Learning about Buenos Aires’ History

From Pope Francis to the genocides in Argentina, many historical figures and events I recently have taken tours of have taught me about the history of Buenos Aires. I also have been exploring some non-mainstream attractions in the city with friends. In this post, I talk a lot about interesting history and so you don’t get overwhelmed, I have broken up these historical events with pictures of delicious food. Enjoy!

Fuerza Bruta

This first activity I did recently has nothing to do with the history of Argentina, but it was a fun cultural event that probably not many tourists see.

It’s difficult to describe what Fuerza Bruta is, but the best way I can think of is comparing it to Stomp, Cirque de Soleil and a really cool DJ. I had to pay twice for it because I’m a klutz and dropped my ticket in between the cracks of the raised, wooden floors, but the tickets were worth it.

The audience stood in the middle of the room with no sense of where the stage actually was, as most of the entertainment would be in several different locations. There were lots of energetic dancing, running around on walls, body slamming into a shallow pool above us and throwing styrofoam boxes of confetti on people’s heads. It was disorienting at times, but a lot of fun.

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Pope Francis Tour/ Tour de Papa Francisco

Last weekend I went on a free Pope Francis Tour. Before he was the pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born and raised in the neighborhood of Flores in Buenos Aires. The tour took us on a bus to the place he was born, his house, his school and a few churches. It was a long tour and was entirely in Spanish. By the end, I admit, I zoned out and was just staring out the window. Nonetheless, the tour was educational, and I was happy I saw a new neighborhood in this gigantic city.

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Food Break: Eggs Benedict and Chocolate Cake

Zanjón de Granados Tour

The next day, a few friends and I went to Zanjón de Granados, which was a house built in the 1830s by a wealthy family who immigrated from Spain. They lived in the building for a few decades until yellow fever struck the city, forcing many wealthy families to move to the countryside in Recoleta (which is now just another part of the city). After that, the building became a tenement house for poor immigrants, and more than 100 people lived in it at one time.

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Although the history is interesting, the reason why it is a popular tourist spot and interest for Argentinians is because of the tunnels below the building. A creek once ran through the city and led to Río de la Plata. The creek got super dirty as people dumped whatever they wanted into it, so instead of cleaning it, people decided to build their houses over the creek. Underneath the houses were tunnels that carried trash and waste in a dirty creek, but many people forgot they even existed.

Later, the city moved the river farther back, destroying many of the tunnels, and people don’t really know where all the tunnels are.

The tour was interesting and let me travel back in time to imagine how Buenos Aires once was in the 1800s and 1900s. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the actual tunnels underneath the building, but just imagine a few well-lit tunnels about the width of a one-door garage and with the height of a lamp post.

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Break: Cheesecake, Coffee, Roast Beef Sandwich and Pastries

Parque de la Memoria

Argentina has dealt with its fair share of dictators throughout its history. From 1976-1983, a state terrorist military regime kidnapped, tortured and killed almost 15,000 people. It was a real life 1984.

People disappeared and were never seen again. Bodies thrown from planes into Río de la Plata would show up on the shores of Buenos Aires.

In 1998 the park was constructed on the very same coast where bodies had washed up only a decade before in memory of the victims of the state terrorism. It was eye-opening to learn this dark part of history for Argentina. The genocide has affected the country so much to this day.

For instance, some women who disappeared were pregnant at the time and would have their babies in the detention camps. The military gave the babies to wealthy families in the country, and many of these babies never learned their true identity. Now, organizations like the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo are working to find their grandchildren, who are discovering their real origins.

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Food Break: MEXICAN! (look how happy I am)

Reserva Ecológica

This has much less to do with the history of Buenos Aires, but I went to the ecological reserve, created in the 1970s, and walked its hour-long trail. The mosquitoes were awful, but the reserve was beautiful just the same. Even in a huge, urban city like Buenos Aires you can always find a place to relax with nature.

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End: Ser y Tiempo

To end, I went with some friends to Ser y Tiempo, a tapas, wine and chocolate bar. It was a chill, hipster bar with a record player and no Wi-Fi, which forced my friends and I to have an actual conversation. It was a great, tranquil night and probably the classiest way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

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Thanks so much for reading! As you can see, I’ve been having an unbelievable experience in Buenos Aires. I am happy yet terrified that I only have six weeks left. I have learned and done so much. Here is my last and final column for The Post about what I’ve learned while studying abroad and why I think you should travel, too. Thanks again. ¡Ciao!

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