Buenos Aires

views updated Jun 08 2018

Buenos Aires

Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America

Founded: 1536
Location: On the western bank of the Río de la Plata estuary across from Uruguay, 150 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, Argentina, South America.
Flag: A black eagle with a red beak, wearing a crown and holding a red cross, on a white field.
Time Zone: 9 am = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: 75% Spanish or Italian descent.
Latitude and Longitude: 34°36S, 58°28W
Coastline: 20 kilometers (12 mi)along the Río de La Plata.
Climate : Hot, humid summers. The winter months of June to August are mild but humid. Frosts occur from May to September, but snow is extremely rare.
Annual Mean Temperature: Overall 60°F (16°C); summer (DecemberFebruary) 83°F (28°C); winter (JuneAug) 52°F (11°C).
Average Annual Precipitation: 43.2 inches (1,096 mm)
Government: Elected mayor and legislature, but Federal government makes major decisions affecting the capital city.
Weights And Measures: Metric
Monetary Units: The peso (on par with the U.S. dollar). U.S. dollar is widely accepted.
Telephone Area Codes: Argentina country code: (54); Buenos Aires: (1).
Postal Codes: The Correo Argentino, the privatized postal service, created a 4-letter, 4-number code.

1. Introduction

Early in the twentieth century, Buenos Aires, the city of fair winds, became one of the world's great cities. By the tens of thousands, European immigrants sailed across the Atlantic to the "Paris of Latin America" looking for a better life. Money seemed no object in those days. Fueled by the great agricultural wealth that came from the heart-land of the nation, great new buildings and monuments were the order of the day. In 1908, a grand opera house opened its doors to world acclaim and became a symbol of Buenos Aires' wealth and sophistication. By 1913, the city had Latin America's first underground metro system in operation. The city continued growing through two world wars and a global economic crisis in the 1930s.

The city's residents, known as Porteños, or people of the port, were confident and brash. To the people of neighboring countries, the Porteños were arrogant and aloof. The dapper Carlos Gardel epitomized the Porteño during the height of his musical and acting career early in the century. Supremely confident, always well dressed and neatly groomed, Gardel was an ambassador to the Tango, a melancholic music that grew out of the fringes of Buenos Aires.

By the end of the twentieth century, Buenos Aires had managed to retain if not its confidence at least its arrogance as it literally fell apart. In the 1990s, the Porteño media were busy reporting stories about decaying buildings that dropped balconies onto the street like rotten apples falling off trees, the heavy pollution that tainted the city's buenos aires, corruption and police brutality, the proliferation of rats and feral cats, and countless other problems.

Economists and historians are still trying to figure out what went wrong in Argentina. Once the seventh-wealthiest country in the world, it quickly dropped to seventy-seventh by the 1960s. The blame is often placed on the economic policies of former President Juan Domingo Perón, who created the nation's most powerful political movement in the 1950s and attempted to industrialize the nation at the cost of agriculture. Just as devastating to the nation was the brutal military dictatorship of 197683, which ruled with an iron fist from the capital city of Buenos Aires. Thousands of Argentineans were killed, and thousands who were arrested were never seen again. In the capital's main Plaza de Mayo, a square in front of the government palace, each Thursday a group of mothers remind the nation of sons and daughters not yet found.

Buenos Aires Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 3,040,000
Area: 200 sq km (77 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 75% Spanish or Italian ancestry; 25% other, including Russian Jews, English, French, German, Lebanese, and Syrian
Nicknames: Inhabitants are known as Porteños (port dwellers or people of the port)

Metropolitan Area

Population: 12,431,000
Description: Greater Buenos Aires Metropolitan area (city and 22 suburbs)
Area: 3,680 sq km (1,420 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 10
Percentage of national population 2: 34%
Average yearly growth rate: 1.0%

  1. The Buenos Aires metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Argentina's total population living in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

Yet, despite all its problems, Buenos Aires retains much of its old charm. Some of its neighborhoods have not changed at all in the past 100 years and remain a living example of the city's golden age. Millions of people visit Buenos Aires each year. They come to experience the tango, eat at renowned and expensive restaurants, shop at sophisticated boutiques, and visit dozens of museums. Slowly, the city is transforming itself, starting with its long-neglected waterfront. More people are riding the improved subway, which saw declining numbers for decades. Porteños go on, sipping thick espressos and mate, a national drink made from a herb. During long sobremesas, the customary after-meal conversations, they continue to discuss politics and other issues of importance.

2. Getting There

Buenos Aires is located on the west bank of the Río de la Plata, at the northeastern edge of the Pampa, a flat plain of rich soil that is to Argentina what the Midwest is to the United States. The Río de la Plata is an estuary of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers that come together to form a broad, shallow, and muddy marine inlet between Uruguay and Argentina.


The national highway system is centered in the city, radiating from there to all of Argentina and neighboring countries. All distances on the national highway system are measured from a 0-kilometer marker located in a small square across from the National Congress building. From there, national highways 1, 2, and 3 (which runs to Tierra del Fuego) serve the southern part of the country. Highways 5 and 7 serve the western part of the country, and highways 8 and 9 serve the north.

Bus, Railroad, and River Service

Three major bus terminals offer daily national and international travel, with departures to dozens of Argentinean cities, and the neighboring countries of Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay. Unlike the United States, dozens of bus companies compete for business in Argentina. At bus terminals in Buenos Aires, each company has a desk like an airline ticket counter. Buses have replaced inter-city trains and only the Roca line within Buenos Aires province maintains service. Three companies provide boat and ferry service to the Uruguayan cities of Colonia and Montevideo across the Río de la Plata. Aliscafos has fast hydrofoils. Ferrylineas has hydrofoils and ferries. Buquebus offers a ferry-bus combination to Colonia and Montevideo.


Ezeiza International Airport, 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of downtown Buenos Aires, has national and international service, with direct flights to selected cities in the United States. Aerolineas Argentinas, with 150 international and 350 domestic flights per week, is the largest carrier at Ezeiza. Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, five minutes north of the downtown area, serves as a regional airport, with some international departures.


The Port of Buenos Aires is the largest in South America and the economic engine of the country. It handles 96 percent of the nation's container traffic and 40 percent of all international transactions measured in U.S. dollars. In 1998, it handled nearly eight million metric tons (nine million tons) of cargo. Sixty maritime companies work out of five terminals handling more than 70 vessels per week. The port has a grain terminal that can handle 170,000 metric tons (187,340 tons). A narrow channel that leads from the port to the mouth of the Atlantic is constantly being dredged to keep the heavy traffic flowing. The port is old, and most of its decaying facilities have not been replaced. Thousands of trucks coming in and out of the port each week contribute to Buenos Aires' critical traffic problem. Five railroad lines serve the port.

