Tag Archives: Plaza De Mayo

The Catedral Metropolitana

The Catedral Metropolitana, as the name suggests, is Buenos Aires’ main house of worship. It was completed in 1827 and stands on the site of the city’s first church in the Plaza de Mayo. As it is the final resting place of General Jose de San Martin, Argentina’s greatest hero, the Catedral is one the city’s most important landmarks. Outside, on the steps, an eternal flame burns in his memory.

An altar in the Catedral Metropolitana
An altar in the Catedral Metropolitana

Architecturally, the Catedral  is quite different from the spired, domed, turreted and belfried churches of its time, having instead an austere, columned, triangular facade, which resembles, both in its form and scale, the temples of ancient Rome and Greece. It exudes, too, the same air of power and might.  The only decorative features on the Catedral’s exterior are the bas reliefs depicting the stories of Jacob and Joseph, which strike a bold contrast on the building’s plain, perhaps somewhat  grim, face.

On the other hand, inside the Catedral, nothing is spared; murals and paintings crowd every  surface, every ledge and every edge is picked out in extravagant baroque detail. Even the statues are trussed up in heavy robes.  Yet, all this pales into insignificance beside the dazzling gold rococo altar which is, of course the centrepiece of the place.

Stepping out of this lavish, incense-scented place of soft, gold light, cool shadows and celestial scenes, looking out over the parched lawns of the Plaza de Mayo, where the banners of the Veteranos de Guerra, stir sluggishly in desultory puff of wind, I meet Priscilla, just five days old, in the arms of her mother, who has her hand out for a few pesos.  I want to run back inside and break a large chunk off that gilded altar and give it to her, with the blessing of the Pope, but I don’t. Perhaps it’s because I too am a child of this church and am bound by its ways, or perhaps it’s that I know that it’s merely fools’ gold. I open my purse and empty my pesos into her upturned palm. I take a photo of Priscilla. This is it.

Priscilla at 5 days
Priscilla at 5 days

La Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires

When Juan de Garay drew up the plans for Buenos Aires in 1580, he placed the large Plaza de Fuerte or Square of the Fortress at its centre. Following the dictates of Spanish law, it comprised a church, a public meeting place, a marketplace and civic buildings. It was the hub and the heart of the new city.

A peaceful corner of Plaza de Mayo
A peaceful corner of Plaza de Mayo

The Plaza’s name has changed a number of times over the centuries. Plaza de Fuerte gave way to Plaza del Mercado, then in 1807 it became Plaza de la Victoria to mark the country’s victory over the invading British and finally, when Argentina shook off  Spanish  rule on May 25, 1810, it became Plaza de Mayo.

Despite the changes in name and the inevitable changes in the shape of city, Plaza de Mayo is still very much the heart of Buenos Aires. It lies at the meeting point of two major roads – Roque Saenz Pena and Avenida Rivadavia. It is home to some of Argentina’s most famous and significant buildings such as the legendary Casa Roseda, or Pink House.

More importantly, Plaza de Mayo has been and still is, the scene of Argentina’s most significant historical and political moments.  Over the centuries crowds have rallied here for both the highs and the lows of the country’s chequered history.

Plaza de Mayo is a focal point for protests. They start and or finish here. When I passed through two years ago, the War Veteran were encamped in one corner, They looked as if they hade been there for a long time and they looked as if they were there for the long haul. Every Thursday at 3.30 pm a group of mothers turn up to protest ad mourn the disappearance of their children during the Military Regime of 1976 to 1983. They call themselves Los Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.

La Casa Rosada

La Casa Rosada
La Casa Rosada

On the eastern edge of the Plaza de Mayo, looking down across the smart new architecture of the Puerto Madero, stands one of Buenos Aires most beautiful and famous buildings – La Casa Rosada or the Pink House.

La casa Rosada was built during the 1868 to 1874 presidency of Domingo F. Sarmiento, on the site of the 18th century Fuerte Viejo, the original Fort of Buenos Aires, overlooking the Rio Plata. But after almost a century and a half of land reclamation and building La Casa Rosado stands more than a kilometre from the sea. Its striking pink colour, it is said, was Domingo Sarmiento’s attempt to bring peace to Argentina by blending the red of the Federalists with the white of their rivals, the Unitarists.

From the balconies that face the Plaza de Mayo, many famous Argentine leaders, including Juan and Eva Peron, have preached to their public. It was also from the balcony of La Casa Rosada, that Madonna, playing Eva Peron in the film Evita, delivered her unforgettable rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.

Like Argentina, La Casa Rosada has lived through hard times. In 1955, at the time of the Revolucion Libertadora which ousted Juan Peron, it came under fire from the navy. During the Military Regime of 1976 to 1983, it was sinister, secret place, out of bounds to all but government officials.

These days, la Casa Rosada is open to the public, but bookings and photo ID are essential.

At the Museo de la Casa Rosada, relics from the old fort are on show, along with memorabilia from past presidencies, including the Peron era