Buenos Aires (Central)
About Plaza de Mayo:
“Since its construction in 1580, this has been the setting for Argentina’s most politically turbulent moments, including the uprising against Spanish colonial rule on May 25, 1810—hence its name. The square was once divided in two by a recova (gallery), but this reminder of colonial times was demolished in 1883, and the square’s central monument, the Pirámide de Mayo, was later moved to its place. The pyramid you see is actually a 1911 extension of the original, erected in 1811 on the anniversary of the Revolution of May, which is hidden inside. The bronze equestrian statue of General Manuel Belgrano, designer of Argentina’s flag, dates from 1873, and stands at the east end of the plaza.
The plaza remains the traditional site for ceremonies, rallies, and protests. Thousands cheered for Perón and Evita here; anti-Peronist planes bombed the gathered crowds in 1955; there were bloody clashes in December 2001 (hence the heavy police presence and crowd-control barriers); but the crowds were jubilant for Argentina’s massive bicentenary celebrations in 2010. The white head scarves painted around the Pirámide de Mayo represent the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of May Square) who have marched here every Thursday at 3:30 for more than two decades. Housewives and mothers-turned-militant activists, they demand justice for los desaparecidos, the people who were “disappeared” during the military government’s reign from 1976 to 1983, and welcome visitors to join in.”
About Casa Rosada:
“The eclectic Casa de Gobierno, better known as the Casa Rosada or Pink House, is at Plaza de Mayo’s eastern end, with its back to the river. The building houses the government’s executive branch—the president works here but lives elsewhere—and was built in the late 19th century over the foundations of an earlier customhouse and fortress. Swedish, Italian, and French architects have since modified the structure, which accounts for the odd mix of styles. Its curious hue dates from the presidency of Domingo Sarmiento, who ordered it painted pink as a symbol of unification between two warring political factions, the federales (whose color was red) and the unitarios (represented by white). Local legend has it that the original paint was made by mixing whitewash with bull’s blood.
The balcony facing Plaza de Mayo is a presidential podium. From this lofty stage Evita rallied the descamisados (the shirtless—meaning the working class), Maradona sang along with soccer fans after winning one World Cup and coming second in another, and Madonna sang her filmed rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Check for a small banner hoisted alongside the nation’s flag, indicating ‘the president is in.'”
Casa Rosada is most definitely pink, though it does not appear obviously painted. It is more diminutive then I had expected, but still an interesting building, architecturally. Like most workplaces of the heads of state, it is protected by fences and guards. Even the gardens in the back ware fenced off and inaccessible. On the day we visited the building and plaza that sits in front, police were very present – behind barricades and shields, in armored vehicles and with dogs. Surprisingly, we saw a few people walking by the police through a small break in the barrier…and we did the same without confrontation. We actually just walked in the “protected zone” without being questioned at all. It appears that all the police where there due to a free politically based concert happening on the other side the square (see the other related post for more information). The square seems to still be the center of “political life” in Argentina, as many protests (some seemingly permanent) were encountered.
From our friend, Rossana:
“Notice the makeshift fence separating Casa Rosada from the plaza. While it is technically a temporary fence that is supposed to be taken down after protests are over, Buenos Aires has so many they got tired of removing the barrier and just left it there.”