3. Getting Around

Central Buenos Aires is built on a grid parallel to the Río de la Plata. The Plaza de Mayo is a large open square near the waterfront. From here, Buenos Aires grew outward in a semicircle. Rivadavia Avenue, which begins at Plaza de Mayo, continues westward for about 40 kilometers (25 miles).

City Fact Comparison
IndicatorBuenos AiresCairoRomeBeijing
Population of urban area112,431,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded1536AD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$235$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$72$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$18$14$15$16
Total daily costs (hotel, meals, incidentals)$325$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city28132011
Largest newspaperClarinAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper700,0001,159,339754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1945194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Private companies operate the bus system. The fleet serves 299 lines covering 24,135 kilometers (15,000 miles) of roads. The private Subterraneos de Buenos Aires, a subway in operation since 1913, has five underground lines and 63 stations, covering 36.5 kilometers (23 miles) of the city. A light rail line travels 7.4 kilometers (five miles) with 13 stops. Six commuter trains covering 965 kilometers (600 miles) serve Buenos Aires and its suburbs. According to 1988 figures, 73.3 percent of passengers rode buses and trolleys, 16.6 percent rode the metropolitan rail, and ten percent rode the subway. At the same time, nearly one million passenger vehicles crowded the streets.


Many companies offer sightseeing tours in Buenos Aires and the surrounding areas. A train that caters to tourists departs from the Retiro station in Buenos Aires to the northern suburb of Tigre. There are daily departures to the Uruguayan cities of Colonia and Montevideo.

4. People

According to Argentina's National Institute of Statistics and Census, the population of Buenos Aires stood at 3.04 million people (1.65 million women and 1.38 million men) in 1998. The greater metropolitan area had 13.9 million people, making it one of the largest urban concentrations in the world. The densely populated city has 15,201 inhabitants per square kilometer. Nearly 11 percent of the city's residents are foreigners. In the year 2000, 16.8 percent of residents were over the age of 65, and 17.5 percent were under the age of 14.

Most Porteños are the descendants of immigrants from Spain and Italy who came to Argentina in large numbers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, long after the conquering Spaniards pushed off the indigenous people from the area. Many other Europeans have settled in Buenos Aires, including Germans, British, and Jews from central and Eastern Europe. More than 400,000 Jews live in the city, one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. In the 1990s, Buenos Aires was the focus of anti-Semitism. An explosion killed 29 people at the Israeli Embassy in 1992, and another bomb destroyed a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 87 people.

Non-European immigration historically was not welcomed, but there are many people from the Middle East, including Syria and Lebanon. They are collectively known as turcos (Turks). The term sometimes is used in a derogatory manner. Despite their small numbers, some have risen to national prominence, including President Carlos Menem, who is of Syrian ancestry.

In the 1930s, large numbers of poor immigrants from Northern Argentina moved to Buenos Aires looking for work. The newcomers were mostly Mestizo (mixed Indian and European). Today, Mestizos make up about one-third of the population of the city, and many of them remain in poverty. Some live in the villas miserias (villages of misery), shantytowns in the outskirts of the city, and in crowded conditions near the heart of the city. In more recent years, many Bolivians, Peruvians, Paraguayans, and Uruguayans have moved to Buenos Aires.

The national language is Spanish, but many other languages are spoken in the city, including Italian, German, and English. One of the oldest English-language newspapers in the Americas, The Buenos Aires Herald, has been in circulation since 1876. A colorful slang known as Lunfardo is spoken in the city's slums and waterfront neighborhoods. Argentineans and neighboring Chileans often refer to the Spanish language as Castellano (Castilian).

5. Neighborhoods

The capital city is divided into 48 barrios, or neighborhoods. Most are working-class barrios, while others resemble the rich enclaves of Los Angeles and New York City. Buenos Aires developed outward from the Plaza de Mayo, the historic square that is surrounded by the presidential palace known as the Casa Rosada (pink house), the colonial Town Hall (cabildo), and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

As the city grew, it turned its back on its working waterfront, physically and metaphorically. The Casa Rosada looked toward the Pampas, not the Río de la Plata. By the 1990s, city officials shifted gears and developed a plan to revive the waterfront. Millions of dollars were pumped into the new water-front neighborhood of Puerto Madero. A marina was built, and expensive restaurants and shops opened in the old brick warehouses. The latest census showed a few hundred people lived in the neighborhood.

West of Puerto Madero, in an area generally known as the centro (down-town), buildings date to the nineteenth century. To the south, in the barrio San Telmo, visitors can still see many buildings from the colonial era. The barrio was once a fashionable address, where the wealthier Porteños settled in large homes. In the nineteenth century, the elite abandoned San Telmo to escape yellow fever and moved further inland and north of the centro. They settled in barrios known as Palermo, Recoleta, and Retiro, today home to middle and upper-class Porteños.

San Telmo declined for many decades, and many homes became conventillos, cramped and unkempt living quarters for poor immigrants. Today, San Telmo is considered an artist's quarter, with low rents, and many antique stores and restaurants. Some areas have been restored and gentrified.

South of San Telmo is the famous and colorful barrio of La Boca (mouth), a mostly working class neighborhood that got its start at the mouth of the Riachuelo River. Originally, Italian immigrants settled in La Boca. They worked in the neighborhood's meat salting plants, which brought prosperity to Buenos Aires in the nineteenth century. Tourists flock to Caminito, a pedestrian walkway named after a famous tango, an Argentinean form of ballroom dancing that got its start on the fringes of Buenos Aires in the late 1880s. Caminito is flanked by modest homes brightly painted in an array of colors. During the day, artists sell their work, and couples show their tango steps to tourists.

North of Plaza de Mayo, the city opens up into large avenues, pedestrian walkways, and large parks. The cultural and business center of the nation is here. Avenida Santa Fe, lined by expensive restaurants and boutiques, is typical of the Barrio Norte, which includes the neighborhoods of Recoleta, Palermo, and Retiro, among others. Recoleta has remained a chic address, even for the dead. Some of the wealthiest and most famous Argentineans, including the cultural icon Eva Perón, are buried at the Cementerio de la Recoleta in the heart of the neighborhood.

