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Tango in San Telmo




Description: Scroll (way) down for extensive information about Day Tours of Buenos Aires!

When: 10 am, daily 365 days/year, rain or shine (this tour is only available by booking ahead through our 'Booking' menu entry above)

Duration: 6 hours (10am to 1pm, then a light-lunch intermission with your choice of lunch --cost not included-- at some typical 'Argentine food' place and then we continue walking from 2pm to 5pm approx.)

Price: US$125 p/p (Minimum 2 people, or add 20%)

Discounts: Each 6 people, one is free of charge (18% discount)

Meet: Unless otherwise specified, the Day Tours of Buenos Aires departs usually at 10am at the corner of Florida & Paraguay Sts., outside the 'Florida Garden' cafe. Look for our guides, wearing 'BA-Walking-Tours' jackets, shirts or baseball caps. Get printable, bilingual ('good-for-taxi' or asking) directions here, or see map here.

Note: This is a fun & comprehensive walking tour in English. It was specifically designed by our guides for savvy travelers with little time or tight agendas. It includes over 75 main city landmarks and lots of stories and explanations as well as off-the-beaten-track portions of the Historical Downtown, Recoleta, Palermo, Barrio Norte and La Boca neighbourhoods (La Boca is only offered as optional depending on your guide's availability and not included in the BA-In-One-Day Walk).

If you have a few more hours to spare in BA, we recommend that you also do our “Buenos Aires Neighborhoods” tour. This is a unique walking tour that explores the hidden gems of Buenos Aires while visiting two different neighborhoods that you will not find in guidebooks. It includes uncommonly visited city landmarks that deviate from your typical tourist locations. Because we enter many of the buildings that we visit you will get an extra personal experience of each place that you don’t get with our BA in a day walk. This is the tour to get some insight into local life, to learn about our local food, to see what the locals do and to have an authentic local cultural experience in “non touristic neighborhoods”. With this tour combination you will be able to leave the city with the feeling that you have fully experienced Buenos Aires.

After this enjoyable Day Tour of Buenos Aires walk you will understand Buenos Aires (and Argentina!!) much better. It includes over 75 main city landmarks, and though it is not a strenuous walk, it is a long one: to see all these landmarks we do need to keep a quick pace--or cover a bit less: you decide. Full itinerary will be covered depending on time and circumstances at time of tour. We'll stop for coffee, snacks or refreshments along the walk, at emblematic cafes of cultural or historical value. Snacks, drinks, hotel pickup, transportation, foot massage, mid-life-counseling, good sense of humour and gratuities are not included (actually massage, counseling and good sense of humour are not even available!).

Some key sights:

  • The interwoven history of the main sites & landmarks in Buenos Aires:
  • Florida & Plaza San Martin park area, from where we'll cover all rhe most flamboyant areas of BA--the areas that gave us the denomination of 'The Paris of the South'. Magnificent buildings, palaces and stories. Here we explain how our city became so European and the influence of the British, French, Italian and Spanish immigration.
  • Historical downrown and Plaza de Mayo (Cathedral + Cabildo + Casa Rosada + Puerto Madero + Mothers of the Dissapeared, etc.).
  • San Telmo (the picturesque, earliest neighbourhood in BA): Slave Market + Defensa Street + Plaza Dorrego Antiques market + Colonial churches & houses).
  • Famous Recoleta & Palermo neighbourhoods, where we visit and explain the world famous Recoleta Cemetery--including all about famous Evita Peron
  • ...and much, much more!!
  • La Boca? Time permitting, and at an additional cost to be arranged before the walk (ask us), we can visit the famously colorful and picturesque port of 'La Boca', birthplace of Tango (where we might see it danced on the streets! — Please note that La Boca is only offered as optional depending on our guides' availability and is not included in the regular BA-In-One-Day Walk).
Note: If you want to wrap-up your experience of all that is relevant to BA in just one day, you can also book our 'Tango Night Out' as well for that night, and relax enjoying a superb, typical Tango dinner-show.


Tour Outline (abbreviated): (click on pictures to toggle size)

In this walking tour we will show you the main sites & landmarks (together with their stories and explanantions) Buenos Aires can offer: its originary neighbourhoods and history. Once you are familiar with these areas you will be able to access hundreds of interesting and fun places and activities on your own and without any help.

The Plaza de Mayo (Spanish: May Square) is the main historical square in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina; it is flanked by Hipólito Yrigoyen, Balcarce, Rivadavia and Bolívar streets. Several of the city's major landmarks are located around the Plaza: the Cabildo (the city council during the colonial era), the Casa Rosada (home of the executive branch of the federal government), the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires, the current city hall or municipalidad, and the headquarters of the Nación (National) Bank. (top...)

The Buenos Aires financial district (microcentro), affectionately known as 'la City' (sic) also lies besides the Plaza. Buenos Aires (English: Fair Winds, originally 'Ciudad de la Santisima Trinidad y Puerto de Santa Maria de los Buenos Aires' (City of the Holy Trinity and Port of Saint Mary of the Fair Winds) is the capital of Argentina and its largest city and port. (top...)

