Paseo de las Artes is a tiny bohemian enclave that has surged back to life in a very old, run-down section of Cordoba, a provincial capital in Argentina. This part of Barrio Guemes is all turn-of-the-century one-floor houses with interior patios and flourishes that have been carved on the one-meter-thick walls. The old houses have been painted in bright colors and transformed into antique shops and restaurants. On the weekends, an arts and crafts fair stretches its tentacles, as twining plant, through the cobblestone streets. Stalls and tables of old trinkets, hippie ware, paintings, antique lanterns, jewelry, phones, typewriters, modern accessories, plastic knick-knacks and anything and everything else are put on sale.
Across from the Cañada, the stream that runs through the city, a row of stone buildings crumbles over its sidewalks. Most are missing parts of their infrastructure—ceilings have disappeared, whole sections of walls, missing doors have been replaced by rusted wooden gates and twisted metals. In one of these structures, there is a bookstore.
It is no more than a hole in a wall adorned with books. Eduardo Montibello is the owner. He began selling his family’s surplus books on sidewalk tables. Pretty soon, he was purchasing books at flea markets and looking for more space. He found it here, at this weekend fair, and his business has expanded from a next-door antiques dealership-cum-variety house to this small, dark room.
Eduardo first had to knock down part of the floor, which was about a foot higher than the sidewalk. A century ago, these houses were built higher than today’s street level, to avoid being flooded by waters of the Cañada during swells. The walls were coal black because the space had been previously used by a fast-food salesman who sold choripanes (a local sandwich of sausage and bread). Eduardo placed boards with shelves over the black walls. In came the books, and presto–one of the most unique bookstores in Cordoba.