Detached single-family homes are quite rare in Buenos Aires. Traditionally, families lived in row houses with interior patios or gardens. As the population grew more rapidly, two-and three-story buildings separated by a common wall were built. These buildings were known as petit hotels. In the twentieth century, detached high-rise apartment buildings began to dominate the landscape. In the Barrio Norte, these buildings stretch for many blocks. Some of them take up a whole block. According to government figures, about five percent of the population lives in substandard housing. In metropolitan Buenos Aires, the typical living unit in the villas miserias is a corrugated metal shack.

6. History

In 1536, the Spaniard Pedro de Mendozaunder orders by the Spanish kingdom to establish a settlementand 1,600 of his men camped on a bluff overlooking the Río de la Plata. To the west, and stretching as far as the eye could see, lay the Pampa, a flat plain of rich soil. Relations with the Querandí (an indigenous people who populated this part of the continent) quickly deteriorated, and the Spaniards were forced to leave five years later. More than four decades would pass before the Spaniards attempted to settle the area again.

In 1580, Juan de Garay (c. 15281583) and 300 people settled at the mouth of the Río Riachuelo and reestablished the city of Buenos Aires. They discovered that cattle and horses brought by Mendoza's men had multiplied and spread across the Pampa, easing their attempts to settle the area. In time, the domestication of wild horses and cattle and life in the vast Pampa would have a profound impact on the culture of Argentina and Buenos Aires' rise to power.

For 200 years, Buenos Aires remained a sleepy, isolated town, governed by the Viceroyalty of Peru. (A viceroyalty is a province ruled by a governor in the name of the Spanish King.) Buenos Aires' growth was hampered by Spain's rigid trade regulations, which allowed only certain ports to handle goods destined for Spain. Any goods from Argentina traveled over vast distances by land to the Peruvian port of Callao, where they were shipped to Panama and then transferred to ships going to Spain.

The great distance between Lima and Buenos Aires helped Porteños establish their own distinct identity. The isolation and vastness of the Pampa gave rise to a unique culture as well. The Pampa became synonymous with the Gaucho, the celebrated Argentinean cowboy whose image was resurrected as a symbol of national identity.

By the early eighteenth century, the fertile and well-irrigated land west and north of Buenos Aires was producing thousands of tons of cereal and dried beef and thousands of cattle hides. Financed by British capital, smugglers exported the goods through the Port of Buenos Aires to markets in Brazil and the Caribbean Islands, much to the consternation of Spain, which could not stop the illegal trade. In 1776, the Spanish kingdom named Buenos Aires the capital of the new Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. Many factors led to that decision. Chief among them was the growing economic importance of Buenos Aires and the entire region. Spain also sought to deflate British influence and collect more taxes from the growing commerce.

The British, of course, would not give up so easily on Buenos Aires. British troops attempted to invade the city in 1806 and 1807 but were soundly defeated by local forces. Already infused with a strong sense of self-identity, the victories over the British boosted Argentine nationalism among Porteños. By 1808, when French commander Napoleon Bonaparte's forces invaded Spain, the citizens of Buenos Aires began to question their allegiance to the Spanish kingdom. Two years later, in May of 1810, Buenos Aires severed its ties with Spain. But the surrounding provinces did not follow suit until 1816, when they declared their independence and named Buenos Aires the new capital of the United Provinces of Río de la Plata. By then, Buenos Aires had become a dominant force in the region, and neighboring provinces attempted to curve its power. Following a long period of unrest and a power struggle, Buenos Aires emerged even stronger and was named the federal capital of Argentina in 1880. Heavy British investment had sustained growth in the region during this time, and by the late 1880s, Buenos Aires was becoming one of the wealthiest and most important cities in the world. Porteños began to call their city the Paris of South America and embarked on an ambitious construction program. Beautiful mansions and buildings, wide avenues, expensive hotels, and restaurants became permanent fixtures in the city's landscape. The Teatro Colón, an architectural jewel used for ballet, opera, and classical music, opened in 1908 to world acclaim.

With massive immigration from Spain and Italy to keep the factories and farms spinning around the clock, the city's population grew from about 90,000 people in 1851 to 1.3 million people by 1910. By the beginning of World War I (191418), Argentina had become one of the world's top exporters of agricultural products, with most of it channeled through the Port of Buenos Aires. Yet, few benefited from the wealth. Large numbers of newcomers were forced into substandard housing. Workers could barely feed their families on low wages. Social unrest in the city reached a boiling point in 1919, when the army attacked metalworkers on strike. The suppression of the workers came to be known as La Semana Trágica (The Tragic Week).

Buenos Aires kept on growing rapidly. By the 1930s, the city embarked on a modernization project, tearing down colonial neighborhoods and narrow streets and replacing them with modern buildings and wide avenues. Suburban communities and Buenos Aires grew closer to each other, becoming a massive metropolis after World War II (193945). The mid-twentieth century also marked a dramatic shift in migration. By 1930, international immigration came to a halt. The new migrants were mostly mestizos from northern Argentina. They poured into the city by the thousands. Unable to find suitable housing, they settled in the villas miser-ias around the city.

The centralization of jobs, goods, and services in Buenos Aires brought prosperity to the city at the cost of other cities, where growth simply stopped. In time, it also hurt Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires today is a tired but proud city. It is obsessed with trying to fix its decaying infrastructure, to alleviate its heavy pollution, and to deal with massive poverty and chronic unemployment. Argentine officials have attempted to decentralize government by moving the federal city to other regions of Argentina; however, their attempts have not been successful.

7. Government

Like Washington, D.C., Buenos Aires is a federal district. It is home to the President of the Republic and National Congress. Unlike Washington, D.C., Buenos Aires has a voting member in Congress.

Until 1996, the president appointed the mayor of Buenos Aires, and the elected city council had negligible power. By law, the president and congress controlled any legislation that affected the city.

But constitutional reforms allowed Fernando de la Rúa to become the city's first elected mayor in 1996. In 1999, he was considered a top contender for the presidency. The city council was replaced with an elected 60-member Poder Legislativo (legislative power). The members are elected by proportional representation to four-year terms. City officials, including the mayor, are allowed to run for two consecutive terms but must sit out for a full term before running for office again.

8. Public Safety

Statistics from the Buenos Aires government show a sharp increase in crime between 1991 and 1996. Crimes reported to police increased from 42,796 in 1991 to 126,920 in 1996. Homicides rose from 19 to 177 during the same period. Of great concern to the Buenos Aires population are crimes committed by police. In 1998, the United Nations Committee Against Torture reported its concerns over growing police brutality in Buenos Aires and the rest of the nation. Amnesty International, a London-based human rights organization, also noted police obstruction to prevent investigations of police brutality, the atrocious treatment of prisoners, and attacks against the media.

