Buenos Aires–Plaza de Mayo

When we visited Buenos Aires, we tried to walk everywhere.  The tourist areas tended to be fairly close together (15-20 blocks in either direction)–plus, it was just so much fun to window shop!

We found a department store in B.A. called Falabella–which was almost too good to be true. Somewhat of a cross between Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target, it includes a large selection of homegoods, clothes, and most importantly–imported food!  We grabbed French’s mustard, pretzels, Goldfish crackers, pesto in a jar, barbeque sauce, steak sauce, Nerds, and Tabasco sauce–all items we had been craving from the states!  At this point, we have a bit of a stockpile of French’s mustard–but they must add a hint of sugar to the mustards made in Argentina because they taste a hair too sweet.

In our wanderings, we made it to Plaza de Mayo–one of the main tourist attractions in Buenos Aires. The scene of the May 1810 revolution (hence its name), it is politically the most important square in Argentina.  In the 1940s, trade unions rallied here to free Juan Peron, who would later become President of Argentina. (Remember Evita? She was his wife.)  Later, the same plaza was bombed in the 1950s trying to overthrow President Peron.  It was the site of huge demonstrations of support during the Falklands War (known here as Guerra de las Malvinas). Since the late 1970s, the plaza has been famous for the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers and grandmothers who wear white shawls and congregate with pictures of their children who were disappeared (desaparecidos) by the Argentinian military during the Dirty War.

Surrounding the Plaza de Mayo are some pretty important buildings in Argentina: the Casa Rosada (home of the Argentinian executive branch), the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires (more on that later), the May Pyramid, the City Hall, and the national bank headquarters. Also, the financial district is right next door.

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We walked around the outside of the Casa Rosada. The name translates literally to “Pink House”, and it got its name from its distinctive color–caused by being painted with ox blood originally. Apparently, now the color is trademarked after previous presidents had the tendency to change the color on a whim. Now, they’re obliged to only use this color.

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Behind the Casa Rosada, we were at first confused by a statue being dismantled. Upon further research, this was apparently the Christopher Columbus monument, and President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner demanded it be removed and moved to La Plata.  It is a controversial decision, and there were protests trying to protect the monument. It did seem that they were clearly being careful in removing pieces of the monument and marking them for future reassembly–but in South American politics, anything is possible.

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We swung around the front of the Casa Rosada and onto Plaza de Mayo. As we were drinking our bottles of water (always important to hydrate!) we kept on seeing more and more police vans and buses show up, filled with police in riot gear.  We didn’t see or hear any protestors, so we just sat there, enjoyed the beautiful day and the water fountain, and kept an eye on the police. Plaza de Mayo has a built in riot wall. On the side facing the Casa Rosada, it doesn’t look like much. Go to the other side, and you’ve got a taste of what’s been recently protested there: Monsanto, abortion, veterans’ rights…

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The only protest we saw that day was an encampment of veterans from the Falklands/Malvinas War in the 1980s. Here it is ALWAYS called the Malvinas.

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Here are some other pretty pictures of the view around the Plaza del Mayo:

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And one not so pretty picture: there are a lot of very obese pigeons in Buenos Aires. When T took this photo, I muttered “dirty birds,” and they immediately flew over my head and sprayed me with disgusting water. Ew.

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More on the Metropolitan Cathedral tomorrow!

 

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