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.

A Look into Argentine Film

(Apenas un Delincuente-1949. Photo from lacteoslalucia)

The Argentine film industry is one of the most developed in Latin America and dates back to 1897, 80 years after the Argentina independence and not long after the birth of cinematography. This early incorporation of film into the local culture has been fortunate as it has left behind documentation of the city’s development, issues and identity due to the common thematic of Argentine films, mostly centered around local customs, literature and social conflicts.

Immigrants, indigenous people, the birth of tango, gaucho heroes, labor issues, local literary adaptations, peronism, dictatorships, present subject matter of Buenos Aires, portraits of people from the South and North of Argentina, and descriptions of a stagnated society are all themes of many films the country has produced and been awarded for, including two Oscars for best foreign films (La Historia Oficial 1986-Luis Puenzo and El Secreto de Sus Ojos 2010- Juan Jose Campanella).

For a closer look at local film the Pablo Ducros Hickens Film Museum in La Boca, has recently reopened and showcases equipment and antique optical artifacts, props, set designs, costumes, screenplays, awards, objects, photographs, and other documentation relating to the local industry.  They are also working with the Carlos Gardel Museum where current and old tango films with English subtitles are exhibited each Monday at 6.30pm- Address- Jean Jaurés 735, Abasto.

The San Martín Theatre and the MALBA also exhibit retrospectives and local independent films.

Buenos Aires Notable Bars

(Photo by Mellagi)

This week one of the city’s traditional cafes, the Richmond on Florida Avenue, was saved from becoming a sporting goods store. Belonging to the city’s group of 54 ºBares Notables”  the emblematic coffee shop, which has been  frequented by renowned artists, authors and political figures, was declared a historic monument. Active participants of the city’s bustling cafe life will be gathering today at 4pm to give Confitería Richmond a “hug” and enjoy a rainy afternoon of warm drinks and conversations.

The Richmond, isn’t the only “Bar Notable” to have been at the verge of disappearing, and in fact, some, like El Molino, no longer exist. Thankfully, many others do, and have become a valued part of the city. The history and the elegance of their marble and mirrors, of their white clad waiters and dark wooden furniture,  makes sitting in these bars for a break over “cafe con medialunas”  an afternoon must. Below is our pick of top notable bars.

 

Most Popular- Cafe Tortoni

Cafe Tortoni is the oldest  and most famous of the city’s traditional bars. Frequented by celebrities, politicians, locals and tourists alike, who come for coffee, history, live shows or a game of pool, fill the large lavish parlors with a special livelihood. Just a few blocks away is Cafe Los 36 Billares. Also worth visiting.

 

Most Charming- Petit Colon

Just two blocks away from the Colon Theatre and across Plaza Lavalle is the distinguished Petit Colon, a notable bar catering to an elegant crowd of theatre regulars. The ornate wallpaper and the luminous afternoon windows dote this cafe with a special charm making it the perfect place to start the evening before heading to the stately Colon Theatre.

 

For Hot Chocolate with Churros- La Giralda

A warm alternative to coffee and medialunas for winter days is hot chocolate with churros. The traditional version of hot chocolate is the “Submarino” in which you dunk a bar of chocolate into a glass of hot milk until it melts. The best place to do this is La Giralda on Av. Corrientes, or, the nearby El Gato Negro, which also boasts a large variety of spices and coffee varieties.

 

For 5 O Clock Tea- Las Violetas

An assortment of cakes, sweets and sandwiches are served on silver plates in this stunning teahouse in the Almagro neighborhood. Golden chandeliers, Italian marble floors, and stained glass windows decorate Las Violetas, a unique place to indulge your sweet tooth.

 

For Barrio Tango Spirit-Lo de Roberto

Although tango is present in most notable bars, Lo de Roberto in Almagro has an authentic feel to its late night tango gatherings in which the crowds actively participate whilst drinking beers.  Close by is another small traditional bar worth visiting, El Banderin, which has its walls covered in football flags from different times and places.

 

For Late Nights- Bar El Federal

In the heart of San Telmo, Bar El Federal is a daytime bar that becomes a lively pub in the evenings when the crowds come for a typical Fernet and some dancing. The stunning bar has a wooden arch with vitraux  details and a stopped clock immediately capturing ones attention and is an inviting place for people watching and a drink or two.

 

We Recommend: A Trip Down the A-Line

(Photo by cyph3r)

The ride begins at the Plaza de Mayo Station, at the A-Line subway that’s at the heart of the historical district, below the emblematic Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada. The picturesque wagons that date back to 1913 still preserve the wooden seating, dim lights and manually operated doors immediately taking both the locals and visitors to another time.  The first stop on the historic path is the Peru Station, which was renovated to look like it did in the 1900´s and keeps its ticket booths as well as displaying evocative black and white pictures of the subways path, where once, each station had a different colored mural on its walls so that the illiterate would know when to get off. The Subway continues through Avenida de Mayo where the historical Casa de la Cultura and Traditional Cafes such as Tortoni and Los 36 Billares can be visited. It then crosses the 9 de Julio Avenue, after Avenida de Mayo station, riding into Rivadavia Avenue where you can find the Congress above Congreso station before passing though ghost stations Alberti and Pasco. These two stations were so close to each other that they were closed down in 1951 and it is rumored that when the lights go out it is possible to see passengers from those times still waiting for the train.   Further down the line above Castro Barros Station is gorgeous teahouse Las Violetas, which dates back to 1884 and serves assorted platters of cakes and sandwiches. Finally, close to the Rio de Janeiro Station is Parque Centenario, a large park that was opened in 1910 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Argentine Independence. The subway then continues up to Primera Junta which was the original end of the circuit and through to the recently added Puan and Carabobo stations. A map of the Buenos Aires subway lines is available here.

 

Our tip: Avoid the subway during rush hours (8-9.30AM and 6-8PM) or as an old local expression says, you will be riding like a sardine in a can!