Between 1976 and 1983, Argentina was ruled from Buenos Aires by a brutal dictatorship responsible for the murder of thousands of Argentineans, many of them in the capital city, where the police and military acted as a repressive force. As many as 9,000 Argentineans are among the "disappeared," people whose bodies have not been found. In recent years, Buenos Aires' new government has attempted to curb police abuses such as bribery and brutality by decriminalizing some activities, including prostitution and public drunkenness.

9. Economy

Throughout its history, the city has depended on its port, the largest in South America, for much of its economic activity. Argentina is heavily dependent on the export of its agricultural products, and most of it is processed and shipped from Buenos Aires. The intense trade helped Buenos Aires develop a diversified economy, and by the twentieth century the city was the nation's center of banking and finance. The city itself was unable to absorb the massive growth in trade-related and new industries during the twentieth century. Most of those jobs went to the suburbs, where about half of the nation's manufacturing jobs are located. Avellaneda, just south of the Federal District, is an important industrial center.

While most workers are engaged in food processing, including grains, meat, and fish, others assemble cars, refine oil, or work in other factories. In the city, the workforce numbers about 1.4 million people, with about 36 percent involved in services, 18 percent in trade, 17 percent in manufacturing, and about 12 percent in finance, insurance, and real estate.

As part of its economic plan, Argentina privatized many public assets during the 1990s, including many enterprises that affect the city. Some of the most important former public services that been sold or licensed to private companies include the phone company ENTel, the national airline Aerolineas Argentinas, the petroleum enterprise YPF, the mail system, and public transportation, including the underground metro service and regional commuter rail service.

10. Environment

The Riachuelo River is the most visible example of Buenos Aires' environmental problems. The river is littered with rusted ships, many of them barely floating on water that is heavily saturated with oil. The sediments are even a worse problem, with untold concentrations of heavy metals and chemical pollutants. The Río de la Plata also is heavily contaminated. Cleaning the waterways remains one of the city's most pressing problems. With hundreds of thousands of cars, buses, and trucks on the roads, the air is heavily polluted. The city also has reported serious problems with feral (wild) cats and mice.

11. Shopping

Buenos Aires is famous for its leather and woolen goods. Leather jackets, saddles, boots, and many other items are sold at many expensive shops in the northern barrios of the city. Some downtown streets lined by shops have been closed to automobiles and turned into pedestrian malls. Buenos Aires is a well-read city, and hundreds of bookstores offer books in many languages. Expensive shops and malls similar to those in the United States are found throughout the city and the metropolitan area.

12. Education

Porteños are among the best-educated people in the world, with high literacy rates and school completion rates. The world-renowned University of Buenos Aires (1821) had more than 180,000 students enrolled in 1997. Its faculty members have earned Nobel Prizes in science and medical fields. In the Spanish-speaking world, Buenos Aires is a publishing powerhouse and home to important literary figures. In 1997, 664,273 students attended primary and secondary school. Most primary and secondary schools are public, including special national high schools that function as college preparatory schools. The Roman Catholic Church also operates many private institutions, including two universities: Salvador University and Roman Catholic University. Other important institutions of higher learning are the private University of Belgrano, the National Conservatory of Music, and the National School of Fine Arts.

13. Health Care

In 1995, Buenos Aires had more than 1,000 medical facilities, including 181 hospitals. More than 23,000 hospital beds are available at private and public hospitals. Many Argentineans come to Buenos Aires for special care not available in other parts of the country. The city has seven physicians per 1,000 residents.

14. Media

Buenos Aires is Argentina's media capital, with 49 book publishers, 29 periodicals, 14 daily newspapers, 12 foreign press offices, six television stations, and three news agencies. Newspapers in Buenos Aires have clearly defined political leanings, with some of them claiming a centrist position. The tabloid Clarín, with a daily circulation of 600,000 and more than one million on Sundays, is the world's largest Spanish-language newspaper. La Nación (1870) is one of the oldest and most respected newspapers in Latin America. The English-language Buenos Aires Herald has been publishing daily since 1876. Pagina 12 is a left-leaning newspaper known for its investigative pieces.

15. Sports

Buenos Aires and the greater metropolitan area are home to some of the most celebrated professional soccer teams in the world. Many of the top clubs got their start in Buenos Aires before moving to the suburbs. Eight of the 20 first-division teams are in the capital city, while five are in the suburbs. Among the best-known teams are Boca Juniors, which plays at the famous La Bombonera stadium, and its arch-rival River Plate, which plays in the wealthy northern barrio of Nuñez. Independiente's home is just south of La Boca in the suburb of Avellaneda. Other well-known teams include Racing Club and San Lorenzo. The national team won the World Cup in Greater Buenos Aires in 1978 when the country hosted the event.

Porteños are not limited to soccer. The country's long history and attachment to horses continue to fuel great interest in polo, horse racing and pato (duck), a game similar to polo that owes its root to Gaucho culture. Pato was once a violent game played with a real duck encased in a leather bag. Serious injuries were common. But the game has mellowed, and pato players now use a ball with handles instead of a real duck. Many other sports are popular in the city, including tennis, boxing, and basketball.

16. Parks and Recreation

The city has many parks and plazas, and they are quite busy on weekends when Porteños traditionally go out for a stroll. One of the city's largest parks is in Palermo. Within its grounds are a horse racing arena, polo fields, tennis courts, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. Nearby Plaza Alemania is a favorite hangout for young skateboarders. During the dictatorship years of 1976 to 1983, the military filled a large area in the Río de la Plata just east of the port as part of a plan to create a satellite city. The city never materialized, but birds and other wildlife took over the area. Today, it is known as Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, an ecological reserve popular with birdwatchers.

17. Performing Arts

The Teatro Colón is a beautiful building and symbolic of the importance given to the performing arts. The theater is home to the country's national ballet and national symphony.

In recent years, Porteños have revived and firmly embraced the tango as a symbol of Porteño life. The old tango and the modern, sometimes experimental, tango are performed throughout the city, in important venues, seedy cafes, and often on the streets.

Much like New York City, Buenos Aires has a lively theater culture, especially during the winter season when dozens of new plays open to the public. One of the main venues is the San Martin Municipal Theater, which has three main auditoriums and several smaller ones. Porteños are fond of peñas, a performance where folk songs and dances are accompanied by a hearty Argentinean meal.

