December 6, 2007

¨The Paris of South America¨

During the decades surrounding the turn of the 20th century, Argentina underwent a period of rapid development as a nation politically, socially, and demographically. Its capital, Buenos Aires, stood at the base of these changes, transforming from a colonial port to an economically and culturally robust urban center. Mass immigration during this period brought with it a strong cultural connection to Europe as well as conflictions over the ethnic and national identity of the Argentine.

Some of Argentina’s greatest writers and artists addressed this issue in their work during this time, offering various visions for the future of the nation. A distinct style gradually began to develop in Buenos Aires, influenced not only by the cultural elite, but by the city’s slums and those who inhabited them. Out of the darkest corners of the street arose the tragic rhythm of the tango and the coarse porteño dialect Lunfardo.

Riding an economic swell, the country seemed poised to become the great power of the southern hemisphere and was proclaimed as an example to all Latin American nations. The world economic crisis of 1929 and an ensuing military coup would put an end to these hopes; however, activating a historical chain of events from which Argentina has not yet fully recovered.

The contemporary city of Buenos Aires can only be understood within the context of this golden period of its history. The cultural and structural developments which took place in the city at this time laid the foundations for the porteño identity. This webpage will explore the most significant political, cultural, and economic factors at the turn of the 20th century in order to provide a better understanding of the magnetism, beauty, and contradiction inherent in the city of Buenos Aires.