The Casa Rosada (Pink House), officially known as the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), is the official residence of the President of Argentina. The Plaza de Mayo has always been the focal point of political life in Buenos Aires. Its current name commemorates the May Revolution of 1810, which started the process towards the country's independence from Spain in 1816. La Revolucion de Mayo (the May Revolution) was the first attempt at independence in the Viceroyalty of the River Plate, which contains present-day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. The Argentine War of Independence was fought from 1814 to 1816 by Argentine forces under Jose de San Martin against 'realista' forces (loyal to the Spanish crown). On October 17, 1945, mass demonstrations in the Plaza de Mayo organised by the CGT (trade union federation) forced the release from prison of Juan Domingo Perón, who would later become president of Argentina. For several years the Peronist movement gathered every October 17th in the Plaza de Mayo to show their support for their leader (and October 17 is still "Loyalty Day" for the traditional Peronists). Many other presidents, both democratic and military, have also saluted people in the Plaza from the balcony of the Casa Rosada. (top...)

In 1955 the Plaza de Mayo was bombed by planes of a military faction trying to overthrow President/Dictator Perón, killing over 300 bystanders and wounding many more. Although the coup was aborted, three months later, the Revolución Libertadora ("Liberating Revolution") succeeded and staged its own demonstration in the same Plaza that used to be a symbol of Peronism. Years later, in 1974, Perón, then president for the third time, expelled from the Plaza the members of the Montoneros, an armed organisation that tried to influence the political orientation of the national government. Crowds gathered once again on April 2, 1982 to hail de facto President Leopoldo Galtieri for starting the Falklands/Malvinas war. Since the late 1970s, this is where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have congregated with signs and pictures of desaparecidos, their children, who disappeared (murdered) by the Argentine military in the Dirty War, during the National Reorganization Process. The Argentine military was anti-Communist, and people perceived to be supportive of such ideas would be illegally detained, subject to abuse and torture, and finally murdered in secret. (top...)

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo took advantage of the symbolic importance of the Plaza to open the public's eyes to what the military were doing. The 1970s decade refers to the years from 1970 to 1979, inclusive. Protests have continued on taking place, reaching well into the 2000s. On December 19, 2001, seven protesters were shot to their deaths and several others injured by police as they rioted around Plaza de Mayo. Nevertheless, Plaza de Mayo continues to be a tourist attraction for those that visit Buenos Aires, but those who want to visit the area remain advised to be careful about choosing the time to visit it. There is much, MUCH more to explain and show about Plaza de Mayo. (top...)

Next we visit the birthplace of the University of Buenos Aires (the 'Manzana de las Luces' or 'Enlightment Square') and we continue our walk visiting some of the most ancient buildings still standing in Buenos Aires. Later, as we start to walk towards the famous (and very old) San Telmo neighbourhood, we learn about the why & how of the early British invasions to Buenos Aires (1806 & 1807) and we walk to the Basilica of Santo Domingo, where the British where finally cornered (you can still see cannonballs incrusted in the towers). Completed in 1783, this church housed the Natural History Museum and astronomic observatory under President Rivadavia. In 1835, the dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas repatriated the Dominicans friars and in 1856 the second tower was built. An atrium houses the Mausoleum of Gral. Manuel Belgrano (the creator of the Argentine flag, who was born and died near the church). This work by Hector Ximenez (1903) has a large base of red granite with two bas-reliefs representing the presentation of the Flag and the Battle of Tucuman. (top...)

As we continue southwards we visit the house where Viceroy Liniers lived (he was considered a hero in 1807 when he defeated the British and executed as a traitor when he opposed the declaration of independence from Spain). We learn about early architecture in the colonies and its evollution, and start visiting the many wonders San Telmo has to offer: fascinating houses, antique stores, the old indoors market, the outdoors one (Plaza Dorrego) where Independence was sworn, and the chuch that gave origin to the neighbourhood's name. (top...)

We explain immigration, history and architectural evolution of Buenos Aires by exploring houses like that of the Ezeiza Family, a well-preserved example of 19th-century patrician architecture, transformed circa 1880 into a conventillo (multi-family home foor the poor & immigrant) and later into a two-story antique market. Today, only the bottom level is being used by antique dealers. Continuing along, we visit the foundational place oof Buenos Aires (Lezama Park) where the first founder --Buenos Aires was founded twice-- is said to have been sieged and chased awaay by the local aborigines, the Querandi indians. (top...)

The neighborhood of La Boca (Note that La Boca is only offered as optional (ask us) and not included in the BA-In-One-Day Walk) is a spot that every Buenos Aires traveler should experience. There is a reason that so many tourists make La Boca a priority on their itinerary, and once you are there you will soon be overwhelmed by its charm and understand exactly why. (top...)

La Boca has a unique and diverse history that is represented by the unique and diverse color scheme of each passing home, restaurant, shop, grocery store, or any other business. Between 1880 and 1930, approximately 6 million foreign immigrants landed in the port of La Boca and liked what they saw so much that they decided to stay. The diversity had a huge effect on this area and its new inhabitants due to the different backgrounds of the settlers. As they began constructing homes their supplies were limited, especially their supplies of paint. And as a solution they used any and all leftover paint they could find or afford from the shipyard. The result of this painting frenzy was a one of a kind neighborhood that was adorned with every color of the rainbow. (top...)

The effect is very fun and animated and something you have to see to believe. It has drawn much attention to this port neighborhood since the early days of construction and consequently they have decided to maintain that tradition. Even today with the availability of new colors and supplies, the bright paint is symbolic of La Boca and gives it more character than you can possibly imagine. (top...)

Caminito is the main street of the area that is typically full of color, tango dancers, artists, and tourists with an excited trigger finger on their camera. The local artists spread their works of art across the streets to fill the lively outdoor market with displays and all kinds of fun. Each small door you pass opens up to an exciting world inside that offers every type of souvenir imaginable. On the weekends there is also the Feria de la Ribera, an arts and crafts market, set up outside. (top...)