18. Libraries and Museums

Buenos Aires is home to the National Library and dozens of public and private museums, some operated by the municipal government. Several museums are devoted to the history of the city and its residents. They include the Mitre Museum, dedicated to one of Argentina's earliest presidents, Bartolomé Mitre (president 186268); Museo de la Ciudad (the City Museum), and a museum dedicated to the economic history of the city and province of Buenos Aires. The Museo del Cine (the Cinema Museum) focuses on the long, and sometimes glorious, history of Argentine cinema. The National Historical Museum offers a portrait of the country, and the National Museum of Theater traces the history of Argentine theater. The National Museum of Fine Arts has the works of many of the world's greatest masters. The collection includes works by Argentinean painters and sculptors.

19. Tourism

Buenos Aires is a popular tourist destination, with more than ten million visitors annually. Most visitors are from Argentina and neighboring countries, but large numbers of visitors come from the United States and Europe. Tourism is important to the city's economy. During the summer of 199798 (December through March), two-and-a-half million visitors spent more than $900 million. The city has a wide variety of accommodations, from luxury hotels to simple rooms in private homes. In 1997, there were a total of 1,228 places to stay, with more than 84,000 beds. The city has much to offer visitors, from fine dining to sports and cultural activities.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Año Nuevo (New Year's Day, January 1)

Viernes Santo (Good Friday)

Día del Trabajador (Labor Day, May 1)
Revolucíon de Mayo (May Revolution, May 25)

Día de las Malvinas (Day of the Falkland Islands, June 10)
Día de la Bandera (Flag Day, June 20)

Independence Day (July 9)

Día de San Martín (commemoration of San Martín's death)

Día de la Raza (Columbus Day, Oct. 12)

21. Famous Citizens

Jorge Luis Borges (18991986), one of the most important writers in Latin American and world literature.

Manuel Puig (193290), novelist, internationally known for his novel Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976).

Luis Maria Drago (18591921), statesman who became a respected member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands, best known for the international law called the Drago Doctrine (1907).

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (191683), twentieth-century composer of opera known for combining nationalistic musical idioms with twentieth-century techniques.

While the following notable citizens may not have been born in Buenos Aires, they are closely identified with the city:

Former President Juan Domingo Perón (18951974), and his first wife, Eva Perón (19191952), both considered to be political and cultural icons of the nation.

Tango singer and actor Carlos Gardel (18901935).

22. For Further Study


Buenos Aires Herald (English-language). [Online] Available http://www.bueonosairesherald.com (accessed April 17, 2000).

Columbus World Travel Guide. "Buenos Aires." [Online] Available http://www.travelguides.com/data/arg/arg140.asp (accessed April 17, 2000).

Government Offices

Argentinean Embassy
1600 New Hampshire Ave.
Washington D.C. 20009
Phone: 202 2386460

U.S. Consulates:
5550 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 210
Los Angeles. CA 90036
Phone: 213 9549155

205 N. Michigan Ave.
Suite 4209
Chicago, IL. 60601
Phone: 312 8192610

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Direccion General de Turismo de la Municipal-idad de Buenos Aires (tourism offices for the city of Buenos Aires)
Centro Cultural San Martin
Sarmiento 1551
Montserrat, Buenos Aires
Phone: 54144763612

Direccion Nacional de Turismo (National Tourism Office)
Ave. Santa Fe 883
Retiro, Buenos Aires
Phone: 54143122232


Adelman, Jeremy. Republic of Capital: Buenos Aires and the Legal Transformation of the Atlantic World. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

APA Publications. Inside Guides: Buenos Aires. Singapore: Hoyer Press, 1998.

Baily, Samuel L. and Franco Ramella (eds.). One Family, Two Worlds: An Italian Family's Correspondence Across the Atlantic: 190122. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988.

Bernhardson, Wayne. Buenos Aires, From World-class Opera to Tango Lessons. Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet, 1999.

France, Miranda. Bad Times in Buenos Aires: A Writer's Adventures in Argentina. New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1999.

Reid, George Andrews. The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires: 18001900. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980.

Ross, Stanley R. and Thomas F. McGann (eds.) Buenos Aires: 400 Years. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.

Scobie, James R. Buenos Aires: Plaza to Suburb, 18701910. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Sofer, Eugene F . From Pale to Pampa. A Social History of the Jews of Buenos Aires. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1982.

Shumway, Nicolas. The Invention of Argentina. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991.

Buenos Aires

views updated May 11 2018

Buenos Aires

The city of Buenos Aires was first settled in 1536 by the explorer Pedro de Mendoza, whose attempt to establish a permanent outpost of the Spanish colonial empire on the banks of the Río de la Plata estuary failed after five difficult years. It was not until 1580 that an expedition from Asunción, Paraguay, led by Juan de Garay, succeeded in permanently settling the city of Buenos Aires (whose name means "good airs or winds" after a popular patron saint of navigators, Nuestra Señora Santa María de Buen Aire). From humble beginnings the city grew to become one of the most important urban centers in the world. Moreover, it came to dominate the rest of the Argentine republic in a manner that has few parallels.


During the Spanish colonial period (1580–1810), the city of Buenos Aires served primarily as an administrative and commercial center. Despite crown restrictions that limited trading activities, the city's strategic location as the principal outlet to the Atlantic for the growing agricultural production of its immensely fertile hinterland led inevitably to its increasing importance within the Spanish realm. In 1618 it became the seat of an imperial governorship and in 1776 was named the fourth viceregal capital of the Americas. At that time, its administrative authority extended through most of southern South America. The population of the city dominated by bureaucrats and merchants increased from some 14,000 people in 1750 to 40,000 by 1800.

The movement for Argentine independence from Spanish control began in the city of Buenos Aires on May 25, 1810, with the convocation of a cabildo abierto (open town meeting) and the replacement of the peninsular viceroy with a creole-dominated junta. Over the next decade the city served as the main center of revolutionary activity as a variety of governing bodies, or triumvirates, sought to lead the break from Spain while retaining the territorial integrity of the viceroyalty. During this period a major split occurred among the creole leadership between Unitarios, those who favored a strong centralized government located in Buenos Aires, and Federales, who championed provincial autonomy. Independence was officially declared in 1816 and confirmed with military victories in the early 1820s.

