Buenos Aires Monuments: Monumento a Las Nereidas

(Photo by subcomandanta)

The Monumento a Las Nereidas (Nereids Fountain) is a gorgeous white marble sculpture by Lola Mora, one of the first and most prolific Argentine women artists. The monument is located in Puerto Madero at the Ecological Reserve and represents the Nereids giving birth to Venus.

The fountain, which was created in Rome and inaugurated in 1903 in Buenos Aires, was controversial due to the nude female figures and so, although it had been created for Plaza de Mayo, it ended up being placed at the Plaza Colón, where not a single woman showed up to the inauguration. It wasn’t only the sculpture conservative society was distraught about, Lola Mora herself was also considered scandalous, both for being an artist and for wearing pants on the sculpture’s site! In fact, many doubted her artistic capacity and questioned whether the sculpture was truly hers. The monument caused such a commotion that in 1918 it was moved once again this time to an even more distant location on Costanera Sur, where it remains today.

Into the Past at Casa del Historiador

(Photo by Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires)

La Casa del Historiador in San Telmo, known to many as casa del Virrey Liniers, is one of the city’s historical landmarks and dates back to the XVIII century. The house belonged to one of the country´s viceroys,  Santiago de Liniers, who played a key role in the reconquering of Buenos Aires after the British invasions.  It is the only remaining colonial house in the city, preserved for years as such by the Estrada publishing house.  Today, this emblem of the local history belongs to the city government and functions as a museum in which the Buenos Aires colonial period is depicted.

(Photo courtesy of La Perichona)

One of the highlights of this historical landmark is La Perichona Despensa de Comidas, a charming deli inside the house named after the Viceroy’s lover (who has a colorful story of her own). The XVIII century Andalusian patio with outdoor seating is the perfect spot to stop for a bite on a sunny day.

Venezuela 469, San Telmo. 4974-0265.  info@laperichona.com

Buenos Aires Tango Orchestras

(Photo by retorta_net)

Tango orchestras, known as Orquestas Típicas, date back to the 1870’s, a period when the country was beginning to form its national identity after its independence in 1816. The first formations were very basic and consisted of guitarists, flutists and violinists. Afterwards they incorporated the piano, the double bass, the cello and the emblematic bandoneón, which replaced the flute until Astor Piazzolla reintroduced it.

Initially, Orquestas Típicas played in different venues, first in brothels and suburbs and later, as they gained prestige, in more open social spaces.  In the thirties, they also began to include musical scores, which contributed to the sophistication of the compositions and led to tango’s golden years in the forties with Troilo, Pugliese, De Angelis, Francini-Pontier, Discépolo, Manzi and Expósito as the leading directors and composers.

Nowadays, with the revival of tango, there are contemporary tango orchestras such as the popular Orquesta Típica Fernandez Fierro that follows a traditional approach and stages weekly live shows at the Club Atlético Fernández Fierro in Almagro. Other contemporary tango orquestras are the Orquesta Típica Imperial, and the Orquesta Típica Sub-25 directed by  Pablo Agri which played in the tango world championships.

Argentine Pre Hispanic and Colonial Art

(Photo by Historias de Cronopios)

Argentina is well known for its strong artistic identity and its history, as far back as prehistoric times, is reflected in its art.

The oldest registers of art in Argentina are the many cave paintings that remain throughout the country in the provinces of Salta, San Luis, Tucumán, Jujuy, La Rioja, San Juan, La Pampa, Cordoba, Rio Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz. The most famous of these is the Paleolithic Cueva de las Manos (Hands Cave),which is in the Santa Cruz province and has been declared a World Heritage Site.

Later art work by indigenous groups also spanned across the country but mostly flourished in the Northern region, which was the most developed prior to the arrival of the Spaniards.  The materials used in the North, mostly in Salta and Catamarca, were ceramic, metal and textiles on which geometric figures, and both realistic and fantastic representations of humans and animals were engraved. Many of these relics can be seen at the stunning Archeology Museum in La Plata.

With the colonization of America, European style art was introduced. During the early settlements the artwork was mostly religious, with the intention of Christianizing the local indigenous people.

Jesuit painters worked in the Rio de la Plata city (known today as Buenos Aires), Tucuman and Paraguay, and not only incorporated religious paintings and sculptures, but gave the locals artistic education. German Jesuit Florian Pauke’s watercolors of the Argentine colonial period remain as a testimony of the time.

A few years later there was a great influx of foreign artists amongst which Emeric H Vidal, Carlos Pellegrini and Cesar Hipolito Bacle’s work stand out. These artists paved the way for the nineteenth century artists that would define the new Argentine art.

The Museo Hispanoamericano Isaak Fernandez Blanco has an interesting collection of art from the colonial period. Suipacha 1442, Downtown. 4327 0228.

The Buenos Aires Port

(Photo by DMWyllie)

Do you ever wonder why people from Buenos Aires are locally referred to as ¨porteños¨? The answer is simple; it is because Buenos Aires is a port city. It was founded on the river where the port would be, and then it progressively expanded around it, as did the country. Thus, the historical relevance of the port is of great importance and also key in understanding the geographic and economic distribution of Argentina, and the cultural identity in some of its aspects.