Many people like to pick a dining spot while in La Boca and soak in the surroundings. There are many restaurants that come with twirling tango dancers, live tango music, and maybe even a request of your hand to try on your dancing shoes as well. But the locals are well aware of the tourist pocketbook and charge high prices. However high prices in La Boca are still cheap by American standards, and it may just be worth the money because it’s all part of the fun experience. (top...)

So you found the market, Caminito, the art work, some grub, and so now what? The Boca Juniors Futbol Stadium! If you have arrived on a game day, you will know. The futbol spirit is contagious and watching a game in Argentina is unlike any experience you will ever have. As the die hard fans wave their flags and yell out their Boca Juniors chants you will be amazed by the enthusiasm of the locals. (top...)

At the end of the day, you will be very glad you ventured to La Boca and will have made a day full of wonderful memories. Touristy? Well….yes; but also a very important part of the Argentine history and culture. And without a doubt a very fun place to spend part of your time in Buenos Aires. (top...)

As we walk towards Plaza San Martin Park, we see the footprint of the old bullfight arena which also doubled as a fort to defend the city. Next, we walk by the Plaza Hotel, built in 1909 by the german architect Alfred Zucker (he also built St. Patrick's cathedral in NY!!), this hotel (now run by the Marriot chain) hosted guests such as the Royal families of Spain, Belgium and Norway, Charles de Gaulle, Indira Ghandi, Nobel Prize Jonas Salk (of Polio vaccine fame), Nat King Cole, Nelson Rockefeller and many others. (top...)

Towering behind it (on the left of the picture) is the notorious Kavanagh Building we will explain in a few moments, but first we have to mention first one of the most beautiful churches in Buenos Aires: the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento (Holy Sacrament Basilica). (top...)

This very beautiful romanic-neogothic church (ca. 1915), which though very large looks dwarfed by the neighbouring Kavanagh and Plaza Hotel Buildings, is considered to be an architectural jewel. Designed by french architects, it is composed of 5 towers (3 in the front) with beautiful white marble sculptures in its front. Inside it you can find beautiful wood carvings made by Flemish artisans (from Brugge, Belgium) and 2 world renowned organs which master organ players from around the world come to play and listen to (one is a 4800 pipe Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll from France and the other a Merklin from Belgium, similar, but slightly smaller than the ones in Notre-Dame Cathedral and Sacre Coeur in Paris). Four meters below the base of the belfry is the cript of Mrs. Mercedes Castellanos de Anchorena who had this whole massive church built for her (as a cript for her family) between 1907 and 1915: She was inmensely rich and we will later see her family palace-like mansion, just across the Plaza San Martin park. It sets the tone for understanding the mindset of the families that shaped Buenos Aires. (top...)

Let us now go back to the Kavanagh Building. It was built by architects Sanchez, Lagos and De la Torre for Corinna Kavanagh, a then 39 year old eccentric heiress of Irish ancestry who talked her father into building this huge skyscraper so she would have some comfortable rental income (actually 113 expensive rental units) to care for her future. It is on the records that to be able to complete the construction of this luxurious and groundbreaking rationalist (art Deco) building (at 36 stories, 13 elevators and 120 meters high, the tallest in South America at the time it was built, and the first building in the world with central air conditioning) she sold her two large "estancias" (estate ranches). She must be credited as a visionaire, for the building that is built over a slope, offers very luxurious appartments (the smallest is 1400 sq. ft.) with a common pattern which includes terrace gardens (see some trees halfways up there in the photo?) in one third of its still-very-coveted 113 units. Finally, she was forced (during President Peron's mandate) to sell all units, which she did along 16 years. Those who now own these very exclusive appartments (many are notorious politicians and tycoons) do not pay taxes, since the building was declared of UNESCO's interest in 1999 and are since tax exempt. Amongst other distinctions, in 1939 the building shared a technical award of the the American Society of Engineers together with the Eiffel Tower, the Aswan Dam and the Panama Canal. (top...)

Now here is the yellow-press, soap-opera side of the story: Corinna who was the daughter of a rich Irish immigrant, had fallen in love with one of the Anchorena heirs (a very old local patrician family) and though her love was corresponded by his, their marriage was rebuffed by the elder Anchorenas (remember Mercedes Anchorena?), possibly because the Anchorenas were catholic patricians and she was a non-catholic upstart foreigner. So they say she waited a few years till time was ripe and decided that she would kill to birds with one stone: she would make a dashing move to show her character & worth, out-shadowing the pretentious Anchorena church-building and obstructing forever the view that the Anchorena's had from their palace of their church and burial ground. She obviously succeeded. She lived until 1984 in her 7000 sq. ft. appartment in the 14th floor. (top...)

Since then, the ONLY way an Anchorena (or anyone else) can have a full view of the Anchorena's mausoleum church is to stand on Corinna Kavanagh back-alley!! (the short street -see photo- that separates her building from the Plaza Hotel and ends right across the church's door). (top...)

We will talk again about the Anchorenas later on, but now lets move to the Plaza San Martin park. After Plaza de Mayo, our next most important "Plaza" (park) from an historical point of view is Plaza San Martin, because it is here that the patriots fought and resisted the English invasion of 1807. Until 1819, Plaza San Martin was the Plaza de Toros (the bullfight ring) and part of this park still keeps that ancient footprint (the circular shape along Av. Santa Fe is due to that architectural fact). (top...)

