Buenos Aires Walking Tour
A 2-3 hour walking tour around the Palermo, Recoleta, and Retiro neighborhoods, showcasing the monuments that immigrants built during the 1910 centennial celebrations.
What are we going to do?
2 or 3 hour walking tour around Buenos Aires.
See monuments built to mark the first centennial of independence
Enjoy the neighborhoods and cafés in between the monuments
What are we going to find?
Physical markers of how immigrants worked to carve out a place for themselves in Buenos Aires society
The 1910 centennial of independence offered Argentine politicians and elites the opportunity to foster sentiments of national belonging and commemorate symbols of national history. Remaking urban space in Buenos Aires become one tangible expression of the 1910 moment. The Plaza de Mayo and the Plaza del Congreso were re-designed and the Parque Centenario gave residents in the booming metropolis a new space for leisure activities. The national government set out ambitious plans to build monuments in the capital and elsewhere in the country to nineteenth century leaders, constitutional congresses, and independence battles. The opportunity was not lost on the city’s foreign-born residents, who at the time made up 46 percent of the population. The self-proclaimed leaders of several ethnic communities commissioned monuments that stressed their contribution to the Argentine nation.
It is that narrative of contribution – one that emerged in a moment when the country’s leaders themselves were so focused on Argentine symbols and history and when some elites were beginning to question the benefits of high levels of immigration – that is particularly striking. Immigrants not only participated in a crucial moment of Argentine nationalism but also carved out a place (in brick, marble, and bronze) for cultural pluralism. Alongside José de San Martín and the men who made up the Primera Junta in 1810, there stood symbols of how ethnic difference contributed to Argentine national progress.
In pushing for a place for ethnic communities – or a certain elite image of those communities – in the urban landscape of Buenos Aires, the affluent immigrants involved in making these monuments played an important role in asserting the Europeanness of Argentina. These efforts to become European came at the expense of Indigenous peoples, mestizos, and Afro-Argentines, and so doing helped cement the myth of a white nation. Indeed, the making of a white Argentina took place not only with the arrival of millions of European immigrants and the rejection of others from Asia but also in architecture.
The projects for the 1910 centennial celebrations were part of a broader trend in which politicians and elites remade urban space in the capital city. Starting in the 1880s, there was a series of projects that sought to use architecture and urban planning to transform Buenos Aires into a “modern” city and model of “civilization.” Torcuato de Alvear, the first mayor of the newly federalized city in the 1880s, worked to broaden avenues, following the model of the Haussmann reforms in Paris of the 1850s and 1860s. Avenues were widened, streets paved, and shrubs and trees planted in many plazas. Such urban reforms in Paris, Buenos Aires, and elsewhere also had the goals of pushing working-class people out of certain neighborhoods. A rapidly expanding port and railway network were two important forces that shaped this urban renewal, forces which pulled the center of the city to the Plaza de Mayo (near Puerto Madero) and the Retiro train terminal. Many new buildings appeared in the 1880s, 1890s, and after the turn of the century influenced by the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and many French trained architects found work in Buenos Aires.
This exhibit draws from Benjamin Bryce. “Cultural Pluralism Written in Stone: Ethnic Monuments in the 1910 Argentine Centennial.” In Recasting the Nation in Twentieth-Century Argentina, edited by Benjamin Bryce and David M.K. Sheinin, 18-44. New York: Routledge, 2022.
Immigrant-built Monuments to the 1910 Centennial Celebrations
1. Take the subway to Plaza Italia (Línea D). In this square, you will find the Italian Monument to Garibaldi.
2. From there, walk east through the park to the Spanish Monument (called Monumento a La Carta Magna y las Cuatro Regiones Argentinas on Google Maps). It is 1km away.
3. From there, walk southeast another 750 metres, also through the park, to the German Fountain (Fuente Riqueza Agropecuaria Argentina).
4. Along the way, you can stop at the city’s Japanese garden.
5. After visiting the German fountain, stroll along the Avenida Libertador toward the Plaza Francia. It is 1.6 km along one of the city’s most impressive boulevards.
Longer version or for another tour day
6. The British Clock Tower (subway station Retiro) is 3 km from the Plaza Francia. You can walk through the Recoleta neighborhood along the Avenida Alvear. Head toward the Plaza General San Martín and stop there and at the Monument to the Fallen in the Malvinas.
7. The Italian Monument to Columbus is in the opposite direction, at the Costanera riverfront promenade. It is about 5 km north of the Spanish monument, and easily reachable by bus (37B) or taxi.
8. At the costanera, you can also visit the Park of Memory, which is a memorial to the victims of state terrorism during the last dictatorship.