Independence ended the administrative control the city had once enjoyed over its viceregal dominions, but at the same time it set in motion forces and events that assured Buenos Aires's dominance over the emerging nation it was destined to lead. The elimination of restrictions on trade that came with independence enabled the city to flourish economically. At the same time, the disappearance of the crown protection that had favored certain cities in the interior produced in them a corresponding decline, which led to their subordination to the nation's main port, whose inhabitants became known as porteños. Serving as the capital both of the province of Buenos Aires and of the nation, except for minor interruptions, the city developed a predominance in the nineteenth century that resulted in frequent wars and antagonisms with the rest of the republic. These clashes were resolved to some degree in 1880 with the establishment of a separate federal capital district.

The population growth of Buenos Aires paralleled the city's economic and political expansion. By 1860 the number of porteños had more than doubled since the turn of the century, reaching almost 100,000 in that year. This expansion paled, however, in comparison with that which followed. Between 1869 and 1914 the city's population exploded from 177,000 to 1,577,000, making Buenos Aires one of the world's ten largest cities. By 1914 one in five Argentines lived in the city, and when the surrounding provincial cities of what was called Greater Buenos Aires were included, the proportion reached one in four.

Massive foreign immigration fueled this demographic explosion. Beginning slowly in the mid-nineteenth century and gaining increasing momentum until the outbreak of World War I, waves of immigration brought hundreds of thousands of foreigners to settle in Argentina. The federal capital absorbed many of these: By 1914 one of every two porteños was of foreign birth. About 80 percent of these new arrivals were from Italy and Spain. Also significant within the city was a sizable Jewish community, mostly from Russia, and smaller but important groups from Britain, France, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.

Rapid economic growth in the country as a whole, which was based primarily on agricultural exports and foreign investment, accompanied the immigration and demographic expansion. This economic growth in turn spurred the modernization of the city. Between 1870 and 1910 Buenos Aires was transformed from an overgrown riverside town to an imposing cosmopolitan metropolis and the major capital city of Latin America. During this period there were extensive public improvements in transportation, sanitation, street paving, and services such as gas, water, and electricity. The city was also the main terminus for Latin America's most extensive railroad system and the site of major new port facilities. Widespread civic beautification programs led some to call Buenos Aires the Paris of South America. Even with its growth and change, however, the capital retained the bureaucratic-commercial character that had marked it since the colonial period.

The modernization and beautification of Buenos Aires continued throughout the twentieth century. By the 1940s the city boasted a public transportation system that included Latin America's first major subway as well as streetcars, buses, and taxis. To accommodate these new conveyances, the colonial grid pattern of narrow, congested streets was broken by the construction of broad new avenues to open up the capital's downtown and link it with the rapidly growing suburban districts. At the same time, imposing multistory residential and commercial buildings appeared in the center and near north side, complementing the horizontal growth of the capital.

Another factor in the growth of Buenos Aires in the twentieth century was industrialization. Between 1914 and 1964, for example, the number of industrial establishments in the metropolitan area grew from 17,000 to 73,000 and the number of people employed in them increased from 308,000 to 726,000. Through the twentieth century, Buenos Aires and its surrounding suburbs contained 40 percent of all Argentine industry and more than 50 percent of those who toiled in industrial occupations.

This growth of industry has had important demographic consequences. Opportunities for employment in the expanding manufacturing sector of Buenos Aires encouraged native-born Argentines from the interior to relocate to the capital and its environs. Beginning in earnest in the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of provincianos undertook the trek to the capital, largely compensating for the decline in foreign immigration following the Great Depression. Settling primarily in the suburban areas surrounding the capital, they contributed significantly to the rapid growth of Greater Buenos Aires, which by the early twenty-first century contained more than three times as many inhabitants (10,000,000) as the capital (3,000,000). The continuing flow into the metropolitan area maintained its demographic predominance: It is now home to one in three Argentines.

The pattern of growth and settlement in Buenos Aires has been from the central core outward. Foreign-born immigrants and native-born migrants alike have gravitated toward the more open and accessible outlying districts of the city and its suburbs, which have grown at phenomenal rates. Despite this outward expansion, the central historical core has remained the vital heart of the city and, in many respects, of the country, as the principal location of the nation's main governmental, commercial, and financial buildings, and as the site of its most important social and cultural institutions.

A coalition of national and local leaders has directed the growth of Buenos Aires. As the seat of national administration, the city has been officially under the jurisdiction of federal authorities who retain ultimate control over its governance and provide such essential services as fire and police protection and education. From 1880 to 1996, local administration was under the direction of an intendente (intendant) appointed by the national government, who served in conjunction with an elected concejo deliberante (city council). Since 1996 the intendant has been popularly elected, a change meant to give local government greater autonomy and authority.

Containing from 10 to 15 percent of the nation's population, Buenos Aires has been a valued prize for political parties competing in national elections. The capital has also been the locale for most of the principal political developments in the nation's history. These events have ranged from the street rallies and demonstrations of democratic election campaigns, to the frequent military takeovers that marked the nation between 1930 and 1976, to the popular protests related to the "Dirty War" of the 1970s and 1980s, to the economic crisis of 2001–2002.

During the 1990s the city underwent some major transformations, driven by private-sector investment. These included the renovation of the port area, Puerto Madero, into a complex of swank restaurants, apartments, and bars and the refurbishing of the centrally-located Mercado de Abasto (Provisions Market) into an upscale shopping center, accompanied by a process of gentrification that led to the removal of low-cost housing and its inhabitants from the surrounding area. At the same time, United States-style shopping malls proliferated to the point that by the late 1990s Buenos Aires boasted one-third of the national total (with less than 10 percent of the population) and the metropolitan area half the country's megastores. In addition, in the downtown area and to the north so-called "smart" multistory office buildings designed for up-to-date computer use began to dominate the cityscape along with numerous international hotels. In well-to-do neighborhoods such as the Barrio Norte (Northern Neighborhood) and Belgrano, exclusive self-contained torre (garden tower) high-rise condominiums, offering modern amenities and, through controlled access, personal security, became increasingly popular for those who could afford them. In the northern suburbs, connected to the center of the city by a growing network of superhighways, gated residential communities offered similar security and comfort for those who preferred not to live in the capital itself.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, Buenos Aires and its surrounding region, representing the tenth largest urban agglomeration in the world, aspired to "global city" status. While size and continued modernization underpinned these aspirations, problems of infrastructure and environmental issues clouded the city's prospects. Moreover, development remained uneven. Whereas the downtown held its own and the northern neighborhoods and suburbs flourished, the southern part of the city and many of the suburbs to the south and west, where most of the metropolitan area's villas miserias (shan-tytowns) were located, languished. Indeed, this historical division was accentuated both by the growth of exclusive residences and suburban enclaves and a severe economic crisis in the first years of the new century. It seemed likely, therefore, that aspirations to "global city" status would not be fully realized while these obstacles and inequalities persisted.


