BUENOS AIRES – Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires is much more than a boulevard, it is the heart and showcase of the Argentine capital, a celebration of culture and symbol of political dispute where Spanish immigration has left its mark and which this Tuesday celebrates its 125th anniversary.
Founded July 9, 1894, with an unmistakable Parisian style, the vast wave of European immigration soon transformed it into a meeting ground for Hispanics.
Illustrating that are the hotels, bars and restaurants that still refer to the origins of their owners – Asturias, Avila, Marbella, Vedra, Iberia and Hispano, among others – together with the zarzuela theaters and Madrid-style cafes.
“Whatever of interest occurs in Buenos Aires happens along the Avenida de Mayo,” architect and historian Horacio Spinetto told EFE about this “essential” street of the capital that is full of plaques marking memorable Hispanic moments in the city.
Some of the most cherished of Spanish artists and writers passed along this avenue: Margarita Xirgu, Jacinto Benavente, Vicente Blasco Ibañez, Alfonso Daniel R. Castelao and more.
The great poet Federico Garcia Lorca even has a museum in the Hotel Castelar where he stayed while living in the city, and the enemies in the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War were represented on one of the corners of this artery by customers from two historic cafes located just meters (yards) apart: the Iberia, where they tended to align with the Republican faction, and the Español, more like Franco militants.
“When Republican forces caught up with Gen. Emilio Mola and the plane he was traveling on disappeared, we had a terrible situation on that corner, because on one side it was like a wake while those on the other were toasting the event with El Gaitero Spanish cider. Which led to terrible brawls on that street corner,” Spinetto said.
Feelings on the street began to mellow, however, until a kind of brotherhood between Avenida de Mayo and Madrid’s Gran Via was established in 2011.
For the historian, the two streets have a similarity that is above all “sentimental,” given the unique place they occupy in their respective cities and the historical significance of their buildings.
Avenida de Mayo was the first boulevard in South America and the first subway in Latin America was inaugurated here, as was the building that for many years was the tallest in the region, the Barolo Palace.
On its 125th anniversary, the city of Buenos Aires is encouraging tourists and citizens alike to “rediscover, recognize and appreciate the history and heritage” of this urban axis with a wide choice of guided tours, talks, concerts and cultural activities.
The principal celebration this Monday is a dramatic tour scheduled to begin at the monolith that marks the starting point of all the routes in the country and which will serve to review certain legends and anecdotes that have emanated from in and around the buildings along Avenida de Mayo.
Also scheduled are musical performances in the best bars, expos of antique vehicles and a fashion show inspired by “The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri.