March 16, 2013

El Obrero... and No se olviden de Cabezas

El Obrero is a great little parrilla off the beaten track in La Boca. Started several decades ago by two brothers from Barcelona of all places, it offers good food at reasonable prices in a shrine devoted to Boca Juniors memorabilia. It isn't located on a well travelled street, and while it's easy enough to walk from some places, it might be wise to consider a taxi, especially after dark. We visited for a late lunch, in porteno fashion.

The restaurant features lots of meat dishes, and some great pasta too. There is an excellent wine list in a good range of prices. El Obrero is on some tourist circuits so you will hear English spoken by diners here, and the wait staff, attentive as only Argentinos can be, understand more than they let on. You will also find this is a local place, with friendly folk from Boca and beyond. Customers will argue with staff about the various incorrect placements of posters and photos on the wall, nearly all related to the Boca Juniors.

Service in Argentine restaurants is relatively good especially during the initial phases of ordering your meal. You will not be bothered during your meal by waiters wanting to be your friend, or asking you if everything is okay, or even if you would like a coffee or dessert. The bill won't appear with the "No hurry, take your time" line, even though they actually want you to hurry up. In Buenos Aires, once you are seated and enjoying your meal, you are a guest and have the option of sitting there until the establishment closes.

Should you actually want to finish your meal with a cafe or a postre, or indeed if you would like to pay and leave, you must get your waiter's attention. He, and it usually is a he in parrillas, will normally be staring out the window, kibitzing with another staff member or a customer, or simply invisible.

El Obrero represents what is great about Argentine parrillas. And yes, we did get a wonderful postre: lemon ice cream, and our waiter called a taxi for us too.

Something that caught my eye in El Obrero was the banner for Jose Luis Cabezas. Here, among all the futbol photos, banners and jerseys, was a something from the late nineteen nineties.

It reads: Do not forget Cabezas. Photojournalist. Murdered in Pinamar on January 25, 1997.

At the time Cabezas was working for the newspaper Noticas and investigating corruption between police, businessmen, politicians and crime bosses. He was looking into prominent business leader Alfredo Yabran when, after attending, as a journalist, a party in an exclusive resort community for businessman Oscar Andreani, he was kidnapped, beaten, handcuffed, tortured and killed with two gunshots to the head. His body was then  placed in the car rented by his newspaper and set on fire.

People throughout the country were outraged by this attack on an independent journalist. There were marches, rallies, and photo expositions. The slogan No se olviden de Cabezas became a symbol and a warning to those in power that citizens would not let this crime fade into obscurity and the guilty left unpunished. Ultimately many were brought to justice, including police, mafiosi and politicos.

Throughout this city, and the country, one sees photos of people, in memorial, in various places, sometimes in restaurants. We are never far from the memory of the desaparecidos of the Dirty War, nor more recent events too. This restaurant, El Obrero, and its customers,won't forget Cabezas.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

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