The monument to those fallen in the Malvinas (Falkland) war (1982), ironically it is placed just across the British tower (donated by the UK in 1916), now called Monumental Tower. Since 1880, there had been a growth explosion in this area. The city became the capital as a consequence of Buenos Aires Federation. Railways grew and the port acquired a decisive importance both for commerce and to receive 3,300,000 immigrants in just three decades (1880-1914). During this period, public and private buildings were put up, parks and monuments radically changed the city profile. The new urban design highlights the europeization as essential part of the project of the governing class from the end of the XIXth. century. (top...)

In Plaza San Martin you can see the city-wide slope that surronds the city. Here, it looks over the lower Retiro area (railroad stations, English tower, Canada park -with a genuine Canadian 27m high totem-, Sheraton Hotel, port area etc.). As a matter of fact that same slope can be seen in many other points as we visit the city. It is interesting to note that before the early 19th century this area was the slave depot, owned and operated by the French Compagnie de la Guinee first (1690) and later by the English Southern Seas Company until 1830. The whole area was marginal and frowned upon, and it wasn't till later in the 19th century that the rich families moved to this area to build their palaces, fleeing from the yellow fever epidemic outbursts that made them move out of the southern area (i.e. San Telmo) where they used to live. (top...)

The train stations (and the railways) where built and run by the English, and are built on land gained to the river. The oldest is the farthest one from our viewpoint and it is called San Martin (1886), because these tracks lead across the country to Mendoza and the Andes (the route San Martin followed). The one in the middle is called General Belgrano, because it follows the route to the territories where this General's campaigns took place towards the center and north of our country (Córdoba Province, etc.), and same thing with the first and largest station General Mitre whose farthest tracks go south to Bariloche (in Patagonia) and beyond. By the way, the name Retiro (retiro=to withdraw, be alone) comes from the fact this area was initially in the early 1700's given to the San Sebastián monastery where spiritual seclusion was performed. (top...)

Still talking about the Plaza San Martin, there are several statues and monuments in it, namely the Statue of San Martin himself (inaug. 1862) by french sculptor Louis Joseph Daumes and technically remarkable because of the fact that the whole weight of the statue is supported by the horse's hind legs. The hero's finger is actually pointing towards the Andes, where he achieved one of the major feats of the independence war to free Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. The pedestal structure was added by the german sculptor Gustaf Eberlein 50 years later (1910). Don Jose de San Martin was a truly great man, a liberator and a man of virtue and integrity. He was born in Argentina, studied in Spain where he achieved a brilliant military career, and came back to his native land to help free the whole region, assembling an army and crossing the Andes with his army in just a few days in conditions of extreme difficulty. He was a caring family man and rejected the power he was offered, to take care of his daughter and grandchildren (he exiled himself in France, as we will see later). (top...)

Jose de San Martin was born on February 25, 1778 in Yapeyú, located in the viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata', which is now known as eastern Argentina. In 1784, when San Martin was six years old, the family returned to Spain, where he was educated at the "Seminario de Nobles". He started his military career early serving as an army officer against the forces of Napoleon between 1808 and 1811. Even though San Martin was loyal towards his mother country (Spain) when he fought against Napoleon, he disliked the traditional absolute monarchy and the existing colonial system. In 1811, he decided to resign from Spanish service. After meeting revolutionary Spanish Americans in London, England, he sailed for Buenos Aires, and was almost immediately taken into service in the revolutionary regime. As a very experienced soldier, he was a great asset in the revolutionary movement in South America. (top...)

Upon his arrival in Buenos Aires in March 1812, he was given the task of organizing an armed force to be used against the Spanish royalists in Peru. He married Maria de los Remedios Escalada in September, 1812. Maria came from an Argentine upper-class family of Spanish blood. He became more involved in internal politics of the area by helping to form the "Lautaro Lodge", which was an underground movement which later aligned itself with the opposition to the government that was in power. In February 3, 1813, San Martin entered his first battle in South America, and managed to defeat a royalist force that came up the "Parana River". In the middle of 1814, he had to briefly retire because of weakening health. He believed that the best way to accomplish his plans was to enter Peru through the mountains of Upper Peru. This was the most direct way, but also the most difficult, due to the physical structure of the Andes. Another, a perhaps more promising route would be to move towards the west, from Argentina to Chile, and by sea to the "Peruvian coast". San Martin started to prepare his plans, and by asking for reassignment to the governor-ship of Cuyo, which was located at the foot of the Andes in western Argentina, he was able to design his plans. (top...)

In January 1817, he started to cross the Andes. He led his army 15,000 feet above sea level, a feat that has been compared to Hannibal's crossing of the Alps. His force consisted of about 3,000 infantry soldiers, and 250 artillery troops. By winning the battle of Maipu in April 5, 1818, royalists in Chile were defeated. Later that year, San Martin was offered the supreme dictatorship of Chile, but he did not accept it in favor of his friend O'Higgins. Chilean, Bernado O'Higgins, became a close partner to San Martin in their struggle of creating independent American kingdoms. Tired of the use of military force, he proposed that Peru should be converted into an independent monarchy. The negotiations led to nothing. The use of military force was now inevitable, and instead of attacking Peru by land, he devised a sea strike, coordinated with rebel Chilean troops. With control of the seas, his army easily conquered Peru, and entered Lima in 1821. San Martin formally declared the independence of Peru on July 28, 1821, and became the "Protector of Peru". He did not take power, instead he met with fellow liberator Simon Bolivar at Guayquil in 1822, and Bolivar persuaded him to withdraw from Peru. He disagreed with the ideas of the new leaders so went into voluntary exile in Europe. In 1824, a year after that his wife died, he took off for Europe with his daughter. In the end of 1828, he decided to go back to America. He wanted to see if he had anything to contribute to the internal peace between the new nations, but returned to Europe in 1829, after that he decided that he would not be to much help. After this, he lived as a retired man mainly in France. Jose de San Martin died in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France on August 17, 1850. (top...)

