History in Buenos Aires

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Today a modern, cosmopolitan city that in many ways appears more European than South American, Buenos Aires has a fascinating and somewhat bloody history.

Bloody Battles with Indigenous Tribes
The chic capital of Argentina was in fact founded not just once, but twice. Back in 1536, Spanish conquistador Pedro de Mendoza established a settlement at what is now Buenos Aires, but violent attacks from the indigenous population, known as the Querandí, soon saw the settlers retreating to the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion. By 1541, the site and been razed to the ground, and what grew to become the present day city of Buenos Aires was not established until nearly 40 years later, when Spain dispatched Juan de Garay to refound the city. The site where the city was officially founded for the second time is Plaza de Mayo, today a handsome square at the heart of the city. Although still officially under the control of Asuncion until 1617, Buenos Aires thrived the second time round, and the grasslands surrounding the city provided rich pickings in terms of cattle ranching, generating vast profits from the import of leather goods. The handsome colonial mansions that are dotted around the city are a measure of this early success.

Foreign Invaders
But Buenos Aires’ development was far from plain sailing. The city was attacked by British invaders twice in 1807, with the first attempt very nearly succeeding. The British took control of the city for two months, until Spanish forces from the Urugauyan capital, Montevideo, managed to win back power over the city. A second British invasion saw the troops succeed in conquering Montevideo, but forced into retreat by guerrilla forces at Buenos Aires. Still under the control of Spain, the defeat of the British troops saw Buenos Aires’ population grow in confidence, and in May 1810 the city deposed its viceroy and announced that it would be self-governing. Six years later, Argentina declared itself independent from Spain, after troops led by José de San Martín took on the Spanish. Most of the bloodshed took place elsewhere in Argentina, and Buenos Aires was not badly scarred by the conflict.


Buenos Aires’ recent history has been riddled with internal battles, military coups and financial instability. The Peron era delivered better conditions for workers, but Buenos Aires continued to the scene of uprisings from those opposed to his rule. After his death in July 1974 Argentina was thrown into political chaos. The subsequent ‘Dirty War’ that engulfed Argentina saw Buenos Aires struggle to maintain financial stability, and the financial crash of 2001 saw the city – and the country – plunged into poverty overnight. Ironically, with the disaster Buenos Aires grew in popularity as a tourist city, as budget travelers flocked to make the most of this now incredibly cheap city. Today, prices have increased, finances are relatively stable, but tourists continue to flock to this attractive city that buzzes with a cosmopolitan energy rarely found elsewhere in South America.

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