Buenos Aires Belle Époque
Buenos Aires is a strange mix of layers. From its colonial past, condemned to centuries of low productivity agriculture and smuggling by the Spanish Administration, to the blinding prosperity of the open space that started in the 1880s and attracted souls from the whole Europe.
This era was perhaps so blinding that the country couldn´t recover from that sudden bonanza, and it was followed by a century of crisis.
The Belle Époque still shines discretely just everywhere in Buenos Aires.
During the end of XIX century the aristocracy –mainly related to land- built they Mansions taking the Parisian model as a rule. In the same way, public buildings, parks and boulevards were designed by French architects, and infrastructure works by British companies, so red brick docks and Picadilly-like train stations are part of the daily landscape. You can feel that you are in Unter der Linden boulevard when walking on a Sunday by Palermo woods (even when Buenos Aires is a little bit noisier).
It is said that one of the last cargos that sailed from France to South America before WWI carried the precious woods, tiles, sculptures and pictures that the perfect French Palais needed to be built; it is now the “Palacio Álzaga Unzué”, a wedding present from Félix Álzaga Unzué to his beloved Elena.
My favourite place is a tiny little public peaceful garden in Recoleta neighbourhood, with its French style enamelled sign, but that´s my secret spot, not far away from the Museo de Arte Decorativo, -a former aristocratic family residence- and its perfect coffee and from the Fine Arts Museum (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes), which treasures masterpieces from the Middle Ages to Turner and Monet and amazing contemporary pieces.
That era is not just a discoloured memory. It has forged the character of the inhabitants of this city and inspires the secular pursuit of beauty and elegance of “porteños” that still claim their European lineage.