Latin American Studies Buenos Aires
by
Fernando Degiovanni, Fernando J. Rosenberg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0177

Introduction

One of the most important city ports of the Western Hemisphere, Buenos Aires has a history inextricably connected to the fluctuations of the Atlantic economy as well as to its strategic position as a gateway to vast and fertile flatlands that extend far beyond the city limits. Founded and re-founded in the 16th century as a secondary colonial outpost, Buenos Aires was dramatically transformed by the demands of the European markets at the turn of both the 18th and 19th centuries. In this context, two crucial developments are decisive for understanding the physical, social, and cultural fabric of the city: the emergence of the gauchos and the arrival of millions of European immigrants. The gauchos, although primarily inhabiting the pampas, would nonetheless project their influence on the city’s margins and later be elevated to cultural icon; whereas the immigrants would give Buenos Aires the particular imprint for which it is internationally recognized. Crucial periods of the city’s history, repeatedly visited by scholars, can only be explained as the result of the interplay between local and international political, economic, and demographic factors. These include the autocratic and populist rule of Juan Manuel de Rosas in the 1830s and 1840s, the influx of Italian, Spanish, and Jewish populations between 1880 and 1930, and the rise of Juan D. Perón as a popular leader in the 1940s (along with the formation of his still influential movement). The experience of living in an urban environment subject to quick transformations, particularly since the end of the 19th century, has had a decisive impact on Argentine literature, music, and visual arts. The creations of poets, novelists, musicians, artists, and filmmakers have proven crucial for constructing a lasting image of Buenos Aires for local and international consumption. Tango, perhaps the city’s most singular cultural expression, has played an unparalleled role in this regard. But if a turn-of-the-century burgeoning city has occupied an undisputed place in the artistic and scholarly imagination, there is also the Buenos Aires of economic decline and cultural conflict that gradually emerged in the last century. Despite having being affected by several dictatorial regimes and financial crises on which recent scholarship and cultural production have increasingly focused, contemporary Buenos Aires continues to be a sociocultural and economic center for tourists, students, and new waves of immigrants (mainly from Latin American and East Asian countries).

General Overviews

A limited number of works examine the historical evolution of Buenos Aires in a general fashion. Romero and Romero 2000 and Rapoport and Seoane 2007 provide comprehensive approaches to the city in multivolume collections. Fontanella de Weinberg 1987 and Schávelzon 1999 survey the city’s linguistic and archeological evolution since the 16th century. Gutman and Hardoy 2007 focuses on architectural change, while Sigal 2006 discusses the historical uses of Plaza de Mayo, the city’s most symbolic political stage. Molina y Vedia 1999 analyzes urban planning over the course of more than four centuries.

  • Fontanella de Weinberg, María Beatriz. El español bonaerense: Cuatro siglos de evolución lingüística, 1580–1980. Buenos Aires: Hachette, 1987.

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    A general history of Buenos Aires Spanish. Considers four periods (1580–1700, 1700–1800, 1800–1880, and 1880–1980). Discusses phonological, morphophonological, morphosyntactical, and lexical change and includes sections on linguistic contact and slang. Contains important findings regarding seseo, yeísmo, and voseo.

  • Gutman, Margarita, and Jorge Enrique Hardoy. Buenos Aires, 1536–2006: Historia urbana del Área Metropolitana. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Infinito, 2007.

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    Introduction to the urban ecology of Buenos Aires, with special emphasis on architectural change. Of particular interest is the book’s approach to the city since the return to democracy in 1983: the emergence of gated communities, projects of urban recycling, and configuration of shanty towns. Accompanied by statistical charts and an extensive bibliography. Illustrated.

  • Molina y Vedia, Juan. Mi Buenos Aires herido: Planes de desarrollo territorial y urbano (1535–2000). Buenos Aires: Colihue, 1999.

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    Discusses patterns of urban planning and growth since early colonial times, to concentrate on documented major 20th-century projects of urban renewal. It contains ample visual material, from maps and architectural designs to artistic sketches and photographs.

  • Rapoport, Mario, and María Seoane. Buenos Aires, historia de una ciudad: De la modernidad al siglo XXI: Sociedad, política, economía, y cultura. 2 vols. Buenos Aires: Planeta-Fundación Banco Ciudad, 2007.

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    A very accessible, comprehensive history of the modern city ranging from 1880 to 2005. It provides a general but systematic overview of major periods divided by years, with each period analyzed along four equally important variables: politics, economics, society, and culture.

  • Romero, José Luis, and Luis Alberto Romero. Buenos Aires: Historia de cuatro siglos. 2 vols. Buenos Aires: Altamira, 2000.

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    Collection of articles by historians and social scientists. Discusses the city’s two foundations, the Colonial City, the Jacobin City, the Creole City, the Patrician City, the Bourgeois City, the City of the Masses, and the City of the Future. Covers a variety of political and cultural topics (from architecture to tango, from trade unions to social life, from traffic to slums).

  • Schávelzon, Daniel. Arqueología de Buenos Aires: Una ciudad en el fin del mundo. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 1999.

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    Discusses the excavations of local institutions (a museum, a hospital, a church, a printing company, a government building), as well as in several residences and a park to highlight the socioeconomic and ethnic profile of Buenos Aires. Pays attention to the material culture of European immigrants, indigenous peoples, and African inhabitants. Focuses on gendered and family objects.

  • Sigal, Silvia. La Plaza de Mayo: Una crónica. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2006.

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    Focusing on the main government square in downtown Buenos Aires as the central stage of Argentinian political life, the study traces the uses of the plaza since the 1810 declaration of independence to the last dictatorship (1976–1983), for both government and anti-government demonstrations.

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