Europe

The city of Buenos Aires and its evolution in the XIX century

The city of Buenos Aires is a city of contrasts. A city where you can enjoy its magnificent blue sky and in a few minutes a deluge falls that transforms the avenues into large rivers, or where you can find traditional infrastructures alongside modern buildings. A fascinating city, whichever way you look at it.

The megacity we know today was, during the Hispanic domination of America, a peripheral city. Little by little it gained importance as a port for the smuggling of slaves and silver from Potosí. In this article, we want to talk about how this city evolved in the 19th century.

And that was a century of political changes, economic growth, territorial expansion and population growth. It was also a century marked by urban modernization, the expansion of the railway and cultural development. A century that, without a doubt, left an indelible mark on time.

Political changes in Argentina

One of the most significant historical events of those years was the May Revolution of 1810, which culminated in the fall of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. From then on, the nation-building process began timidly. On July 9, 1816, the independence of other regions of the Viceroyalty was declared and the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata were created.

Since 1820, the ruling elites disputed over two different country projects. The federals defended a decentralized project and the unitaries wanted to centralize power in the city of Buenos Aires. There were several warlike episodes that were generated around this conflict.

It was in the last quarter of the 19th century when the ruling elites agreed on the state model they wanted to build. They put all efforts into it and undertook the so-called ‘Conquest of the Desert’ in order to increase the availability of land to carry out your economic project.

The Pampas-Patagonian region was never effectively incorporated into the territories of the Hispanic Empire. Nor were its inhabitants under the control of the crown or, after independence, of the state powers that emerged.

To reverse this, in 1879 a military outpost was undertaken that he wanted to incorporate some territories that were considered to be part of the national territory. It was a very cruel war episode. The vast majority of the indigenous population died and those who survived were subjected to concentrations and forced deportations.

Prosperity and urban development of the city of Buenos Aires

In this political context, a period of great economic prosperity began for the city., with the strength of the agro-export model that had been consolidated around the great port of Buenos Aires. This model consisted of the export of raw materials and the import of processed products from industrial activity.

This boom in the export activity of raw materials prompted the construction of a communications system to move these goods from the periphery to the center. Buenos Aires would be articulated with the rest of the territory through the railway. The Retiro, Constitución and Plaza Miserere stations, still in operation, were the main entrances to the city.

In 1857 the first railway was put into operation, linking the Parque station with the Floresta neighborhood. The railway network constituted the first transport network of the city. In addition, in 1870 the first tram lines appeared, the Central Tramwaywhose cars were pulled by horses.

As part of urban transport development, the creation of the Avenida de Mayo was undertaken to facilitate commercial traffic. In addition, it contributed to give a modern and elegant air to the city. It was inaugurated in 1894, becoming the first great avenue in Argentina and one of the first in South America.

The growth of the economy and the population fed back the development of the construction, trade, services and transportation sectors.

Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America

Eyes on Europe and the ambition to create ‘the Paris of South America’ inspired the construction of grand avenues and squares. Ostentatious public buildings and other emblematic works were also erected.

Some of these constructions were Parque Palermo in 1875 and the Hippodrome, a year later. Also, in 1882 the construction of Puerto Madero beganconverted today into one of the best-known leisure centers.

Despite the impulse that the export activity of raw materials gave to the growth of the city, this was the origin of a growth model that would consolidate the characteristics of the country’s economic underdevelopment.

Population growth and the appearance of the tango phenomenon

In 1862 Buenos Aires became the nation’s capital. A few years later a period of massive immigration would begin that multiplied, in a few years, its population several times. Spaniards, Italians, French and other Europeans arrived. The attraction of European immigrants was a policy strongly promoted by the state.

The Avellaneda Law of 1876 brought immigration to its highest quotas. From this process emerged the well-known ‘conventillos’, cheap housing for the newly landed. These small rooms sheltered numerous people. The conditions of poverty and lack of hygiene, in a short time, turned them into epicenters of epidemics.

Epidemics and lack of hygiene led the better-off classes to spaces far from these sources of infection. The wealthiest moved to what are now Recoleta, Barrio Norte and Palermo. Following the currents of fashion, they built their little palaces there.

Tango, artistic expression of the suburbs

The spaces where most of the newcomers were concentrated became the outskirts of the city, marginal spaces. Poverty and homesickness gave rise to various cultural expressions, such as tango. Known as Café Hansen or Antiguo Hansen, it was the center of tango meetings from 1877 to 1912.

Tango is the fruit of these diverse and collective cultural expressions. His choreography of African descent was socially repudiated, a dance prohibited by religion and law. But art breaks down walls, it is an expression of humanism, freedom and diversity. For this reason, tango, which united bodies in an embrace, became a sign of identity in Buenos Aires.

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