Cacciola catamaran from Tigre. Once a penal colony, Martín García is still a halfway house for prisoners from Buenos Aires province, but it’s also home to lush gallery forests and some unexpected architectural masterpieces - such as its rococo theater (pictured here).