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Buenos Aires – Monserrat: Plaza de Mayo – Pirámide de Mayo y Casa Rosada

Buenos Aires – Monserrat: Plaza de Mayo – Pirámide de Mayo y Casa Rosada
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The Plaza de Mayo (May Square), bound by Hipólito Yrigoyen, Balcarce, Rivadavia and Bolívar, is the historic core and political heart of Buenos Aires. It is surrounded by representations of nearly every era of the city’s history from the 18th-century colonial seat of power, El Cabildo, and Catedral Metropolitana to the 19th century executive offices of Casa Rosada and Gobierno de la Ciudad. The landscaped plaza has been the site of some of Argentina’s fiercest internal battles from the 1810 revolution to the 1955 naval attacks as well as its greatest triumphs including the celebrations following World Cup victories in 1978 and 1986. And it still serves a forum for demonstrations–most famously the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, the mothers of the desaparecidos, leftists who "disappeared" during the Dirty War of the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983–who continue to demonstrate every Thursday afternoon as they have since 1977.

While the modern plaza took its form in 1884, its origins trace back to the early foundation of the city in 1580 when Juan de Garay planned a never built central plaza. In 1608, Jesuit clergymen secured a title to the property where Gar. In 1661 the local governor purchased the eastern half, which soon became the Plaza de Armas or Plaza del Fuerte. In 1804, the colonial government built Recova Vieja, a north-south Romanesque colonnade, which would soon become the plaza’s market and created Plaza de la Victoria to the west. The area continued mostly unchanged until 1884, with only minor modifications including the addition of 1811 addition of La Pirámide de Mayo, when Mayor Torcuato de Alvear ordered the demolition of the colonnade, creating the current landscape.

La Pirámide de Mayo (May Pyramid), is the oldest national monument in the City of Buenos Aires was inaugurated on May 25, 1811 in in Plaza de Mayo. Its construction was by the Primera Junta to celebrate the first anniversary of the la Revolución de Mayo. By 1856, the monument had begun to deteriorate, and, under the direction of painter and architect Prilidiano Pueyrredón, ist was reconstructed. The old monument was covered in brick and masonry and used as a foundation. A 3.6 meter tall allegorical statue of Liberty crowned with a Phrygian cap created by French sculptor Joseph Dubourdieu was added to the crown. Dubourdieu also created four other allegorical sculptures for the four corners of the pedestal. The eastern face of the obelisk was adorned with a golden sun facing Casa Rosada, and the remaining three sides were decorated with crowns of laurels in alto-relievo. The original pedestal and capital were increased in height and breadth, with each of the four sides adorned with the national arms. A new fence was constructed with a gaslight placed at each corner. From the ground to the peak of the statue’s Phrygian cap, the Pyramid now measured 18.76 metres. In 1859, as the plaster began to deteriorate, the base was refaced in marble. In 1873, Dubourdieu’s stucco and terracotta statues began to decay and were replaced with four marble statues from the first floor of Banco Provincia. In 1912, the marble statues were removed (and later installed in Plazoleta de San San Francisco) and the pyramid was moved 63 meters to the east as part of an unmaterialized plan to surround it with a larger, grander monument. Instead, the foundation was repainted, the arms were restored to their 1813 condition , and the original railing was restored.

La Casa Rosada (The Pink House), officially known as Casa de Gobierno, is the official executive mansion and office of the Presidente de la Nación Argentina (President of the Argentine Nation). Its balcony, which faces this large square, has famously served as a podium by many figures, including Eva Perón, who rallied the descamisados there, and Pope John Paul II, who visited Buenos Aires in 1998. Located at the east end of Plaza de Mayo, the Italian-style neoclassical building was built in phases, but dates back mostly to the late 19th century.

The site, originally at the shoreline of the Río de la Plata, was first occupied in 1594 by la Real Fortaleza de Don Juan Baltazar de Austria, and then its 1713 replacement, Castillo de San Miguel. In 1857, President Justo José de Urquiza largely replaced the fort with Edward Taylor’s La Aduana Nueva, a new Italianate-style Custom house, but its administrative annex survived to be used as the Presidential offices of Bartolomé Mitre in the 1860s. President Domingo Sarmiento gave the building its characteristic pink hue–reportedly to defuse political tensions by mixing the red and white colors of the opposing political parties. An alternative explanation, though, suggests the original paint contained cow’s blood to prevent damage from humidity. Sarmiento also commissioned Carl Kihlberg to build Casa de Correos, the Second Empire-style Central Post Office, next door in 1873. President Julio Roca commissioned Enrique Aberg to replace the cramped State House with one resembling the Central Post Office in 1882. In 1884, he commissioned Francesco Tamburini to unify the two with the now iconic Italianate archway. The resulting statehouse that stills stands today was completed in 1898 following an eastward expansion that included the demolition of Taylor’s custom house.

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