Buenos Aires is the starting point—and the flashpoint—of Argentine history. Time has transformed, if not erased, the colonial quarters of Monserrat and San Telmo, but it’s the epic of independence, the era of immigration and excess, the populism of the Peróns, and the ruthless 1976–1983 dictatorship that helped create contemporary Argentina.Destination:Activities:
In 1580, Juan de Garay reestablished Pedro de Mendoza’s failed settlement on what is now the Plaza de Mayo, surrounded by most major national institutions. The barrio’s axis is Avenida de Mayo, linking the Casa Rosada presidential palace (1873–1898) with the Congreso Nacional (National Congress, 1906); the broad perpendicular Avenida 9 de Julio splits Monserrat in half.Destination:Activities:
Colloquially known as the “Plaza de Protestas,” the Plaza de Mayo has often played center stage in Argentine history. The Peróns, in particular, used it for spectacle, convoking hundreds of thousands of descamisados (shirtless ones), their fervent underclass disciples.
Internationally, the plaza gained fame for some of its smallest gatherings ever. From the late 1970s, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo marched silently around the Pirámide de Mayo, its small central obelisk, every Thursday afternoon to demand the return of their adult children kidnapped by the military and paramilitary gangs. Most of the disappeared died at their captors’ hands, but the mothers brought Argentina’s shame to world attention.Destination:Activities:
One of Buenos Aires’s most quietly traditional places, Café Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825, tel. 011/4342-4328, www.cafetortoni.com.ar) has made no concessions to the 21st century and only a few to the 20th: Upholstered chairs and marble tables stand among sturdy columns beneath a ceiling punctuated by stained-glass vitraux, the wallpaper looks original between the stained wooden trim, and walls are decorated with pictures, portraits, and filete, the traditional porteño sign-painter’s calligraphy.Destination:Activities:
As Calle Florida became an elegant shopping district in the late 19th century, Francisco Seeber and Emilio Bunge were the main shareholders in the proposed Bon Marché Argentino, inspired by Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II. Unfortunately, their French investors backed out, but Seeber resurrected the project by 1894 as the Galería Florida.Destination:Activities:
Possibly the continent’s most important performing arts venue, the ornate Colón (1908) reopened in 2010—though it is not yet ready for opera. Even as work proceeded, it managed to offer top-tier international opera, ballet, and symphonic performers, as well as first-rate local talent in opera, ballet, and symphony in alternative venues.Destination:Activities:
For the living and dead alike, Recoleta is Buenos Aires’s prestige address. Its roster of cadavers represents wealth and power as surely as the residents of its Francophile mansions and luxury apartment towers hoard their assets in overseas bank accounts. Arguably, the cemetery is even more exclusive than the neighborhood—enough cash can buy an impressive residence, but not a surname such as Alvear, Anchorena, Mitre, Pueyrredón, or Sarmiento.Destination:Activities:
On the Río Tigre’s right bank, along Avenida General Mitre, two classic rowing clubs are symbols of bygone elegance: dating from 1873, the Anglophile Buenos Aires Rowing Club (Mitre 226), and its 1910 Italian counterpart the Club Canottierri Italiani (Mitre 74). Both still function, but they’re not the exclusive institutions they once were.Destination:Activities:
Almost within swimming distance of Carmelo (Uruguay), the Precambrian bedrock island of Martín García boasts a fascinating history, lush woodlands, and an almost unmatchable tranquility as a retreat from the frenzy of the federal capital and even provincial suburbs.
Only 3.5 kilometers off the Uruguayan coast but 33.5 kilometers from Tigre, 168-hectare Martín García rises 27 meters above sea level. Its native vegetation is dense gallery forest; part of it is a zona intangible provincial forest reserve.Destination:Activities:
From Posadas, undulating RN 12 climbs and dips northeast over leached red earth past several Jesuit mission ruins, the best-preserved of which is San Ignacio Miní. Though less well-preserved, Santa Ana and Loreto both have their assets, but progress in restoration has nearly ceased.Destination:Activities:
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