© Text by J. Alberto Mariñas
© Photographs

My beloved Buenos Aires...

Buenos Aires old postcard
Avenida Callao
principio de siglo

Buenos Aires old postcard
Jardín Zoológico

Buenos Aires old postcard
Hotel Metropole

There was a time, back in the early 1900s, when in Europe there was a saying, "as rich an Argentinian" to allude to a man of unimaginable wealth.
Indeed, at the time, Argentina had one of the most flourishing economies of all nations on earth, a country that, by the end of the century, had unified its territory, evicted the Indians from the vast extensions of land they had occupied and, thanks to large scale ranching and grain cultivation, maintained a prosperous commerce with the Old Continent.
Coinciding with this period of bonanza, Buenos Aires, which had been a small port town in 1869, with 180,000 inhabitants, had become a populated and opulent metropolis. In 1914, a million and a half people lived within its expanding city limits; by 1922, 6,800 private automobiles circulated throughout its streets and a thriving bourgeoisie impelled the development and decking out of the city, converting it into the Southern Paris.
On the outskirts, "little convents" had proliferated to offer shelter to immigrant families, but sprouting up in the city centre were hotels and public buildings of French style architecture, grand avenues, parks, zoos... everything was new and everything spoke of prosperity and, also, of pride and of the licit desire to occupy a pre-eminent place in the world. During that epoch, the Columbus Theatre was built, embodying the world's largest opera building, and the construction of the subway began, representing the first underground railway in Central and South America until that of Mexico appeared in the 60s. In the flourishing Buenos Aires of the early XX century, the Tango was a dance that had already travelled to Europe and returned with a safe-conduct pass in its pocket, permitting its admittance into the salons of the city centre. At the same time, the elite felt a necessity to distinguish their tango from that other one from the outskirts and the little convents, from the popular tango danced in neighbourhoods such as Boca del Riachuelo, Avellaneda, Corrales Viejos, Pueblo de Ranas... and they took it to expensive locals, and established it within the framework of the cabarets which, for decades, were to become the perfect stage upon which to sing of the misfortunes of percantas, milonguitas, pebetas, papusas, bacanes, otarios or cafishos.

Estercita,
today they call you milonguita,
flower of luxury and of pleasure,
flower of night and cabaret.
(Milonguita, 1920)

Estercita,
hoy te llaman milonguita,
flor de lujo y de placer,
flor de noche y cabaret.

(Milonguita, 1920)

Buenos Aires old postcard
Hotel Palace

Buenos Aires old postcard
Bridge over el Riachuelo

Buenos Aires old postcard
Obelisco, Avenida 9 de Julio

Buenos Aires old postcard
Plaza de Mayo

Buenos Aires old postcard
Casa de Gobierno

 

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