As we move on across the Plaza San Martin we can see two Palaces: the smaller one with triangluar footprint belonged to the Haedo family and is now site to the National Park Administration entity. It was built in the 1880's, being amongst the first in the upcoming elegant neighbourhood but was then dwarved by the neighbouring mansions, like the magnificent one which is now the social headquarters for the military. It was built in the 1900's by the rich landlord and newspaper owner Jose C. Paz (he founded "La Prensa" newspaper, a major player until not long ago, whose magnificent building you can view near Plaza de Mayo). The palace was totally designed and imported from France and took 12 years to complete. Mr. Paz' goals were not only a beautiful house, but one that would be suitable for a Presidential Palace, as he was running for president, but unfortunately he died a year before its completion. His widow and two children enjoyed this magnificent versaillesque palace, full of marble, silk, wood carvings and boiseries till 1939 when it was sold to the military. It also hosts the interesting and quite complete National Museum of Arms with weapons of all ages, including a thorough oriental / Japanese arms collection. (top...)

We should also mention that around the corner (Maipú St.) used to live Jorge L. Borges the world famous Argentine writer, and that in the short Sargento Cabral alley you can find the Second Christian Cientific Church building as founded by Mary Baker Eddy, the editor of the renowned The Christian Science Monitor newspaper. (top...)

By now we should be standing in front of the Anchorena Palace (now called Palacio San Martin and used for the Ministry of External Affairs). Anchorena Palace was built in 1906 by Alejandro Cristophersen ( 1866-1946). It is a unique complex of three private houses, (the floor plans are harmonized and there are two common rooms, yet basically no house repeats features of the two others), their construction was inspired in French neo-classic architecture of the XVIII th. century. It originally belonged to Anchorena family, built on the very heart of the most elegant residential area between 1906 and 1909 by architect Alejandro Christophersen, who was commissioned by Mrs. Mercedes Castellanos de Anchorena and her two sons, Aaron and Emilio. It is a single building containing three separate residences encircling a large central patio. Its structure brings together elements from French academicism and from the Borbonic style. Major features are the iron and glass balcony overlooking Basavilbaso Street, and the façade's iron gates, highlighting the importance of the residence from its access point. The Anchorena Palace was the setting for major social events, such as the Ball held for the Independence Centennial in 1916. In 1936, it was purchased by the Argentine State to become the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Nowadays, it has become the protocol quarters of the Ministry, since the offices have been moved to the new building in Arenales and Esmeralda, built by architects Aizenstat and Rajlin, whose architecture seems to converse with the monumental masterpiece by Christophersen. The San Martin Palace is a national historic monument and holds a vast library specializing in international law and the history of international relations. It stands as a valuable testimony of the heights reached by French classicism architecture and by the adaptation of certain kinds of 18-century French residences to the local media. The Anchorenas would have had a direct view of the magnificent church Mercedes Anchorena had built, not far across the park, amidst her wealthy neighbours palaces, had it not been for Corinna Kavanagh's mix of revenge, whim and daring vision. (top...)

Now we walk down to Arroyo St., but first we glance at the large Strugamou Palace (1924). In this case it is not really a palace but a strata building, though it is nicknamed this way because of its beauty and quality. Arroyo St. has an european flair to it because of the style of its buildings and because it is a rather narrow, winding street as opposed to the rest of the city. It is lined with art galleries and expensive antique shops, and once a month the whole street is closed to traffic, the street is filled with music, and art galleries offer champagne and hors-de-oeuvres to the public till late at night (usually the last friday of each month, except for January and February, in which most people who can leave the city for the holidays at the beaches). This monthly event is called "Gallery Nights". As we walk down Arroyo (brook) street, we should look up at the entrance of the Sofitel Hotel, and see the Mihanovich/Bencich Tower: the first freestanding (tower-like) building erected in BA (1920s) whose top imitates the tomb of greek King Mausolo (hence Mausoleum) built around bc377, now recycled into a fashionable Hotel. (top...)

At the end of the short Arroyo St. we find the impront on the wall, of what used to be a small peautiful palace-like building, demolished by a single bomb blast on the morning of March 17 1992: these are the remains of the embassy of Israel, where 22 people died. The naighbouring buildings were shattered to pieces and glass windows were broken around the block. The glass-covered high-rise building right across had to be evacuated and repaired and scaffolding was withdrawn only recently. (top...)

A few meters down Suipacha St. we find the Hispanoamerican Art Museum (Isaac Fernandez Blanco) with interesting collections of regional and colonial artifacts, like a collection of silver mates (mate tea gourds, etc.) and beautiful gardens. Across the street we catch a glimpse of exclusive modern high-rise bldgs. These are large flats (usually 6000 sq. ft.) coveted for their proximity to downtown and panoramic views on the river, and they have amenities like tennis courts and swimming pools we can peek as we walk. As we reach the level of Av. Libertador we can see the dome of the railroad station which was totally built in England and assembled here (across the street there's the entrance to the Railroad Museum. (top...)

We now walk to the end of Carlos Pellegrini St. where we find a modern toll circular building and we walk under the highway across an area of high-quality restaurants and by the Hyatt hotel (the balcony you see wa used by Madonna when she rented two full floors of the hotel while she was filming the musical Evita in our town). A block away we see the awnings af the beautiful Patio Bullrich mall (a recicled old auctioneer's warehouse turned into an exclusive mall, with fashinable stores and 6 excellent cinemas and food-court open from 10am until well past midnight) as we pass across the Alzaga Unzué Palace, which is at the base of the Hyatt Hotel (this palace is considered National Heritage, so the hotel could only be built if the palace was preserved). A few meters more and we arrive at Alvear St., renowned for its palaces, embassies and expensive stores. (top...)

