Did you know that:
– 13 million people live in Buenos Aires (BA)
– BA has strong Spanish and Italian influences
– BA is ranked the 3rd largest city in the world according to population (Bangkok and Beijing lead)
– Argentina has the 7th largest Jewish community in the world
– There are 24, wait 23, no 24 provinces in Argentina
I only had a couple of days in the city, but wanted to see as much as possible (while still having a good time). I decided to take a couple of walking tours with BA Free Tours – they were great! Victoria was my first tour guide followed by Maggie.
Plaza del Congreso:
The plaza has the Argentine National Congress Palace, which was built in 1898-1906. The building was actually abandoned for 70 years, The Argentine Congress has a 72 seat Senate and a 257 seat Chamber of Deputies.
Evita’s Law (Law 13,010) was one of the most important laws passed; it gave women the right to vote and was sanctioned in 1947.
The plaza also has the Kilometre Zero (the zero mile marker) from which all Argentine national highways and distances to other Argentine cities/towns are measured.
The famous statue (one of the casts) of En Pensador (The Thinker) by sculptor Auguste Rodin sits in the plaza as well.
Avenida de Mayo was completed in 1894 and is 1.5 km long. Its name is based on the May Revolution of 1810 which led to Argentine independence. The avenue was designed by Juan Buschiazzo and has a lot of art nouveau and neoclassical style buildings. Today, like everyday there has been a lot of protests. In BA, there are 30-40 protests and strikes per week.
Palacio Barolo was designed by Italian architect Mario Palanti. It was the tallest building in South America when it was built and finished in 1923. The building is related to Dante’s Divine Comedy.
It is 100 meters tall because the Comedy has 100 cantos. There are 22 floors and these floors are divided into sections: the bottom represents hell, the middle represents purgatory, and the top represents heaven. The building was designed at the same time as the Palacio Salvo (it’s brother) in Montevideo, Uruguay and it’s said that you can see the lighthouse located at the top of the building from Montevideo.
Avenida 9 de Julio is what people say is the widest avenue in the world. Truth be told, the widest avenue is in Brazil at 250 meters whereas this one is 140 meters wide. The name is in reference to Argentina’s Independence Day: July 9, 1816 from Spain.
Café Tortoni is the most famous coffee shop (and oldest since 1858) in BA. Porteños (people from BA) choose to sit and have their coffee, so if you happen to see someone with a coffee cup in hand then most likely they’re a tourist.
The Plaza de Mayo is the main square and it’s been the center of political life since the May 25, 1810 revolution. The Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata included Argentina, so basically the King of Spain was in rule. During this time, Spain’s Peninsula War was taking place. France took over Seville on February 1, 1810, now having control of most of Andalusia. Viceroy Cisneros was currently in power, but on May 22 a group of criollo lawyers and military officers met to decide the future, and Cisneros was then appointed president of the new government, the Primera Junta. However, he was pressured to resign on May 25. BA had representatives of their own and asked for potential delegates from other cities if the Viceroyalty. Nine men were elected. The regions then argued over this resulting in war. After this war, they proclaimed independence on July 9, 1816.
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo has paintings on the ground of the white scarfs of the Argentine mothers who lost their sons in the military dictatorship – they “disappeared.” There are 14 ladies / founders. A group of them started marching in 1977 at this place, and if you come Thursdays at 3:30 pm you’ll see ladies with handkerchiefs and scarfs. These mothers have now become a political party.
Another organization, the Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo look for the identity of grand kids. They’ve found 109 grand kids by correctly identifying who they are through DNA testing. So if you’re around 30-38 years old and unsure of your identity you can come to them.
La Casa Rosada (or The Pink House) is the office of the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The Argentine Great Depression took place between 1998-2002. The economy went down by 28%. In 2001, President Fernando de la Rua resigned and he was followed by four presidents all within 10 days. Right now the president uses a helicopter to get here and if she’s here then you see 2 national flags. The building itself is not symmetrical. There are 3 balconies and the middle one is the most famous one, which is where Evita used to give speeches. Why is the house pink? Some say that the paint was mixed with cow blood to make the walls waterproof.
The Metropolitan Cathedral / National Cathedral is the main Catholic Church in the city. The 12 columns represent the 12 apostles. There’s an eternal flame reminding people of all it took to achieve independence. The remains of General José de San Martin (Liberator of Argentina in the War of Independence) are here. The current pope, Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires.
People come to Florida Street for the black market where they exchange dollars for pesos. It’s illegal, but you get a good exchange rate. I didn’t risk it.
Near the obelisk is a house on top of a building. You may not notice it unless it’s pointed out to you. One story is that a man named Rafael Díaz built furniture and on top of his factory he built a house in 1927.
The Obelisk reminds me of the Washington DC monument. It was built in 1936, stands 67 meters tall, and people who live in all the other provinces will save all their money to come to Buenos Aires just to see this monument.
I met a lot of people from all over on the tour, and speaking of DC, was able to grab lunch afterwards with Lily from DC who was starting her adventure in Argentina with her friend as I was concluding mine.