Neighbourhoods usually develop outward from downtown. In Buenos Aires, the city expansion started from the historic square called Plaza de Mayo and its surrounding historical buildings. There wasn’t any law regulating the city expansion, so Buenos Aires grew as a result of a population explosion.
Social and economic growth factors and its symbols such as roads, railroads, temples and “pulperías” (places similar to a saloon or grocery store) worked as attraction poles that allowed the development of neighbourhoods.
In the most distant places from downtown, close to marginality and deprivation, some neighbourhoods became peripheral suburbs, which people called “arrabal”, as defined in lunfardo (slang), implying something different than a simple neighbourhood. Tango was born there, that is why “suburbs” and “arrabal” are frequently found in tango lyrics. Just by mentioning these words, we think of a setting crowded with malevos (criminals) and prostitutes, honor codes and treason, dancing and fighting. Social context and identity were thus expressed in the music and dancing of Buenos Aires. This music was a cathartic expression of the social problems experienced by immigrant workers who had to work hard in their struggle for survival.
However, when tango spread through Buenos Aires and dancing rooms were present in the whole town, downtown and its lights were so appealing that it became a Mecca.
A popular tango song performed by singer Alberto Castillo created a hard-to-contradict myth about the number of neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires. Are there one hundred neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires? It is said that there are fewer than 50, but who dares contradict popular myths?
Porteños (B.A. citizens) boast about having both the longest street and the widest avenue in the world. Rivadavia street numeration reaches number 14,000 and 9 de Julio Avenue has an obelisk that divides the city and establishes the limits between the North and the South.