Saturday, 10 January 2015

Buenos Aires: Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo from Evita's balcony

Today's short walk explores the Plaza de Mayo which is named for the Revolution of May 1810 against imperial Spain. It is the main square of Buenos Aires. We approached the square from the west (Avenida de Mayo) and once you enter the square you can turn round to see the Cabildo de Buenos Aires.

This rather lovely building has the distinction of being the first building in the city to be built completely from bricks (a cabildo was the seat of a Viceroy in the Spanish empire). It dates from 1772-1822 and is now a museum.

Just behind and to the left of the Cabildo is the Legislatura (Council chamber) of Buenos Aires. This building of the 1930s is chiefly notable for its wonderful octagonal tower.

Turning now round to the right you see the Cathedral Metropolitana. Built between the 16th and 19th centuries, it has a classical revival exterior and a baroque interior. A combination which I personally really dislike.

I did like the floor tiles however.

The Cathedral houses the mausoleum of General Jose de San Martin, the revolutionary hero who designed the national flag. A measure of its importance is that soldiers are always on guard.

Having completed our examination of the building at the west end we now advanced into teh square itself. In the centre is the Piramide de Mayo commemorating the Revolution. In the background can be seen the banners of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who continue to protest the disappearance of an estimated 11,000 people during the "Dirty War" of 1974-83 by the right wing military government.

Beyond the Piramide lies the Presidential Palace, the Casa Rosada. It was built between 1862 and 1885 on the site of the city's main fort. Its pink colour came initially from the use of lime and oxblood as a preservative, now it is painted.

Because we had skilfully chosen to visit on a Saturday, it was possible to take a guided tour. In some ways this was a bit over the top: one section featured a parade of photos of famous Argentinians and we briefly saw the very big but otherwise uninteresting President's office. We did gain a valuable insight however into how patriotic Argentinians are as we heard about the three symbols of national identity: the flag, the national anthem and the coat of arms.

The other big benefit of the tour was to see this exquisite Renaissance style courtyard. We were also whisked through the balcony where Evita spoke to a mass rally of 2 million people in 1951 when she announced her candidature for Vice President.

Conditions: very hot and sunny.

Distance: maybe a mile - this may be the shortest ever walk featured in this blog.

Rating: four and a half stars.

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