The city of Buenos Aires has historically had a close and significant relationship with the surrounding province of the same name. Since independence, the province has been Argentina's largest, wealthiest, and most influential. Much of this influence derives from the fact that it contains the heart of the grassy plain known as the Pampa, the principal location and source of Argentina's great agricultural wealth. Almost half of the nation's sheep and cattle are raised in the province, which also produces much of the country's wheat, corn, oats, and barley. For much of its history, the land was controlled by a small group of owners called estancieros, whose family-owned estates (estancias) were passed down from generation to generation. For much of the period after independence it was the estancieros who dominated both provincial and national political life.

The province of Buenos Aires has experienced many of the same socioeconomic changes as has the city. Foreign immigration had a great impact, dramatically changing the province's social and demographic composition. Overall, between 1857 and 1941 the province received the greatest number of immigrants of any area in the country, slightly more than two million people, mostly from Italy and Spain. By 1914 foreigners represented more than one in three of the province's inhabitants. Beginning in the 1930s, however, the province witnessed a massive internal migration, especially to the suburban counties (partidos) of Greater Buenos Aires. In 1914, these counties contained a total population of 458,000 persons (22 percent of the provincial total); by 2000 that number had skyrocketed to 10,000,000 (80 percent of the provincial total). This population growth contributed to a significant urbanization of the province as a whole, especially in Greater Buenos Aires but also in such cities as Bahía Blanca, La Plata (the provincial capital), Mar del Plata, and Tandil. Much of the major industrial growth of the post-1930 era has also taken place within the province, especially in Greater Buenos Aires and along the coastal area in general.

Being the country's largest province in terms of population with 30 to 35 percent of the national total has meant a corresponding political importance. With the single largest concentration of the country's voters, this rich electoral bounty has often made the province the scene of some of the country's fiercest—and occasionally most violent—political struggles. Underscoring the electoral importance of the province is the fact that in only one instance (1916) has an Argentine captured the nation's presidency without also carrying the province. Ironically, no governor or other major political figure of the province has been able to win the presidency in an open election despite the enormous electoral advantages that control of the provincial administration provides.

See alsoPorteño; Argentina: The Nineteenth Century; Argentina: The Twentieth Century; Bahía Blanca; Dirty War; Garay, Juan de; La Plata; Mar del Plata; Mendoza, Pedro de; Unitario.


Keeling, David J. Buenos Aires: Global Dreams, Local Crises. Chichester, U.K., and New York: Wiley, 1996.

Romero, José Luis, and Luis Alberto Romero, eds. Buenos Aires: Historia de cuatro siglos. 2 vols. Buenos Aires, Editorial Abril, 1983.

Ross, Stanley R., and Thomas F. McGann, eds. Buenos Aires, 400 Years. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.

Scobie, James R. Buenos Aires: Plaza to Suburb, 1870–1910. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Welch Guerra, Max, ed. Buenos Aires a la deriva: Transformaciones urbanas recientes. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2005.

                                        Richard J. Walter

Buenos Aires

views updated May 14 2018


BUENOS AIRES. The southernmost city in the Spanish colonial empire, Buenos Aires was first founded in 1536 and refounded in 1580. It was located on the edge of a large alluvial plain, the Pampas, where a wide estuary, the Río de la Plata, flows to the South Atlantic. Lacking a sedentary indigenous population or a climate suited for tropical export crops, the city languished on the fringes of empire. Although of moderate strategic importance because of its proximity to Portuguese Brazil, Buenos Aires was forbidden from participating in the official trade linking Spain and America. Consequently, the city survived as a contraband center, supplying slaves to the interior in exchange for silver smuggled from the mines of Alto Peru (now Bolivia).

In 1776 Spain carved the viceroyalty of Río de la Plata out of the viceroyalty of Peru; Buenos Aires became the viceregal capital. Included in its jurisdiction were present-day Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile. Two years later, the city was allowed to participate in the new "free trade" network created by Spain. These dramatic changes produced rapid growth in the city's administrative and commercial sectors as well as an increase in the city's population.

Late-eighteenth-century warfare on the European continent greatly affected the city's legal trade. Because of Spain's involvement in those wars, the crown was periodically forced to permit trade with neutrals, thus throwing the port of Buenos Aires open to non-Spanish trading partners. The English invaded the city twice (1806 and 1807) during the Napoleonic wars but were defeated by militia units composed of local residents. The new political climate born of the heady victories over the world's most powerful nation raised the city's political consciousness. In May 1810, in a town council meeting called to discuss the region's future, participants voted to depose the viceroy and create a ruling junta. Thus Buenos Aires became the first region successfully to declare itself free from Spanish rule, foreshadowing the revolutionary period that followed.

See also Colonialism ; Spanish Colonies: Peru.


Gallo, Klaus. Great Britain and Argentina: From Invasion to Recognition, 180626. New York, 2001.

Socolow, Susan M. "Buenos Aires at the Time of Independence." In Buenos Aires: 400 Years, edited by Stanley R. Ross and Thomas F. McGann, pp. 1839. Austin, Tex., 1982.

. "Buenos Aires: Atlantic Port and Hinterland in the Eighteenth Century." In The American Atlantic World, edited by Franklin W. Knight and Peggy K. Liss, pp. 240261. Knoxville, Tenn., 1991.

Susan M. Socolow

Buenos Aires

views updated May 11 2018


BUENOS AIRES , (1) the most important province in the Argentinian republic in terms of economic wealth (cattle raising, wheat farming, and industriy) and concentration of population (13,827,203 out of a total population of 36,60,130 in 2001); (2) federal capital of the Republic of Argentina, general population 2,768,772 (2001). The Jewish population of the capital and its suburbs ("Greater Buenos Aires") was estimated at 180,000–200,000 in 2004.

The Province

The first colony of the *Jewish Colonization Association (ica) – Maurício (1891) – was established in Buenos Aires and was followed by the Baron Hirsch colony (1904–05) a few years later. In the early 21st century there were many small Jewish communities in the province, the largest being La Plata, Bahia Blanca, Mar del Plata, and Rivera, all affiliated with the Va'ad ha-Kehillot.

