December 2007

Heartbreaking photos

if you like old houses

Virrey Cevallos & Carlos Calvo

Here’s a lovely building on the corner of Virrey Cevallos and Carlos Calvo in Constitución. All the doors are boarded and the building appears to be vacant. I came across an article in the Clarín archives from 1998 that indicates a bad history for this street corner, which evidently had seen a large share of drug dealing during the ’90s and even the shooting death of a dealer.

But from my own observations this specific part of Constitución is much better than it was a decade ago. Ceci used to live just a block from this very corner back in 2003. On my visits that year from Miami I often was walking around this area and never noticed anything troublesome.

There’s a lot of new real estate development along Virrey Cevallos. Let’s hope this beautiful building does not fall victim to demolition.

Democracy’s Failure in Argentina

That attention-grabbing headline could have been written about several periods of Argentine history in the 20th century but this particular instance is from the March 30, 1962 cover of Time magazine featuring a portrait of Arturo Frondizi, president of Argentina from 1958 – 1962. The cover story is titled Ghost from the Past, a reference to Perón.

Frondizi Argentina

In the post-Perón years of the late 1950s there was a lot of economic and political strife with the military closely watching and hampering Frondizi’s function as president. The focus of the Time magazine article is the 1962 congressional and gubernatorial elections that were won by the Peronists in a landslide. The military wanted Frondizi, who had opened the doors for the Peronist party return to politics, to annul the election.

Time Magazine writes about the events with a quality of prose generally missing from today’s mainstream news publications. Too bad the actual writer of the article isn’t credited with a byline:

For hours on end, a solitary figure sat stiffly in an ornate office in Buenos Aires’ presidential Casa Rosada. A few lifelong personal friends kept an uncomfortable vigil in an ivory and green anteroom. Outside the door, a pair of knee-booted grenadiers of the palace guard stood, like life-sized toys, with ceremonial sabers bared. A stream of messengers came and went, bearing bulletins. Arturo Frondizi, 53, President of Argentina and currently his country’s most unpopular man, was waiting to see whether he would be allowed to remain as elected Chief Executive of South America’s second biggest nation.

There are a few editorial interjections that color the article as an artifact from the U.S. perspective such as the constant pairing of the word dictator alongside the name of Juan Perón and the reference to “Che Guevara’s Red mother Celia” showing up at a Peronist rally. Time also couldn’t help but point out that the sixty-six year old Perón (as of 1962) “lives in luxurious exile with his two poodles and 27-year-old Isabel”, foreshadowing another calamitous presidency.

What’s not mentioned in the article, occurring just after the magazine had gone to print, was the arrest of Frondizi by the military.

The article does raise the intriguing question: how did the military, which had not fought a war since 1870, control Argentina for much of the 20th century?

Honoring Girondo at the Xul Solar Museum

Finally, finally made it over to the Homage to Girondo at the Xul Solar Museum. Today is the last day of the two month exhibition, so if you didn’t make it then you’ve missed it.

On display were many examples of books by Oliverio Girondo, one of Argentina’s most important poets of the 20th century. Books by his wife Norah Lange were also on display. Many of the items on display came from the collection of their niece Susana Lange. This year marked the 40th anniversary of Girondo’s death.

Also on display were drawings by Girondo. He was definitely no artist, especially when showcased in the same room as the magnificent works by Xul Solar. It was interesting to see some of Girondo’s drafts for cover designs of his books.

girondo The highlight of the exhibition and something that I’ve been wanting to see for a long time is the academician that Girondo used to promote one of his most known books, Espantapájaros. I’ve written before about the publicity of that book when I posted about the house on Suipacha where Girondo and Lange lived. Here is the cover of the book:

And below is the super-sized model for that cover, an object that later graced the entrance hallway of Girondo’s house.


Another view with some of Xul Solar’s paintings on the wall in the background.

Espantapájaros - Girondo

“Out of the Woods Now” on Bioy

Out of the Woods Now is one of those good literary blogs you should be reading if you’re interested in such things…A posting from earlier this week is on The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares:

Any discussion of the plot would detract from the experience of encountering it for the first time, but suffice it to say that it involves obsession, immortality, fame, love, the parallel destinies of men and the images they create, and a woman named Faustine (which made me think of Goethe and deals with the devil). The invention itself is something we’re on the verge of today–I was stunned when I flipped to the copyright page and discovered that it was first published in 1940 (!).

Fiesta de la Democracia

Some photos from Monday’s Fiesta de la Democracia in Plaza de Mayo. The crowd wasn’t nearly as large as it looks in the photos or on TV. Everybody was crammed into the part of the Plaza that is nearest the Casa Rosada. On the other side of the security fence that runs across the Plaza were very few people. For most events the security fence is used to keep the crowd far away from Casa Rosada. This time the fence came in useful to make it appear that there was a larger crowd.

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, if the Kirchners hadn’t bused in a ton of supporters then there would have been very few people present. Befitting a peronist shindig, wandering through the crowd was a guy selling huge photos of Evita.

Fiesta de la Democracia

Fiesta de la Democracia

Fiesta de la Democracia

Flowers for Presidenta Cristina

Yesterday I walked down to Av de Mayo to witness the inauguration day parade of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Scores of buses that had carried people in from the province were lined up along the part of Av 9 de Julio south of Av Belgrano. If the Kirchners’s hadn’t bused in supporters then the crowd for the later fiesta in Plaza de Mayo would have been very small. It seems like most porteños found something better to do on a very pleasant afternoon. I’m a sucker for pomp and ceremony.

Even along Av de Mayo it was very easy to find a spot along the fence that the police had installed on Av de Mayo. For most of Av de Mayo the crowd was only one person deep along the barricade.

Coming along first was the colorful military unit on horseback along with their band. I’ve not seen these guys since Perón’s reburial. They had a nice sound. I didn’t bring a real video cam but caught a few seconds of grainy video with my Sony digital camera.

And here’s the video of Cristina riding in the back of the car, waving, and asking one of her security detail to give her a rose tossed by the crowd.

Flowers for Cristina

I’m glad I went. Afterwards I made my way down to Plaza de Mayo for the Fiesta de la Democracia. Tomorrow’s blog posting will have photos from the plaza.

Any doubts as to a real estate boom in Barracas?

Ok, this will be the last in my recent postings about demolished houses and new construction in Barracas. That is, unless I come across some other ridiculousness as I’m walking around tomorrow.

So, here on Av Montes de Oca was this building. Nothing extraordinary but nice, very pleasant. (The photo is again from the city’s mapping site, taken a few years back).


And here it is today:

new development in Barracas

The future site of construction project by a Spanish real estate developer.

And what’s up with that hideous blue paint job on the ground floor of the building next door?

Now this, you can tear down


This belonged to a recently emptied space on Montes de Oca, though I do rather like the curve of the balcony and the awning over the upper door. Both reminds me of Miami-style art deco.

It turns out that the city’s GIS site is a treasure chest of photos for buildings that are no longer with us.

The state of that current lot:

More from Barracas

Stayed tuned for yet another before/after from the very next block of Montes de Oca.