on February 7, 2009
I give it only a "B." It could have got an "A" since that as the plaza serving the main government buildings in the country it is quite impressive. It could have got the "A" if it wasn’t for one of its features: the "Casa Rosada." The seat of the Argentinean government has been painted pink – the name means the "Pink House" – apparently using cows’ blood in the mixture used for coating it. There are rumors that next year it will be painted violet with broad diagonal yellow stripes. Not wonder that Madonna sang here in 1995 "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." Yet, it is an official Historic Place and I dutifully review it.Reaching the PlazaLocated at the very center of downtown Buenos Aires, the plaza is delimited by the following streets: Hipólito Yrigoyen, Balcarce, Avenida Rivadavia and Bolívar. On its western side begin three avenues: Presidente Julio A. Roca, Presidente Roque Sáenz Peña and Avenida de Mayo.The best way of reaching it is by "Subte," Buenos Aires subway. Three lines reach it, Line "A" through its Plaza de Mayo station, Line "D" through the Catedral station and Line "E" through the Bolívar station.The PlazaThe plaza is on the place where on June 11, 1580, Juan de Garay and 64 settlers from Asunción del Paraguay founded the city for the second and definitive time. The Plaza Mayor – as it was named back then – became the city main meeting place and market. The Plaza Mayor became the Plaza de la Victoria in 1807, when it was the location where the British invaders were defeated. In its modern form, the plaza was created only in 1884 by the unification of the Victoria and Fuerte plazas. The plaza is roughly rectangular, with two semicircular sides next to the Bolivar and Balcarce streets. It occupies almost twenty thousand square meters, its length being almost 230m. Within it are several works of art: the Pirámide de Mayo, the Monumento al General Belgrano, four fountains, two clocks and several types of special palms and trees. On May 25, 1811, a bricks pyramid known as the Pirámide de Mayo was constructed in the plaza in commemoration of the revolution that took place the former year on the same date. The event directly led to the Argentinean independence from Spain in 1816. Later on, in 1912, the pyramid was moved to the plaza’s center.In 1873, a monument to the General Belgrano was erected there. It depicts the general riding a horse and was the first monument done by an Argentinean sculptor, Manuel de Santa Coloma. In 1886 it was moved from the plaza’s center to a location just in front of the Casa Rosada. The trees and palms in the plaza are of special interest, since they were brought during renovation works by the landscape architect Charles Thays, a Frenchman that designed many of the most important parks in Argentina and Uruguay. I have reviewed other of his parks in Mendoza and Montevideo.Main Buildings around the PlazaThe main structures surrounding it are the Cabildo, the Casa Rosada, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the municipal government building and the headquarters of the Argentinean National Bank:Catedral MetropolitanaThe Metropolitan Cathedral is on the corner of Rivadavia and San Martín, where in 1593 the Iglesia Mayor was founded. Between 1860 and 1863 it was heavily modified, especially it façade that features since then twelve massive columns symbolizing the apostles; it was done in neoclassic style. The inner part was left in typical Colonial style and keeps the General San Martin Mausoleum.CabildoThis was the seat of the colonial government; its modern counterpart – the Casa Rosada – was symbolically located across the plaza from the Cabildo. Its sides have been demolished in order to open place for the modern avenues; the remains were completely reconstructed in 1940 using the 1810 blueprints.Palacio de Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos AiresLocated on one of the plaza sides, the municipality was constructed between 1891 and 1902 in an eclectic European style. This was the site of the National Congress between 1864 and 1905.Banco de la Nación ArgentinaThe impressive building of the National Bank is near the Casa Rosada. Between 1857 and 1888, this was the site of the first Teatro Colon. The actual building was built between 1940 and 1955. Its dome is one of the largest in the world, with a diameter of fifty meters and a height of thirty-six meters.Casa RosadaSince 1862, the Argentinean government function from this pinkish building, formerly the location of the Fuerte de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Fort, also known as Real Fortaleza de Don Juan Baltasar de Austria).Avenida de Mayo In 1894 the Avenida de Mayo (May Avenue) was inaugurated. It connects the Plaza de Mayo with the Plaza del Congreso (Congress Plaza, where the National Congress is located), passing through the monumental 9 de Julio Avenue. A Tragic PlaceIt took me four journals about Buenos Aires to write an entry about Plaza de Mayo. The delay was no casual; I find visiting this tragic place difficult. Tragic? Is the central plaza in the country a tragic place?A complete list of the facts is beyond the scope of such an entry, but yes; Plaza de Mayo is tragic. Until 1853 it was a main executions site; many lost their lives there.On June 16, 1955, the plaza was bombed by the Argentinean Air Force, killing more than three hundred civilians in an attempt of the army to make yet another coup d’état.Since April 30, 1977, the "Madres de Plaza de Mayo" ("Plaza de Mayo Mothers") met there every Thursday, demanding from the military dictators to give them back their disappeared sons.In a demonstration against the military dictatorship, three thousand citizens were detained there on March 28, 1982.Later, on September 20, 1984 there was a large demonstration when the "Nunca Mas" (Never Again) Report was given by the Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (CONADEP, National Committee for the Person’s Disappearance) was given to the new civilian president, Alfonsín. As recently as 2001, several people were killed there by the police during the Cacerolazo, a demonstration against the illegal de-facto confiscation of money in bank accounts by the government.As said, a tragic place.
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