Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires reflects the history of Argentina, you will find here historical buildings like Metropolitan Cathedral, Cabildo, Casa Rosada, you will hear echo of Evita passionate speeches, witness silent protests of Mothers of Lost Children....

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Historical Facts

      It is probably the most important plaza in Buenos Aires reflecting the glory but also the dark times in the history of Argentina.

      Its origins can be traced to the foundation of Buenos Aires by Juan de Garay in 1580 who reserved this area for a future development of the Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre (as originally the settlement was named).

Early plans did not materialize and the area became a ground for a large Jesuits’ compound.

In 1661, understanding importance of this site for the expanding city, the colonial government purchased the grounds, demolished most of the Jesuits’ buildings and established here a vast plaza not surprisingly called Plaza de Armas.

After the next hundred fifty years of ups and downs, excessive use by military followed by periods of total neglect in 1804 the plaza underwent a modification adding more prestige to the place – an arcade called Recova Vieja (Old Arcade).

Plaza de Mayo: Recova Vieja
On the left side is visible the old building of the Teatro Colon.

Source: Wikipedia; Author: Esteban Gonnet (1830 - 1868)

      This Romanesque-style structure was built by Juan Bautista Sigismund along the north-south line at the height of today’s Calle Defensa. It divided the Plaza de Armas into two entities called Plaza de la Victoria (facing colonial City Hall Cabildo) and Plazoleta del Fuerte (facing future Casa Rosada).

The next change brought year 1811 when the Pirámide de Mayo was erected at the center of the Plaza de la Victoria.

The area took its present shape in 1883 when the city mayor, Torcuato de Alvear decided to modernize this increasingly more and more prestigious area. As a result the beautiful colonnade Recova Vieja was demolished opening the space for what is today called Plaza de Mayo. Soon after under the supervision of Carlos Thays, Plaza de Mayo received new landscape with trees, palms and fountains.

Some may claim that over the major part of its history, the “physical landscape” of the Plaza de Mayo was not as rich and colorful as that of the city of Buenos Aires. However this apparent simplicity is overwhelmingly compensated by political and social events taking place on the Plaza de Mayo.

      From actions igniting May 1810 Revolution through oath of allegiance to the Constitution (1854) then 20th century political gatherings immortalized by Evita’s passionate speeches, followed by horrifying scenes of military violence and silent protests of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, (mothers of victims of the military dictatorship during Dirty Wars against leftists) - all that was happening here in a twisted succession of joy and desolation. Undoubtedly this plaza being for long a focal point of social and political life in Buenos witnessed many scenes from the tumultuous history of the nation.

To be part of the most memorable events from the Plaza de Mayo I picked-out two: Love & Compassion and on the opposite side of the spectrum Unspeakable Evil Doing. By no means I’m promoting these materials. I just wanted to give you better understanding of what Plaza de Mayo means to Argentinians. With sadness I can only say that these days Love & Compassion are vanishing from our lives and tragically The Crime (in multitude of its forms) is taking to the front pages….

Plaza de Mayo Argentina - Tragic events from 1955...

Note: This pictures is available ONLY in its reduced form
Source: Spotlight Buenos Aires - The Bombing of the Plaza de Mayo (posted by Brian Berenty)
Address: http://spotlightbuenosaires.com/bombing-of-plaza-de-mayo-buenos-aires-1955/

Below - few terrifying minutes recorded on the tapein 1955

And on the opposite side of the spectrum of events from the Plaza de Mayo you can watch the last speech by Evita addressing the crowd of "descamisados"....

In recent years, due to the massive invasion of tourists, the Plaza de Mayo visibly changed its character. From the center of political gatherings it became a major tourist attraction flooded by foreign visitors.

White shawls painted on the ground remind the suffering, desperation and courage of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo....

The traces of the country’s turbulent past are still visible in form of white shawls painted on the ground, but obviously for foreigners they do not have the same emotional load.

These days, prominent buildings and historical monuments surrounding the plaza seem to be the major points of interest for gathering crowds.

Four fountains together with numerous trees including two rows of thick and strikingly straight Phoenix palms, few ceiba trees (its red flower was declared a National Flower of Argentina) and seemingly always blooming jacarandas add the freshness appreciated by everybody - especially during hot summer days.

Beautifully shaped street lamps dotting the plaza make the place even more charming….

For many, the turbulent events from the plaza’s past may darken that beauty, but let’s take the best out of it – optimism enhanced by present day’s ambiance and the belief that things can change for better.

A lonely olive tree planted in front of the Cathedral by the Archbishop of Buenos Aires on March 29, 2000 symbolizes the “Commitment to Peace”. Indeed there is no better place for such symbol of peace then here, on the Plaza de Mayo.

Following is a short description of points of interest on the Plaza de Mayo. Some of them are already described in great details on the dedicated pages of this website. Some will follow in the future.

Below:

Plaza de Mayo Argentina - Bird's view on the plaza and surrounding buildings.
1. Pirámide de Mayo
2. Casa Rosada
3. Former seat of the National Congress
4. Banco de la Nación Argentina
5. Metropolitan CAthedral
6. Cabildo (former City Hall)
7. Buenos Aires Government Palace
Source: Buenos Aires Ciudad - Office of Tourism

Casa Rosada (Pink House) – Casa de Gibierno

Casa Rosada – home of the executive branch of the Federal Government gathers attention of every visitor. For one – it may be its unusual pink color contrasting with everything else around. But my guess is that it was the movie “Evita” that made it legendarily famous across the Western Hemisphere and a central tourist attraction of Buenos Aires.

