You’d expect the capital of Argentina to be full of political places. Here, in photos from his 2004 visit, the Monkey shows you around political Buenos Aires.
What better place to begin the Monkey’s exploration of Argentina than here, in Plaza de Mayo? The plaza is very much the historic center of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital and largest city. At one end of the square lies the Casa Rosada (Pink House), home to the presidential office since the mid 19th Century. Built atop the city’s 16th Century Spanish fort, the Casa Rosada is perhaps best known for the speeches given from its balconies by the likes of Juan and Evita Perón, who addressed masses of people that filled the square and surrounding streets.
The white monument commemorates the overthrow of the Spanish Viceroy and the declaration of regional independence (more on that below). Each Thursday afternoon, the renowned Madres de la Plaza de Mayo walk counterclockwise around the monument, holding photos of their children who were among the 30,000 disappeared by the military dictatorship of 1976-1983. Their brave and dignified protest, begun in the worst years of dictatorial repression, has continued unabated for decades, becoming a model for confronting state terrorists and fighting historical amnesia the world over.
After relaxing a while in the Plaza de Mayo, watching the pigeons and the people pass by, El Mono went off to visit more of Buenos Aires.
Another Plaza de Mayo fixture is the Cabildo, once the seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the territory. It dates from 1725 and was the site where, on 25 May 1810, independence-minded activists gathered to oust the Spanish Viceroy and declare home rule by what was called the Primera Junta. Although Spain was in collapse from Napoleon’s Iberian invasion, the River Plate region’s new self-governing junta did not make a complete break with the Crown. Over the next decade, dissatisfaction and impatience with this incomplete independence would lead to the disintegration of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate, with Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina all emerging as independent states from the former Spanish colony.
Today, the Cabildo is a historical museum and a rare example of colonial architecture in Buenos Aires’ city center. El Mono is an admirer of the Cabildo’s graceful arcade and pleasant courtyard.
At the opposite end of Avenida de Mayo from the Casa Rosada and Plaza de Mayo lies the Plaza del Congreso and the Argentine Congress, an impressive neoclassical structure from 1906 crowned by a weather-faded copper dome. Put out of use on several occasions by the Argentine military’s tendency to seize power from elected governments, the Congress houses the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Plaza del Congreso is the site of frequent protests, from drum-beating labor unionists to hunger-striking teachers. Each protest leaves its share of graffiti on the Plaza’s monuments, but it is debatable how much of a mark they leave on government officials, who have seen much of their political leverage ceded to international financial institutions eager to collect on the $45 billion foreign debt amassed by the 1976-1983 military dictatorship’s inept economic policies.
Here, the Monkey basks in the splendid sunlight on a fine day in Plaza del Congreso.
The Monkey examines the brutalist lines of the Brasilian Embassy in Buenos Aires. Regional rivals in everything from fashion to (all-important) football, Argentina and Brasil are also the biggest partners in South America’s largest trade bloc, Mercosur, along with Paraguay and Uruguay.
In Plaza Lavalle, the Monkey takes in part of the architectural jumble of Buenos Aires. The bulky mass at left is part of the Palacio de Justicia (Palace of Justice), which dates from 1905 and is the seat of the country’s highest court. The odd building behind the Monkey is a much-photographed bit of porteño pastiche, the Mirador Massue. Begun in 1909, hence the Art Nouveau lines of the corner façade and cupola, the construction continued into the 1990s, thus its Postmodern reflective glass windows.
A close-up shot of the Monkey at the Casa Rosada. Great orator though he is, the Monkey drew a blank when given the opportunity to speak at this particular venue.
Another shot of the Monkey in front of Congress. The dark, eccentric building behind the Monkey is the Confitería del Molino, now disused but once a landmark porteño café. (More on that here).
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