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Spanish in Buenos Aires

Learn Spanish in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina and has a population of nearly 3 million people. In South America the population of it's greater urban area is beaten only by Sao Paulo. This sprawling metropolis may at first seem a bit intimidating but you will soon discover that this is a city that is made up of many zones, each one as distinct as the last, but which collectively is proud of its heritage and diversity. This make it an ideal city to learn Spanish in as there are so many different areas to see and be experienced and nothing to stop you from choosing your favourite one and staying put for a while while you study a Spanish course.

Origins of the City

City

Buenos Aires was founded not once but twice in the 16th Century. In 1536 Pedro de Mendoza arrived in the area of the city that is now known as San Telmo as part of a Spanish expedition and named the city 'Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre' (literally the city of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds). However, native indigenous tribes were not overly happy at this invasion of their land and chased the settlers away. It was not until 1580 when the city was again founded, this time by the Spanish Conquistador Juan de Garay. He kept more or less the same name for the city, which over the years has been shortened to Buenos Aires by those sensible and time-saving Argentineans. The city is founded on the Rio de la Plata and lies on the Argentinean Pampas (fertile lowlands in South America). Right from the very beginning it was a city with a high dependence on trade, but right from the beginning this was often problematic due to the presence of pirates in the area, meaning that ships needed military protection and had to take complicated routes in and out of the city's port. This resulted in a long wait for the delivery of goods and the people of Buenos Aires (or Porteños as they proudly refer to themselves as) began to resent the Spanish colonists.

King Carlos III of Spain became aware of this and declared Buenos Aires a free port and removed some restrictions that had been put in place with regards to trading. Also in 1776 he designated Buenos Aires the capital city of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, a territory that then included Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and parts of Chile and Brazil. But, this was not to be sufficient. Many people were still fed up and feeling the influence of the recent French Revolution in the air, they became more convinced than ever before of a need for liberation from Spain.

War of Independence

At the beginning of the 19th Century Britain attempted to invade Buenos Aires twice and in 1806 there was a brief period of British rule, during which the viceroy Rafael Sobremonte escaped to Córdoba and declared it the new capital. Later Buenos Aires was restored its title of capital city, but Sobremonte was not allowed to return as viceroy and instead Santiago de Liniers replaced him and armed the city against further attack. The criollo army of the region protected the new viceroy against an attempted uprising, however these sentiments of loyalty to the Spanish colonists did not last long and in 1810 they supported the removal of new viceroy Hidalgo de Cisneros in the May Revolution, an event which helped triggered the Argentine War of Independence. Buenos Aires provided many armies to take part in the war and independence was finally won from Spain in 1816. Buenos Aires avoided any period of Royalist rule during this period of many wars of Independence in the Americas, quite an achievement all things considered.

Political Developments

Buenos Aires has always been known as a place of liberal thinking and viewpoints with some more conservative stances peppered throughout the metropolitan area, mainly in the north. The city is no stranger to a demonstration or two, as you will probably know from recent unrest surrounding the Falklands. It has also been subject to two naval blockades, firstly by the French in 1838 and then both the French and British in 1845, both of which proved unsuccessful. Buenos Aires is a city that won't surrender easily!

Pink house

After much controversy and uncertainty over the topic, in 1880 Buenos Aires the city was federalized and so nowadays is not the capital city of the Buenos Aires district, nor is it a part of it, but simply its own federal district. The seat of the Government has since then been in the city of Buenos Aires inside the Casa Rosada. It has always been a city with a presence of wealth due to the fertile pampas and the trade in the port, including money made in the customs centre found there and the 19th century saw the introduction of a new railway system and much immigration. The number of different cuisine options open to you as you stroll about one of Buenos Aires' downtown districts today is a testament to the diversity of its population, the most notable influence perhaps being that of the Italians, with pizzerias giving the steakhouses good competition on every street. From in and around the 1830's Buenos Aires became a city that was competing culturally with any leading European city and it experienced several construction booms in the period leading up to the 20th century. Shanty towns appeared to house the growing influx of workers to the city. These labourers were to eventually become some of the most avid supporters of Peronism and the participants in the many political demonstrations that would take part in the city's Plaza de Mayo over the years.

In the 1940s Juan Perón and his much loved wife Eva, or Evita as she is more popularly known, came to power. He was a strong leader who, although at times crossing the line to fit into the definition of a dictator, was liberal and strengthened the trade unions, whilst Evita carried out a lot of work with state funds to help the poor, making them incredibly popular with the city's working class. Perón was removed from power in 1955, by a revolt three months after a failed coup where a navy splinter group bombed Plaza de Mayo from the air, killing more than 350 pro-Perón supporters. The third wife of Juan Perón, Isabel was to become president of Argentina for a period beginning in 1974, but she was overthrown in 1976 by a military junta that began to target dissidents in what became known as the 'Dirty War'. Exact figures are not known but it is estimated around 30,000 citizens lost their lives in this war.

Modern Buenos Aires

In 1983 democracy returned to Argentina and to Buenos Aires. Raúl Alfonsín was elected as president and immediately set up inquiries surrounding the Dirty War. Trials were carried out and many of the architects of this atrocity brought to justice.

During these recent years of democracy Argentina has not had an easy ride. There have been many problems with the economy, most recently including inflation issues, and endless accusations of corruption in successive governments. However, there have also been huge infrastructural improvements, a shiny new metro and above all a general sense of freedom and liberty throughout the city.

The Buenos Aires that you see before you today has come a long way from the days when its port was its main raison d'être and has flourished into a diverse and multicultural city composed of neighbourhoods that each have a personality of their own. It is a modern city with a markedly European feel to it, but with a past that is evident from the dramatic and glorious architecture to be found in the streets and giant plazas and the spirit still to be felt in the city's inhabitants. Learning Spanish in Buenos Aires will not only let you explore the diverse historical past and equally diverse cultural present, but it will provide you with a unique opportunity to learn the Spanish language in a vibrant urban setting, making lots of International friends while you are at it.