Plaza de Mayo - The former Post Office and State House shortly before their 1884 unification forming future Casa Rosada

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CasaRosada1890.png

     The construction of the main structure started in 1882 at the request of the President Julio Roca.

 Shortly after its completion, the new Government House was integrated with the neighboring – architectonically similar structure of the Post Office.

Following the 1898 eastward enlargement the government’s complex took its final shape.

The seemingly unusual pink color of its walls comes from an old colonial habit of painting outside walls with waterproofing mixture of lime, cow’s blood and tallow.

Some are adding to this act the political context believing that it was President Sarmiento’s conscious decision to defuse tensions between opposing parties by mixing red (color of Federales) and white (color of Unitarios) in this symbolic gesture of union.

    Whatever was the reason, today the name “Casa Rosada” is well recognized around the world unanimously pointing to Buenos Aires similarly as the name “White House” (Casa Blanca) in consciousness of most of the people is associated with Washington.

Casa Rosada - front view with the famous balcony from where Evita was giving her speeches to the crowds gathered on the plaza.

        Unfortunately the Casa Rosada is not open for tourists (exception is only a small museum), so its magnificent interior can be only seen by government officials, foreign dignitaries and special guests (If you have been one of them, then please help with pictures). Splendor of White Room, Winter Garden etc… may only feed our imagination…

And yes, we use our imagination to portray Evita Casa giving her passionate speeches from the balcony of Casa Rosada to hundreds of thousands of "descamisados" (shirtless ones or poor in other words) gathered on the plaza.

The building is guarded by soldiers in red & blue uniforms from the famous Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers created by the General San Martin back in 1812. Every two hours you can watch the ceremony of changing the guard.

Casa Rosada: View of the North Wing from the Calle Rivadavia,

View for the Plaza Colón

Plaza de Mayo:    Monument of General Belgrano.

The monument erected in 1873 is a combined work of the French sculptor Albert Carrier-Belleuse who carved the statue of the General Belgrano and the Argentinean artist Manuel de Santa Coloma who carved the horse. The bronze equestrian statue on a granite pedestal presents the Argentinean hero of Independence Wars, a politician and military leader General Manuel Belgrano holding the national flag. This symbolically reminds the fact that Manuel Belgrano is the creator of the Argentinean Flag (for the first time officially raised in 1813 during his historic battle of Salta).

Plaza de Mayo - Monument of the General Manuel Belgrano in front of the Pink House

Plaza de Mayo:   Pirámide de Mayo

Pyramid of May - work of an architect Pedro Vicente Cañete was erected in 1811 in the center of the Plaza de la Victoria. The obelisk crowned by an allegory of Liberty (work of French sculptor Joseph Dubourdieu) commemorates the first step toward independence from Spain – creation of “United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata” (Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata).

Plaza de Mayo - Photo of the "Plaza de la Victoria" from 1867 with the Pirámide de Mayo in the center.

Source: Colección César Gotta
Author: Benito Panunzi

 The inscription on the base “25 May 1810” evokes the beginning of the independence movement that started on this plaza. Pyramid of May underwent first major modifications in 1856 under direction of Prilidiano Pueyrredón. During the remodeling of the Plaza de Mayo in 1912 the monument was moved about 60 meters east.

In 1942 the Pyramid was declared a National Historical Monument. Another memorable event took place on December 8, 2005 when the ashes of the founder of “Madres de Plaza de Mayo” – Azucena Villaflor (murdered by military junta probably in 1977) were buried at the base of the Pyramid. The burial at the place where she organized the first protests is an act of respect and honor paid to Azucena for her courageous fight for Human Rights.

Plaza de Mayo - Allegory of Liberty tops the pyramid

Source: "Buenos Aires for 91 days" by Mike
Address: http://buenosaires.for91days.com/2011/03/23/the-plaza-de-mayo/

Present day view of the Pirámide de Mayo with the inscription indicating the beginning of revolutionary events that took place on this plaza.

Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

      The history of Buenos Aires’ Metropolitan Cathedral is almost as old as that of Buenos Aires itself. The first wooden church in Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre was erected here in 1580 by an order of Juan de Garay – (the first ruler of the settlement).

The construction of the present Cathedral (6th one in the history of Buenos Aires) started in 1752. The design was commissioned to an Italian architect Antonio Masella. He proposed a magnificent three-aisled nave structure with the footprint of a Latin Cross and 6 lateral chapels covered by barrel vaults and an imposing dome.

Buenos Aires Cathedral: Facade

      In 1880 as a symbol of unification of Argentina, the mausoleum of the national hero – the Libertador José de San Martin was opened in the chapel on the right side of the main nave.

It is a work of the French sculptor Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.

The black marble sarcophagus is guarded by the three life-size female statues representing the countries freed by San Martin: Argentina, Chile and Peru.

The mausoleum holds also remains of famous generals from the time of Independence Wars – Tomás Guido and Juan Gregorio de las Heras as well as a symbolic tomb of “Unknown Fallen Soldiers”.

To read more from the history of the Metropolitan Cathedral and see pictures please select the link: Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral 

To continue the tour of the Plaza de Mayo please select the link:

Plaza de Mayo Buenos Aires Tour   next (page 2)



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