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Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires (Good Winds in Spanish, but more akin to "Fair Winds", as in navigation) is the capital of Argentina and its largest city and port, as well as one of the largest cities in South America. The city proper has a population of 2,776,234 according to the 2001 census, while the Greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area has more than 12 million inhabitants. Buenos Aires is located at the southern side of the Rio de la Plata River (earlier called River Plate by the British), on the southeast coast of the South American continent. (Montevideo, Uruguay is located across the river.)

The population of Buenos Aires consists primarily of Argentines of Spanish and Italian descent, although there are sizable communities of people with Arab, Jewish, Armenian, Chinese, and Korean origins. Most inhabitants are Roman Catholic, and Spanish is the primary language.

Buenos Aires is the Federal Capital of Argentina and has been accorded autonomous status in the 1994 constitution (previously, the mayor was elected directly by the President of the Republic). Its Official Name is 'Ciudad Autónama de Buenos Aires' (Buenos Aires autonomous city). The suburbs located in Gran Buenos Aires (Greater Buenos Aires) belong to Buenos Aires Province, but the autonomous city of Buenos Aires does not.



Buenos Aires is the financial, industrial, commercial, and social hub of Argentina. Its port is one of the busiest in the world; navigable rivers connect it to the Argentine North-East, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. As a result, it serves as the distribution hub for a vast area of the south-eastern region of the continent.

The people of Buenos Aires are known as porteños (people of the port), recognizing the huge historical importance of the port in the development of the nation.

To the west of Buenos Aires is the Pampa, the most productive agricultural region of Argentina. As a result meat, dairy, grain, tobacco, wool and hide products are processed or manufactured in the Buenos Aires area. Other leading industries are automobile manufacturing, oil refining, metalworking, machine building, and the production of textiles, chemicals, paper, clothing, and beverages.


Spaniard seaman Juan Díaz de Solís discovered the La Plata River in 1516 but his expedition was cut short by an attack in which he was killed and eaten on the beach by the native Charrua tribe as his shipmates watched.

The city was first founded as Santa María del Buen Ayre on February 2, 1536 by a Spanish gold-seeking expedition under Pedro de Mendoza. The name was chosen by Mendoza's chaplain, who was a devout follower of the Virgine de Bonaria (Our Lady of the Fair Winds) of Cagliari, Sardinia. The location of Mendoza's city was on today's San Telmo district (south of the present city center).

More attacks by the indigenous peoples forced the settlers away and in 1541 the site was abandoned. A second (and permanent) settlement was established in 1580 by Juan de Garay , after he sailed down the Paraná river from Asunción.

From its earliest days the success of Buenos Aires depended on trade. The Spanish administration of the 17th and 18th centuries insisted that all trade to Europe initially pass through Lima, Peru so that taxes could be collected. This extravagant deviation frustrated the traders of Buenos Aires and a thriving contraband industry developed. Unsurprisingly, this also instilled a deep resentment in porteños towards Spanish authorities.

1888 German map of Buenos Aires
1888 German map of Buenos Aires

Sensing this instability, Charles III of Spain progressively eased the trade restrictions and finally declared Buenos Aires an open port in the late 1700s. These placating actions did not have the desired effect, and the porteños became even more desirous of independence from Spain. During the British invasions in Rio de la Plata British forces invaded Buenos Aires three times in 1806-1807 but were rebuffed by the local colonial militia. Ultimately, on May 25, 1810, while the metropoli endured the Peninsular War and after a week of mostly pacific deliberations, the creole citizens of Buenos Aires successfully ousted the Spanish Viceroy and established a provincial government; the date is now celebrated as a national holiday (independence from Spain was declared only in 1816).

Railroad construction during the 19th century only increased the economic power of Buenos Aires as raw materials flowed into its factories. By the 1920s Buenos Aires was a favored destination for immigrants from Europe, as well as from the poorer provinces and neighboring countries, and large shantytowns (villas miseria) started growing around the city's industrial areas, leading to extensive social problems.

