The “Paris of South America” | Buenos Aires, Argentina

Plaza de Mayo | May Square

In May 1810 the revolution began in what was then called the Plaza de la Victoria. Six years later Argentina won independence from Spain and the square was given its current name, May Square. Since being the scene of the revolution that led to independence, the plaza has since been a hub of political life in Argentina.

Crowds from all walks of life convene in the Plaza de Mayo to voice their political opinions, with some protest groups becoming permanent fixtures in the neighborhood. One of most emblematic symbols of the Plaza de Mayo are the Madres de la Plaza or Mothers of May Square. These are women whose children were ‘disappeared’ by the military dictatorship (1976-1983). The mothers demanded to know where their children were and began to march around the May Pyramid in the middle of the square, wearing handkerchiefs with their children’s’ names embroidered on them. The weekly marches started in 1977 and continue today – you can see the mothers and their supporters in the plaza every Thursday afternoon.

Among the three most important historic buildings on the plaza are the Cabildo (the former seat of the Colonial government); the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral — now famous as Pope Francis’ former parish; and, of course the Presidential Palace, or Casa Rosada.

The Cabildo

The building of the Cabildo was proposed by the city’s Mayor in 1608 on what is now the Plaza de Mayo. Financed with taxes from the port of Buenos Aires, the building was finished in 1610, but was soon found to be too small and had to be expanded. Due to lack of maintenance, by 1682 the building was almost in ruins, and a new Cabildo with 2 stories and 11 arches wide was planned. Construction of the new building did not start until July 23, 1725, but because of a continued lack of funds the tower of the new Cabildo was not finished until 1764, and the remainder of the 280px-Plaza_de_la_Victoriabuilding not finished until well after the May Revolution in 1810. In 1880 the tower was raised by 10 meters and with a dome covered with glazed tiles, instead of the traditional colonial red tiles. The tower was demolished nine years later in 1889 to create space for the Avenida de Mayo avenue and the three northernmost arches of the original eleven were demolished. To create room for the Julio A. Roca avenue, the three southernmost arcs were removed in 1931, restoring the central place of the tower, but leaving only five of the original arches, which can be seen in my photograph below.

Today, the Cabildo hosts the National Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution (Museo Nacional del Cabildo y la Revolución de Mayo) in which paintings, artifacts, clothes and jewellery of the 18th century are on display.


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