Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Photograph by Greg Roden.
Buenos Aires History
Buenos Aires (literally: fair winds) was first founded by Spanish gold-seeker Pedro de Mendoza on February 2, 1536 on the site where his statue currently stands at the corner of Brasil and Defensa streets (in Parque Lezama, the historic San Telmo district). After more than 200 years of rule by the Spaniards and after fighting off invading British forces in 1806 & 1807 twice, the local criollo population successfully expelled the hostile invading forces for good. Buenos Aires finally gained its independence along with the rest of the country on May 25th, 1810 (formally declared six years later), a date now celebrated annually.
More recently, Buenos Aires has withstood several political and financial hardships. Populists president Juan Domingo Perón, rising to power for the first of three tenures as president from 1946-1955, is still considered the father of peronismo, a political movement deeply rooted in the labor party and the underlying drive to eliminate poverty. Perón died in 1974 while president and was succeeded by his second wife Isabel who took over the leadership of the country for a short while.
"Don't cry for me Argentina", but Buenos Aires was then thrown into even greater political and social turmoil by the military coup in 1976, marking the beginning of what is now known as The Dirty War until 1983. During this era, right-wing militants took control of the government, suspended the constitution, and embarked upon a campaign of torture and corruption, still very fresh in the minds of most porteños even today.
In December 2001, after nearly a decade of steady economic growth under the leadership of president Carlos Menem, Argentina was sent into a dizzying financial crisis known as the corralito. Freezing personal assets held in all banks to stem the flood of foreign capital being withdrawn from local banks at devastating rates, brought Argentina's economy to a grinding halt. Also under Menem in 1994, the constitution was reformed and the city of Buenos Aires was annexed from its provincia or state of the same name and declared autonomous — Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (sometimes just referred to as Capital Federal, similar to Districto Federal, often used to identify Mexico City).
Today, attractions and highlights are unlimited. Among them, Buenos Aires boasts both the longest avenue in the world — Avenida Rivadavia (35km) — and the widest boulevard in the world — 9 de Julio (over 140m wide).
Given its tumultuous history, from the third most powerful economy in the late 1800's to its present day status as one of the ten most important urban centers in the world, Buenos Aires continues to persevere, to survive, and grow. The future looks bright for this rebounding city, now touted as the greatest city capital in Latin America.