The City

During the colonial period a few *Crypto Jews settled in Buenos Aires, mainly during the 16th and 17th centuries. There is evidence that the number of "Portuguese" (as many judaizers were identified at the time) of Jewish descent rose during the 18th century as Buenos Aires developed into an important administrative and commercial port city. However, there is no trace of Jews living openly as such during the time of the revolt against Spanish rule (1810), or at the time of Argentina's declaration of independence (1816). During the middle decades of the 19th century Jews arrived in small number from two areas, Western Europe and Morocco. The earliest public Jewish event was an officially recognized religious marriage ceremony in 1860. The first minyan took place during Yom Kippur of 1862, which led to the founding of the first Jewish organization, the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina (cira). New arrivals from North Africa and Gibraltar led to the founding of the Congregación Israelita Latina (1891). The year 1889 saw the arrival in the port of Buenos Aires of a group of 824 Jews from Russia, most later proceeding to the Province of Santa Fe. From then on a steady migration movement from Eastern Europe ensued, helped by the open door policy in Argentina early on, and by the publicity given to Argentina in the European Jewish press as the agricultural settlements of the ica were established and developed. Thus Argentina, especially its capital city of Buenos Aires, turned into a major target of immigration for East European Jews.

In 1909 there were approximately 25,000–30,000 Jews in Buenos Aires. In spite of some manifestations of antisemitism, especially during the repression against workers' strikes during the early years of the 20th century, and the "red-scare" pogrom – known in Argentina as La Semana Trágica – of January 1919, whose main targets were Russian Jews, immigration continued unabated, interrupted only during World War i.

After the war it was further enhanced by the quotas established in the United States starting in the early 1920s. By 1936 there were over 120,000 Jews in the capital, constituting over 5% of the total population. After 1933 a relatively large number of Jews from Central Europe established themselves in Buenos Aires. A few more did so after World War ii from neighboring countries in South America. However, the Argentinian government closed Jewish immigration after the war, and only a small number of Jews entered after that. The city's Jewish population increased naturally and by internal migrations from provincial cities and from the ica settlements.

Buenos Aires was a city of immigrants, cosmopolitan in character, and the Jewish population remained diversified as well. About 85% of the Jews were Ashkenazim, the vast majority from Eastern Europe and a minority from Central Europe. The other 15% were Sephardim from various areas in the Balkans, the Middle East, and North Africa. These Jews founded their new societies and communities along the lines of their places of origin. Ashkenazim were organized in *amia, the largest community organization in Argentina, while Sephardim organized themselves in four separate communities: Moroccan, Ladino-speaking (from Turkey and the Balkans), and two Arabic-speaking ones, the Jews from Damascus and the Jews from Aleppo. Each group had its own cemeteries, religious leadership, schools, and mutual-aid institutions. Most synagogues founded during the formative period by East Europeans and Sephardim were Orthodox, while those founded by the German Jews were either Conservative or Reform. During the 1950s cira became Conservative.

The founding of the Bet El community in 1963 and the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in 1962 led to the spread of this movement not only in the city of Buenos Aires but also throughout Latin America.

The Reform movement established the Emanuel congregation in 1964. In addition, the Chabad movement has gained adherents, especially during the past generation. Nevertheless, Jewish identification is based more on national consciousness, and the influence of Israel and of Israeli political parties is greater.

This is made particularly evident by the important role of the osa (Organización Sionista Argentina). Another central organization is daia, the representative body of Argentinian Jewry vis-à-vis the government and in the sphere of world Jewry.

Jewish education in the city was imparted along ideological and political lines as well as according to communal groupings. Most of the latter fall under the umbrella of the Va'ad ha-Ḥinnukh. Some of the day schools are among the best schools in the city, and at the end of the 1990s about 50% of Jewish children of primary school age and more than a third of secondary school age were reached by them. Many cultural, social, and sports organizations served local Jewry, especially Sociedad Hebraica Argentina, Hacoaj, and Maccabi ha-Ko'aḥ and Hebraica.

In earlier decades Buenos Aires was a major center of Yiddish journalism, to the point that in the 1940s three Yiddish dailies were published. In addition many monthly publications in Yiddish reflected the vigorous political and ideological splits in the community, ranging from Zionism of various schools to Bundism, socialism, communism, and anarchism. Buenos Aires was also a world center for the publication of books in Yiddish and a leading city for Yiddish theater. Subsequently, Spanish became the predominant and almost exclusive language for communal publications.

The Jewish population of Greater Buenos Aires peaked somewhere in the 1950s at approximately 250,000–260,000. From then on its numbers diminished, mainly because of emigration. The largest group immigrated to Israel, mostly for ideological reasons, during the military repression of 1976–83. Israel became a haven for Jews suspected of leftist or guerilla activism. Moreover, during the Argentine economic debacle that began in 2001, another current of emigration to Israel developed. In addition, Jews left Buenos Aires for other places in Latin America, the U.S., and Europe, mainly for professional and economic reasons, though, again during the repression, for political reasons as well. Thus, Buenos Aires, and Argentina as a whole, went from being a city of settlement to a city of exodus.

Jewish institutions were targeted during the 1990 by groups generally considered to be serving the cause of anti-Israel terrorism. Thus the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed in 1992 with 29 people killed, and the premises of amia were razed in a major terrorist act in 1994 which killed 85 people. Ten years after the latter event the Argentine courts had not resolved important issues, including the local connections of the perpetrators nor their true international connections.

In spite of the ups and downs of antisemitism, especially, but not only, during military repressions, Jews have played an important role in industry, commerce, the arts, literature, and journalism, and also in politics. During the administrations of Alfonsin (1984–90) and Menem (1990–2000), Jews were visible in all spheres of government.


M. Bejarano, "Los sefaradies en la Argentina," in: Rumbos, 17–18 (1986),143–60; V. Mirelman, Jewish Buenos Aires 1890–1930. In Search of an Identity (1990); idem, "Jewish Life in Buenos Aires before the East European Immigration (1860–1890)," in: ajhq, 67:3 (1978), 195–207; E. Sofer, From Pale to Pampa: A Social History of the Jews of Buenos Aires (1982); E. Zadoff, Historia de la educacion judia en Buenos Aires (1935–1957), (1994).

[Victor A. Mirelman (2nd ed.)]

Buenos Aires

views updated May 18 2018

Buenos Aires Capital of Argentina, on the estuary of the Río de la Plata, 240km (150mi) from the Atlantic Ocean. Originally founded by Spain in 1536, it was refounded in 1580 after being destroyed by the indigenous population. It became a separate federal district and capital of Argentina in 1880. Buenos Aires later developed as a commercial centre for beef, grain and dairy products. It is the seat of the National University (1821). Industries: meat processing, flour milling, textiles, metal works, car assembly. Pop. (2001) 13,755,993.

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