At the same time, Buenos Aires was a multicultural city that ranked itself with the major European capitals. For example, the Teatro Colón was one of the world's top opera venues.

Buenos Aires historically was Argentina's main stage for liberal and free-trade ideas, with many of the provinces advocating for a more conservative-Catholic approach. Many tensions within Argentine history, staring with the Unitarios-Federales wars of the 19th century, can be traced back to this contrast. During the 20th century, military juntas seized power several times, to impose a combination of political repression and neoliberal economics. The last episode, which started in 1976, produced more than 10,000 desaparecidos. The silent marches of their mothers (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) are the most well-known image of Argentine suffering during the dictatorship.

On March 17, 1992 a bomb exploded in the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires killing 29 and injuring 242. Another explosion, on July 18, 1994 destroyed a building housing several Jewish organizations killing 96 and injuring many more. See AMIA bombing.

The Buenos Aires international airport, Ministro Pistarini International Airport, is located in the suburb of Ezeiza and is often called simply "Aeropuerto Internacional de Ezeiza" or just "Ezeiza". The Aeroparque Jorge Newbery airport is located within city limits and serves domestic traffic.


Immigration and language variations

In the early 20th century, Argentina absorbed millions of immigrants, mostly from Italy and Spain. Italian immigrants spoke mostly Southern Italian dialects (mainly Neapolitan and Sicilian), and their adoption of Spanish was gradual. The pidgin of Italian dialects and Spanish was called cocoliche. It was quite common until the 1950s, it has since fallen out of use, and today survives mostly as comic relief.

The lunfardo argot originated within the jail population, and spread to all porteños with time. Lunfardo uses words from Italian dialects, and tricks such as inverting syllabes within a word (vesre). Lunfardo is used by porteños mostly in informal settings.

See Also: Rioplatense Spanish


Many immigrants arrived in Buenos Aires without their families, which led to a significant phenomenon of prostitution starting around 1890. The erotically charged tango dance originated in brothels, but later found a wider audience. In 1902, the Teatro Opera started organizing tango balls. In the 1920s, tango was adopted by the Parisian high society and then all over the world.

The Buenos Aires style of tango music evolved into an elaborated genre. In its heyday, tango had famous Aníbal Troilo and Juan D'Arienzo, and singers like Carlos Gardel and Edmundo Rivero .

Buenos Aires now holds an annual "Tango Day" each December 11.

In San Telmo, Sundays are devoted to tango shows on the streets and an antiques bazaar around Dorrego Square.


Buenos Aires was home for writers Jorge Luis Borges, Ernesto Sabato, and Julio Cortázar (who emigrated to France).

The University of Buenos Aires produced several Nobel Prize winners.

Public transportation means are the colectivo (a small bus, historically built from truck chassis and sitting 21 to 27) and the subway, known locally as the subte. A large number of black-and-yellow taxis roam the streets; many of them are unlicensed, so it is advised to phone a reputable company and not to hail unaffiliated taxis on the street.


The city is divided into 47 barrios (neighborhoods).

See: List of Buenos Aires Barrios


Football (soccer) is a passion for Argentines. The city has many teams playing in the major league. The best-known rivalry is the one between Boca Juniors and River Plate.

Diego Armando Maradona, who was born in a poor suburb of Buenos Aires and is widely hailed as one of the greatest players ever, started his career with Argentinos Juniors and later played for Boca Juniors (he also played for other clubs, notably Italian side SSC Napoli).

Buenos Aires hosted the first Pan American Games which started on February 25, 1951, as well as the 1950 and 1990 basketball world championships and the 1978 football (soccer) World Cup (Argentina won the final on June 25, 1978, defeating the Netherlands by a score of 3-1).

Buenos Aires hosted the Formula One Argentine Grand Prix twenty different years, first in 1953, last in 1998.

See also: Cities of the world, List of national capitals

External links

Look up Porteño in Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Online newspapers

Buenos Aires is also a canton in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica.

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