Buenos Aires lacks the outstanding colonial architecture of some Latin American cities, such as Lima or San Juan. Despite its presence on the Atlantic coast, Buenos Aires was never a major port for the Spanish empire and the major growth of the city didn’t start until well after the end of Spanish dominance in South America. The only remaining example of the colonial world in the city’s center is the Cabildo, a rather austere building that served as the mercantile center of Buenos Aires in the 1600s and 1700s. The present building has been rebuilt several times, with the current clock tower added as recently as 1940.
The main export from Buenos Aires in colonial times was leather and animal hides. Silver was actually banned from being exported here. This was due to the desire of Lima, as capital of the Spanish empire in the New World, to maintain its control on the territory. The primary silver mines were located around Potosi, which is now in Bolivia, though at the time that area was known as Upper Peru.
Properly, the term Cabildo refers not to a building but to the central authority of the Spanish empire in the colonial cities. The building Cabildo simply represents where that authority convened. The cabildo regulated prices on food and other goods, as well as wages. In BsAs, the Cabildo served as the main authority from 1580 to 1810.
A small museum is located within the cabildo. On Thursday’s and Friday’s, an artisan’s fair is held on the patio within the cabildo. While this fair is small in size, when compared to the larger weekend fairs in Recoleta, the quality of the crafts is among the highest to be found in the city.