In 1536 Pedro de Mendoza, a Spanish conquistador, founded Buenos Aires city on the banks of the Riachuelo (where La Boca is today), which drains into the Rio de La Plata river basin. Many other rivers drain into the basin as well and it was a straight access to the Atlantic ocean, so it was a key location. During this period however, it didn’t officially function as a port because the Spanish crown forbade it; its role was to be a strategic point from which to conquer the whole Rio de la Plata area with the benefit of having low tides and high riverbanks, which made it difficult for warships to approach.

It wasn’t until 1776, when the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata was formed, that the area really began to develop.  The port, which was allready being used for clandestine commerce (and- it is suspected- to transport South American silver to Spain), expanded. At the same time, England was industrializing and was in need of raw materials and markets to sell to, so goods started to flow through the port. In fact, it was such a strategic location and was expanding at such a rate that many European powers were interested in occupying it.  In the early 1800’s the British invaded it twice, without success, as the locals defended their city, sparking a sense of national identity that would lead to the Argentine independence in 1810.

From independence onwards the port continued to grow and was a protagonist of the migratory currents in the 1850’s, promoted by the first Argentine constitution, and later in the post world war periods. Centralis (“Unitarian”) policies from the founding years, concentrated economic activities around Buenos Aires and the port; the nation expanded around it, with much of its immigration settling in the city rather than populating the rest of the country as had been expected.  Thousands of immigrants populated the port and surrounding areas where they lived in conventillos (tenements).  This moment in Argentine history defined the local identity and is reflected in tangos, in Quinquela Martin’s art and in literature.

For practical purposes, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the port was moved to where Puerto Madero is now. Later it expanded to Puerto Nuevo where the port operates today.

The Buenos Aires Zoo

(Photo by Diego3336)

The Buenos Aires Zoo is a special place in the city, not only because it displays a large variety of exotic animals, but also because it is an important investigation center and has beautiful architecture that dates back to the late 1800´s.

Eduardo Holmberg was an Argentine naturalist, author and an important figure for the country’s development of natural sciences. As the first director of the yet unbuilt zoo he put together a commission integrated by Florentino Ameghino, Carlos Berg and Lynch Ariibalzaga (3 renown zoologists and scientists) to design the layout. He also decided to have each of he pavilions designed in the architectural style of the country of origin of the animals that would go in them,  importing European, African and Asian species, which were exhibited next to many local animals. The purpose of the zoo was recreational in its origin but Holmberg encouraged scientific investigation first and foremost.

Now a days the Zoo maintains its scientific and ecologic focus and participates in investigations, conservation and educational projects and in many international conservation and wildlife foundations.  Additionally it welcomes local and international visitors who can enjoy the majestic beauty of the animals, and admire the stately premises.

Tours in English are available upon request and cover the history of the zoo, characteristics of urban zoos and more about the local flora and fauna. Reservations can be made at 4011 -9999 or visitasguiadas@zoobuenosaires.com.ar.

Nighttime visitations to the zoo are also offered on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and must be booked in advance at zoodenoche@zoobuenosaires.com.ar.

 

Buenos Aires Zoo

Open: Tue-Sun 10am-6.30pm (Box office open until 5.30pm)

Av. Las Heras y Av. Sarmiento

Illustrious Argentines: Carlos Gardel

(Photo by Sebastian-Dario)

Carlos Gardel is a controversial Argentine icon. For starters, he wasn’t born in Argentina; according to the official version he was born on the 11th of December of 1890 in Toulouse, France but many dispute he was an illegitimate child born in Uruguay. At the age of three he moved  with his mother from France to Buenos Aires.  They settled in the neighborhood of Abasto but it wasn´t until later on in his life that he was nationalized as an Argentine.

His music career began early on after dropping out of high school. He already had a great singing voice and was baptized “El Zorzal Criollo” (The Criollo Thrush) by one of his first musical influences, José Betinotti with whom he sang duets, who encouraged him to start singing popular songs at the neighborhood cafes and bars.  Together they recorded their first album and began touring, acquiring increasing popularity. Gardel then went on to star in the silent film “Flor de Durazno”  which brought him even more attention and it was during this period that he began to sing tangos renewing the genres identity.  In 1918 he recorded Flor de Fango and in 1919  De Vuelta al Bulín, progressively building his career.

In 1923 he formed the duet Gardel-Razzano until the later began having trouble with his voice and became Gardel’s manager. Once more as a solo singer his fame skyrocketed as he became increasingly popular in Spain and France.

The talented singer and songwriter began to interact with the silver screen once again on the production of 15 short films, and on one of his trips to France he formed a friendship with non other than Charles Chaplin who opened new doors to him. In 1931 he signed a contract with Paramount pictures to record Luces de Buenos Aires which was musicalized by several tango composers of the time. The film became a hit with the Spanish public and it is said that movie theatres were often asked to pause and rewind the film to play the part where Gardel sang over and over.

His cinematographic and musical career continued to expand and he moved to New York where he participated in many productions until he died in a plane crash in Medellin, Colombia, in 1935.

The talented “Zorzal Criollo” has since become the most remembered tango legend the Buenos Aires streets have seen.

More on Carlos Gardel can be seen in his Abasto house which is now a museum that not only shows exhibits on Gardel and other influential tango composers and singers, but also stages live music and screenings of tango films. Jean Jaurés 735, Abasto. 4964-2015.