Today Retiro is part of downtown, but Do you know that retiro means isolated? Retiro, far away, the north end of the city. This is a clear sample about the growth of my beloved Buenos Aires city. Retiro is a "small" treasure for a private tour guide in Buenos Aires like me, because is plenty of nice stories and places to show, from hidden churches full of stories to monuments like The Great Liberator: the great, clever, honest, brave, generous, good heart, excellent soldier, brillant leader, modest, beloved, General Don José de San Martín (and yes, he is all those things, a fascinant person who did nothing more nothing less than set free half of South America: Argentina, Peru and Chile, without taking any coin for his own benefit, without accepting any political charge altough he was asked many times to run each one of this three countries). To walk the Retiro square is to walk in the old slaves's market, to step in a battlefield between a stocked british ship and brave riders that surrendered it during the British Invations (1806/7). This is possible due to Retiro is half claimed land and half cliff of the original riverside of the Rio de la Plata. But the british footprints in this lands doesn't ends on those commerce and battles. As the official trade conditions where absolutelly luck of sense, after the daylight commerce of slaves that will go to the Potosi silver mines, during the night Retiro was the place of the real economy that sustained the Portenean life: The smuggling. As you can see, our relationship with the british is deep, and at least unusual, we jump whole the time from love to hate and viceceverse.
The british tower and the railway terminals
One of the top moments of that turbulent relationship with the british was the second half of the 19th century, while they were managing the railways that were delivering the argentinean grains and meat from british ranches to british shipping companies with british ships manufactured here in british shipyards. The value of the currency was runned by the Central Bank that had a british board. For our first Centennial we received many gifts from the different european communities and nations: Argentina was a receptive country and millon of Italian, Spanyard, French and Walish were stablished here to make improve our Nation. We have all those gens in our blood as also an important Jewish community. Also those Nations which we were commercially linked where part of that line of sculptorical presents, and of course the british where our most important partner, so they donated a tower with a clock. The story says that before have our own office in charge of setting the time, the official hour was stablished from that tower. Of course the british were also celebrating themselves, so the best place to build was just in front of their beautiful railway terminals.
The war and the sadness
The Malvinas Islands are argentinean due to their were inhabited since the 18th century and the british invaded them in 1833 when they expulsed the people there. Anyway, there was a terrible mistake to invade that islands in 1982, the militar dictatorship did it wishing to recover a lost popularity and expecting to not have to fight with England. But Mrs Margaret Tatcher was also luck of popular love, so she sent the Royal Navy here and although the brave fight of many untrained, unweaponed and starving kids of 18 years old forced to go to the battle, the british recovered the islands. That was the end of the militar dictatorship and the death of thousand of innocent people, which is remembered in a monumen that faces the tower. Is a huge red wall, a memorial with all the names of those kids that died there to reinforce the unfair posession of the Malvinas in front of the UN grandstand.
After the british, the french, after the french, the american rationalist modernity
Retiro is also a nice place to enjoy the fantastic french architecture of Buenos Aires, in adition to the biggest mansion built here for lady Anchorena (the current San Martin's Palace), there are other beautiful constructions like the Anchorena-Paz's house (many of the Anchorenas where living here so the square was nicknamed the Anchorena's garden) and other petit palaces or 300 feet wide. Also there you can see (if you find it) a hidden church that deserved to Mrs Anchorena, but due to a hate´s story looks hidden behind one of the architectural jewells of Buenos Aires: the Kavannagh Building, which was in its times the highest skycraper of Southamerica and the highest condominium of the World (Empire State and others were office buildings). Flagship of rationalism, this building incorprated by first time many ammenities like common gym, fast elevators, central heating, but no electric ringbell; It was considered luck of taste to ring at the appartment of someone, so the visitors must ask to the concierge, who will call the house of the host. Why this building is blocking on purpose the view of the church? Well this is a nice story I will tell you when we meet. I will be ready to join you there and the surrounding area, you cannot miss a visit to this fantastic square which is a hinge between Recoleta and Downtown.
If you want to enjoy all the Retiro Square secrets, contact me now!
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