A SHORT HISTORY OF BUENOS AIRES
Pedro de Mendoza was a Spanish explorer who came from nobility in the Andalusian town of Guadix in the province of Granada. In 1529, after a military career in Europe, he was commissioned by the Emperor Charles V to conquer and colonise the Rio de la Plata region. He would receive 2000 ducats with 2000 more as an advance, on condition that within two years he would bring 1000 colonists to the region, construct roads and build 3 forts.
In 1534 he sailed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a fleet of 11 vessels and 1,200 men. A terrible tempest blew the fleet off course and they scattered off the coast of Brazil. It is here that it is thought that Mendoza’s lieutenant, Osario, was assassinated. According to some authorities this was on the orders of Mendoza himself, on suspicions of disloyalty. Mendoza finally reached the estuary of the Rio de la Plata and founded the city of Buenos Aires on February 2, 1536. Disease broke out, and the colonists suffered attacks from the indigenous people, the Querandi. Diego, the brother of Mendoza, was killed along with three quarters of his men, and eventually the natives captured and burned down the city. Disappointed, Mendoza left Juan de Ayolas in charge and sailed for Spain in 1537, but died a maniac during the voyage. Buenos Aires was eventually abandoned in 1541, and the colonists moved to Asunción.
The city that Mendoza founded was located in what is now the San Telmo district, south of the city centre.
In 1580 Juan de Garay, a Spanish conquistador, arrived by sailing down the Paraná River, from Asunción (now the capital of Paraguay). He had previously founded a number of cities in Argentina, many near the Paraná River, and Santa Fé, a well known province located in Buenos Aires (in present-day Argentina) in the year 1573. While lieutenant governor of the provinces of the Rio de la Plata, he made a permanent settlement in Buenos Aires which had not been inhabited since its abandonment in 1541.
The city prospered with trade, but during the majority of the 17th and 18th centuries, Spain made it obligatory that all trade to Europe pass through Lima, Peru for tax collection. This frustrated the traders of Buenos Aires, and as a result a black market developed. Hearing about all of this, Charles III of Spain eased the trade restrictions, eventually making Buenos Aires an open port in the late 1700’s.
During the British invasions of the Rio de la Plata, British forces made two unsuccessful attacks on Buenos Aires, in the years 1806 and 1807. On May 25th, 1810, the criollo citizens of Buenos Aires ousted the Spanish viceroy and established a government. May 25 is now celebrated as a grand holiday in the country of Argentina. Formal independence from Spain was officially declared in 1816.
Argentine railroad construction in the latter part of the 19th century stimulated settlement and the cultivation of the pampas, whose products were marketed and exported. The economic growth of the city attracted many immigrants from Europe during the 1920’s and quickly became a favoured destination. Shanty towns (villas miseria) started growing around the city’s industrial areas and remained roughly until the 1950’s. Buenos Aires was at the heart of Peronism which was cause for the famous demonstration of October 17, 1945 (Dia de la Lealtad). This took place in the Plaza de Mayo, which became the location for major demonstrations and many of the country’s political events for the years to come.
Despite the rich history of Buenos Aires, it continues to flourish and grow into a city full of flavour, charm and excitement with many different cultures to experience. With its booming tourism industry and delightful neighbourhoods that encircle the city, it has become a jewel in South America with a spirit that is incomparable to any other throughout the world.