The Dr. Arturo Illia highway we just walked under was one of the several megalomaniac monumental constructions developed under the recent military dictatorships, and though it may look like positive in some ways, they actually destroyed lots of beautiful heritage buildings and palaces for the relative benefit few cars use. Many people believe there were hidden interests in making those huge expenditures, but in the case of the beautiful Ortiz Basualdo Palace we were lucky. Built in 1912 by the french architect Mr. Pater, the Ortiz-Basualdos had some very important guests, like Edward Windsor, Prince of Wales (later King Edward the VIII) who stayed here during his 1925 visit to Argentina. The dining-room boiserie is a replica of the one in the royal castle of Oslo in Norway. In 1939 it was bought by the government of France to be used for their Embassy seat. When the military requested the French govt. to surrender the building to be demolished for the construction of the Illia highway, the french simply said no, as embassies are protected territory for life. At the door you will find a list of fifteen French citizens (including two nuns) who dissapeared during the recent military dictatorships. (top...)

As we walk across the Cepeda Palace we will see (opposite) the Jockey Club of Buenos Aires, founded on 1882 by Argenitne President Dr. Carlos Pellegrini, (monument across the street) as a social center and as an institution that would seek to improve horse breeds. The institution should serve as a top level social center, paramount to the best European clubs these gentlemen had visited in their trips to France and England. The Pereda Palace, across the street was built in 1936 for Celedonio Pereda, a landowner who owned around 1928 some 122,000 hectares making him the fourth largest landowner in his time. His palace was full of works of art and had its own chapel. The house had 40,000 sq. ft. for the use of the family. The then Brazilian ambassador (and later president of Brasil) Dr. Getulio Vargas stayed there as a guest in 1938, and later bought the palace in 1944 to use it as Brasilian embassy. (top...)

Now we will walk into the start of the Barrio Norte (Northern Neighbourhood). Generally speaking BA is invisibly divided by Av. Sta fe (which later continues for several miles, though its name changes several times) into a Northern strip (between Santa Fe. and the River)... and the rest. So to speak, the northern strip is coveted, nice and fancier... whilst the rest is not. This is not "official" and at first hard to perceive (unless you have lived here many years), but it is reflected in property prizes and demand. In the area we will visit now, you will notice the atmosphere is not of a city or village in south america, or even in the states: it feels a bit like Europe (some say it is actually nicer). There are lots of nice fashionable stores (and regular stores too), boutiques, galleries and cafés. And lots of high-rise buildings, whose quality you can tell by the amount of appartments per story as reflected in the buzzers by the door: an expensive, high-category appartment building will only have one (or two at the most) appartments per story. One interesting fact that emphasizes the rich-like lifestyle of these vast neighbourhoods is that since BA was developed and to this day, practically the majority of the apartments ("flats") in these vast city neighbourhoods have rooms for live-in maid-servants designed and built into them (large apartments or even medium-sized ones in the poshiest areas have rooms and bathrooms for several live-in maids). See this for yourselves if we stop by any realty shop's window. And you will probably see these maids walking in the streets (doing their grocery shopping duties) in their uniforms as we walk. Most tourists never get to fully understand the flair and debonnair of Buenos Aires, basically because it is one of those things where you need someone to take you by the hand and patiently show you around and tell you details like these, which nobody will mention because they seem natural to a BA citizen who doesn't realize that regular Americans or Europeans do not have live-in maid service at their homes. You tourist, might think it not right, but that is the usual right thing around here, and if you were to live in Buenos Aires (actually, it happens in other South American cities too) you would probably have at least one maid-servant at home, or most-likely at least a temporary (live-out) one. (top...)

Now we are back in Alvear street to see Hume Residence, Duhau Palace and Fernandez-Anchorena Mansion (now Vatican Embassy). The Duhau's neoclassic french residence was built in 1932 for the wealthy and aristocratic Duhau brothers, whilst the Hume/McGuire Residence is one of the first and oldest buildings in this old residential state area (1890). It is in this palace that the first private collection art exhibitions took place in BA. There were more palaces here when I was a boy (like the DeRidder Family one, which always had a live pair of sheep, one white and one black pasturing freely along the front garden!), but they have been turned into the large building at the back of the Caesars Park hotel which faces the Patio Bullrich mall on the opposite side of the block). In the corner you can appreciate the Nunciature Palace (Vatican Embassy), which originally was the house of Mrs. Rosa Anchorena and Juan A. Fernandez built in 1909 and never used, for they decided to move to Europe and never came back. While the Argentine President Máximo Torcuato de Alvear (this street is named after him) was in charge of the presidency (1922-1928) he lived here and then in 1930 it was sold to Mrs. Adelia Harilaos de Olmos who would finally donate it to the Vatican in 1949 (Popes stay here when they visit). Mrs. Olmos got knighted a Pontifical Marchioness (femenine for Marquise) by the Vatican for her piousness (she had been awarded her pontifical title after donating to the Argentinian Curia her luxurious mansion in Recoleta where Pope Pius XII -still a cardinal by then- had lodged during the International Eucharistic Congress in 1934). Moreover, the magnanimous Marchioness -also benefactress of the Basilica of the Miraculous Medal in Parque Chacabuco- had even sold the couple's ranch called "La Sofía" to finance the Eucharistic Congress to be held in Buenos Aires). The inside and gardens (still here) were so luxurious, legend has it that some church authorities refused to stay here, for he thought it would be too ostentatious. Mrs. Olmos was also famous for having several unfriendly political run-ins with evita Peron between 1945 and 1950. (top...)

