Have you heard of the Paris of the South? A place of such beauty and European elegance, it is comparable to the city of lights. This seductive destination blossoming along the Rio de la Plata is a metropolis of extravagance and beauty. A city of history, art, and culture, it is an eclectic array of worldly influences that draw travelers across oceans, and invite them in for a glimpse of the magical city. This is Buenos Aires.
The History of Buenos Aires
The desire for gold first attracted Spain to the area of Buenos Aires in the early 16th century, and an expedition of men flocked to its shores in search of riches. However, the natives vehemently fought the intrusion and staved off the new settlers for nearly 4 decades. Eventually, at the end of the 16th century a Spanish settlement was established. As a port city, trade was crucial to its economy, but difficult trade routes plagued with pirate attacks led to highly taxed imports which in turn made many items prohibited. This forced people to develop a system of imported contraband which the city depended upon. Eventually, Charles III of Spain eased trade restrictions and Buenos Aires became an open port by the 18th century, but when Napoleon invaded Spain, citizens of Buenos Aires began to contemplate their independence.
The city fought relentlessly for its freedom overcoming its hurdles to become one of the most important cities in the world resting on a foundation of wealth and power. By 1880 Buenos Aires was the federal capital of Argentina, and there was an eruption of construction that took over the city filling it with hotels, mansions, and shops. By the early 1900s there were over a million people thriving in Buenos Aires, and the city would become the top agricultural exporter during World War I.
Modern- day Buenos Aires
Today, Buenos Aires is still a strong city full of culture and life. The city’s main attractions are an ode to its history, and people are called to experience the cosmopolitan city enhanced by the vibrancy of Latin American culture. The city’s heart is in the Plaza de Mayo where the 1810 revolution took place, and today it remains the location where public demonstrations and celebrations are held. It is also the location of Casa Rosada, the balconied office of the Argentine President known as the “Pink House.” It is the hub of political happenings, and the people of Argentina are deeply involved in all that affects their city.
Visitors of Buenos Aires will find the historic neighborhood of San Telmo particularly charming. It was the first barrio of the city, and today it is filled with colonial buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. Along the aged streets, inside the city’s earliest buildings are unique cafes and bistros as well as antique shops and one of a kind boutiques that showcase many of the local, handcrafted items. The delicious smells of rich meats and hearty pastas waft through the air, and on warm Sunday afternoons, people stroll through San Telmo drinking in the eclectic beauty as they browse the local artisan market.
It is in this lively neighborhood of San Telmo where Tango Parlours can also be found. Passersby can watch as dancers of all ages effortlessly move to hot rhythms and perform the seductive call of the Tango. It is in South America where the dance began, and it first started among the lower class. Men would travel from Spain and Italy to arrive in the developing port city of Buenos Aires only to find themselves with few options for female companionship. The dance of the tango became a mating call meant to entice the few females, but it was seen as lowbrow.
The Argentinean Tango
When Argentina gained independence and experienced an influx of wealth, many of the young men from higher class were drawn to the tango and its sense of adventure. They began learning the dance only to travel to Europe and show off their moves with this intriguing and sexy dance. It became a craze in Paris and eventually reached the United States around the time of the first World War. Today, it remains a piece of Argentina’s spicy flare and to watch the dance is an intoxicating experience guaranteed to make just about anyone want to get up and move.
Must sees in Buenos Aires
There are countless places to see and experience in Buenos Aires, but some remain absolute must sees. The Teatro Colon is the famous opera house which National Geographic named the third most beautiful in the world, and its acoustics make it one of the fifth best places in the world to hold a concert. It is an example of exquisite beauty and exceptional architecture.
In comparison to the historic architecture, Buenos Aires also has incredible modern constructions. In the Puerto Madero barrio is the Puente de la Mujer is a footbridge opened in 2001 with fluid and angular lines that immediately attract the eye and remind many of a woman dancing the tango.
Part of what makes the city so incredible is the people of Buenos Aires and their passion. In the south part of the city is the working class district of La Boca and the Boca Juniors Stadium. It is here that people gather to watch football games, and you can feel the devotion of a country’s diehard fans as they chant and cheer making the whole stadium buzz. On the other end of the spectrum of passion is the raw intensity the people of Argentina feel for their country. They fight for their beliefs, frequently holding demonstrations and protests. The Palacio del Congreso is the site of many protests as the citizens of Argentina actively participate in their nation’s politics fighting for their convictions. It is the beating hearts of the citizens that create the constant rhythm of the city.
Buenos Aires is an incredible representation of the country which holds key historical sites and houses the cultural beauty of its people. Its longstanding history and far reaching influences make it a place travellers are eager to experience. The people of Buenos Aires, the Portenos, are full of life and passion centered around the city’s sense of adventure that is so alive you can feel it in the throbbing beats of music and the bustling crowds swirling on the street corners. Buenos Aires is a journey that will revive your lust for life and remind you that to live is to engage ourselves in our environments and be active participants in our lives. Eat, dance, explore, and experience life in Buenos Aires.
Chimu Adventures offers a great variety of tours to Buenos Aires. Click here for more information.
Written by Jeana Shandraw