Let's move on along Alvear Av. and as we cross Callao Av. it is funny to realize this was once the city limit (now replaced by the Av. General Paz, ring road, almost 6 miles away, in this same direction). There are many nice shops in this neighbourhood too (this part of the Barrio Norte is currrently called Recoleta). Recoleta gets its name from the Convento of the Recoletos friars, who got their land from a couple of landowners (Don Fernando de Valdéz e Inclán and Doña Guerrero y Hurtado) who got it (they paid it with clothes!) from Don Rodrigo Ortíz de Zárate who was under the orders of Don Juan de Garay, the city's founder in 1537. Around 1725 Don Juan de Narvona offered to finance and complete the construction of the church, and he --a notorious businessman, developer and smuggler-- did that and more: he had himself built a 14 room mansion and a few tunnels under the church which led towards other points in the city and the river shore (this city was --and still is-- packed with colonial tunnels connecting Plaza de Mayo, Retiro, the churches and the river shore). (top...)

We walk one street (Ayacucho) to Quintana Av., and here we are approaching the core of Recoleta with its streetside cafés, its huge (60 mtr span) bicentenary gum trees, the Pilar church and its neighbouring posh-city-of-the-elegant-dead: The world famous Recoleta cemetery, where it is very hard to be accepted and Evita Perón is an unwanted illustrious parvenú (social upstart) sleeping forever amongst the people she hated --and hated her-- (we explain all about her story along the Afternoon Walk). Although it may seem unusual, the 4 acre cemetery area is also surrounded by elegant restaurants, bars, discos, outdoor shows, a cinema complex and even a great handicrafts fair that opens on weekends. (top...)

If you shake off the somberness, walking through the famous Recoleta Cemetery it is a VERY interesting walk. Lots of stories, lots of things to think about: The Recoleta Cemetery is located in the exclusive Recoleta neighbourhood. The Cementery includes graves of some of the most influential and important persons of Argentina, including several presidents, scientists, and wealthy characters. Internationaly, Eva ("Evita") Peron is one of the best known persons buried in this cementery. The entrance to the cemetery is through neo-classical gates with tall Greek columns. The cemetery contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles. The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums. (top...)

Recoleta Cemetery is one of the world's extraordinary graveyards, a study in architecture and sculpture, a country's history, mores and soul. A number of tombs are national historic monuments. It is a place of spiritual beauty and extravagant taste. And thanks to Madonna and Broadway, it is hotter than ever as a tourist attraction. Travelers stream through the portal, cameras in hand, and ask the custodians the way to ''Evita.'' (Some even ask for ''Madonna''!). (top...)

While many of the mausoleums are in fine shape and well-maintained, others have fallen into disrepair. Several can be found with broken glass, littered with rubbish, and on occasion you might find a mausoleum being used as a janitorial supply closet, with cleaning and maintenance products stored on top of coffins. Each mausoleum bears the family name etched into the facade; brass or bronze plaques are added to the front for particular family members. La Recoleta is one of those cemeteries where the tradition of engraving a death date but no birth date has been maintained. (top...)

Every day, busloads of tourists visit the black granite tomb of Evita Peron at Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. They listen to a few words from their tour guide, snap pictures and move on, rarely stopping to appreciate the grandeur of one of the world's most significant graveyards. Sitting on a four-block area of the city's most expensive real estate, the 183-year-old cemetery is in grave need of restoration. Marble tombs are being eaten away by acid rain, and their stucco ornaments are also dissolving, exposing brick interiors. Some historically significant tombs are being destroyed by human hands, through neglect or modernization. This is one of the five most important cemeteries in the world as Recoleta represents an important historical moment for the city of Buenos Aires (one ot the ten largest cities in the world) and how it was forming at the time. (top...)

While the cemetery dates from 1822, most of the elaborate tombs (like little mansions) were built between 1880 and 1910, when Buenos Aires grew rapidly in population and wealth. Many were built by the same sculptors who were working on the city's grand new houses at the time. Many look like Greek or Egyptian temples, including one that belongs to the wealthy Paz family. Almost two stories high, the black granite tomb is adorned with white marble angles and Masonic symbols such as anchors and Maltese crosses inside circles. (top...)

Perhaps the most touching gravesite is the one for Rufina Cambaceres, a 19-year-old woman who was accidentally buried alive by her family after being pronounced dead in 1902. (Hearing noises coming from the tomb, graveyard workers opened it and found scratch marks that indicated she had been trying to claw her way out before expiring.) A white marble sculpture of the girl shows her holding the tomb's door and looking out at passers- by with a tearful expression. (top...)

Not all of the 4,800 -plus tombs can be restored. Only 90 or so are national monuments that the government has the right to fix. While the city of Buenos Aires owns the cemetery grounds, the vast majority of the tombs, including Evita's, are privately controlled. Evita's tomb is the most-visited site in the cemetery and one of the best maintained. Visitors often leave wreaths of flowers or attach notes to the bronze door; others tape political messages to the smooth stone surface. How Evita ended up at Recoleta is a bizarre story. Following her death in 1952, President Juan Peron had his wife embalmed and preserved in life-like condition while he planned a monument for her. But after Juan Peron was overthrown in 1955, the military regime stole Evita's body and took it to Milan, where it was buried in a graveyard under a false name. Her body was finally returned to Argentina in 1974 and, two years later, was placed under a layer of steel and concrete in her family's crypt so it would never be stolen again. (top...)

Evita aside, the main attractions of Recoleta are the architecture, the grandiose aura, the sense of rubbing shoulders with Argentine history. The cemetery, inaugurated in 1822 and redesigned in 1881, encompasses 13.5 acres. The departed include Argentine presidents and vice presidents, governors, generals, admirals, industrialists, publishers, judges, doctors, professors, writers, poets, scientists -- and their families. Some of them -- Alvear, Dorrego, Pueyrredon -- are familiar from the Buenos Aires streets and plazas that bear their names. Others, such as Jose Estrada, are known from the Literature of Argentina shelves in bookshops. Still others, such as Dufour, Barchiesi, O'Shea, Zoltowska or Breitman, reflect the many facets of Argentine society. (top...)

The labyrinthine necropolis is laid out like a town. There is no map and only one sign -- to Mausoleo Sarmiento, a soaring obelisk crowned with a condor. It commemorates the Argentine hero Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, President, writer and educator, who died Sept. 11, 1888. The predominant color is gray. The entrance is post-colonial in style with four columns, a peristyle and tall wrought-iron gates. Just inside is the main avenue, an address of choice lined with cypress trees, stone benches and some 50 showpiece mausoleums. A towering bronze statue of El Redentor, The Redeemer, is in the center. Along the avenue visitors admire the white marble beauty of Luz Maria Garcia Velloso in a softly draped dress, lying asleep among sculptured roses on a white marble sarcophagus. A bronze ship atop a green column celebrates Adm. Guillermo Brown (an Irish adventurer/corsair who did well in Argentina), who gave ''days of glory and triumph in the year 1814.'' His neighbor, Gen. Tomas Guido, a friend and colleague of the great Libertador General San Martin, is buried in a little stone grotto. (top...)

To turn left at The Redeemer, or right for that matter, is to gradually absorb the life of the cemetery. The earliest graves -- one or two predating 1822 -- are simple, unadorned sepulchers, some with a cross. After 1822 there are changing architectural styles. Nineteenth-century neoclassical tombs favor angels and urns, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. The fin-de-siecle and early 20th-century porteno taste for things European extended from the streets of the city to the plots of the cemetery. Materials and architects were imported from Europe to create increasingly sumptuous monuments. The 1920 Herlitzka tomb, for example, features Murano glass, gold leaf and an altar of Italian marble. There were crazes for Art Nouveau, Art Deco, the neo-Gothic. Personal tastes and predilections were also expressed. The 1903 Rufina Cambaceres tomb features giant sculptured Art Nouveau orchids and a soulful statue of the young woman. The Herrera-Noble mausoleum, a brown tinted-glass block, is a study in modern design. The tomb of Adolfo Casal has a stone coffin on top of its roof. The family pantheon of Dorrego-Ortiz Basualdo (1849-1920) is possibly the graveyard's most priceless structure, though it is contested by the huge Leloir´s family --important landowners of Nobel prize fame. Rich in stained glass, Italian sculpture and symbolism, it features a virgin lighting a tall seven-branched candelabrum, symbol of spiritual light and salvation. A "Dolorosa" by the Milanese sculptor Antonio Tantardini, whose work is also in the Buenos Aires Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, adorns the tomb of Juan Facundo Quiroga (1788-1835), the assassinated gaucho caudillo or war chief known as the Tiger of the Plains. (top...)

In every graveyard there is a story behind every grave. In Recoleta the stories are those of a nation, and there are some good ones. In 1828 Gen. Juan Lavalle ordered the execution of Gen. Manuel Dorrego, now his neighbor in death. In the biography of Juan Facundo Quiroga by Sarmiento, ''Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism,'' the author portrayed Quiroga as a barbarian. Now they, too, are posthumous neighbors. One most astonishing story is the attempted Aramburu-Evita cadaver exchange. When Eva Peron died, at age 33 in 1952, her body was embalmed and kept in the General Confederation of Labor headquarters. Gen. Pedro E. Aramburu, a political enemy of the Perons who was de facto President of the junta that ruled Argentina, ordered the kidnapping of her corpse, which was sent in secret to a cemetery in Italy. The Montoneros, a guerrilla group of Peronist loyalists, abducted and executed Aramburu, then kept his remains as ransom for the return of ''Companera'' Evita's. The police recovered Aramburu's body. But when Evita's body didn't show up, the Montoneros later robbed Aramburu's grave. Evita's mummy was eventually sent to Juan Peron in exile in Madrid and later returned to Buenos Aires, restored, and nearly 25 years after her death, in 1976, buried a few blocks from Aramburu. Juan Peron is buried in Cementerio de la Chacarita, a more populist cemetery in the city. (top...)

But Recoleta is not only a story of past power and glory. It is a place that is part of Buenos Aires everyday life. Cemetery custodians polish marble, cradle cats, chat on tomb steps and may open tomb doors for travelers who want to see an interior. (A tip is always welcome, but not mandatory.) Many tombs are lovingly personal, with interiors -- visible through windows or doors -- adorned with symbolic objects and mementoes: exquisite lace cloths over a coffin, a cross encrusted with gems. Behind one wrought-iron door there is a broken chair of carved wood and cane. Inside another there is a black and white photograph of a beautiful woman in a white feather boa. Family, friends, admirers, patriots, visit faithfully. There's usually someone around, and the cemetery is especially busy on weekends. Visitors replenish flowers in vases, polish silver handles on coffins, leave messages, sit and reflect.

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