Dick and Jane's Travels

A Travelblog (click on any picture to enlarge -- then click again to make it even bigger)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Visited November 26, 2005

Typical street entertainment in Plaza Dorrego

We spent our Saturday afternoon walking from our hotel to the San Telmo area. San Telmo is the kind of Barrio that keeps reinventing itself: While the rich once lived here, they abandoned it in 1870s and fled North when the yellow fever threatened, leaving their colonial mansions to be converted to tenements for the swelling immigrant population. A century later in 1970, the BA government began to slowly restore some of its landmarks. As a consequence, San Telmo has resurrected itself as a bohemian tourist destination and the center for the tango, Argentina’s national dance that borders on religion.

On our way South down the narrow Reconquista street we passed this church before reaching the Plaza de Mayo:

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Merced

The Basilica of Our Lady de la Merced

The third church on this site, this Jesuit designed basilica sits on the narrow Reconquista street between the San Martin Plaza and Plaza de Mayo. Started in 1721,construction finished six decades later in 1779.

BA’s defenders used it when the Brits invaded in the early 1800s. The gates at the front door and the rosette window were added during BA’s heyday at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, stain-glass was added to many other windows darkening the baroque and rococo interior. (Things will get worse as stained glass tends to darken with time).

The sculpture at the top shows General Manuel Belgrano(discussed in the travelblog on Luján) offering the symbol of his command of the Army of the North to Our Lady with the help of his officers and clerics.

Here’s a close-up.

General Belgrano presenting his army

On the other side of the Plaza de Mayo we passed another basilica: St Francis which we described in another travelblog, in case you haven’t had enough of this sort of thing.

San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego

San Telmo is anchored by a lovely square called Plaza Dorrego (where our tango dancers entertain at the top photo on this page). Café life is another religious aspect of Porteño existence and the Plaza’s abundant outside cafes leave just enough room for street performers and tango dancers:

Tango clubs, galleries, and an antique market cling to the narrow cobblestone streets that edge Plaza Dorrego, BA’s oldest square. The turn-of-this-century crash of the peso made many Argentines pawn what they could -- so antiques abound. Many beautiful residences also line the square.

Here’s a shot from the Plaza Dorrego showing one of the Parisian-like apartment buildings and the towers of the Church of Our Lady of Belen:

Our Lady de la Belden peaking out at Plaza Dorrego

Here’s as good of a shot of the front of the church as we could get, given
the narrow street…

A partial facade of Our Lady de la Belded

…and an interior shot:

The interior of Our Lady de la Belden in San Telmo

While the walk was quite enjoyable and the day sunny, our timing was a little off. The quiet Saturday afternoons of San Telmo turn into a huge street fair every Sunday.

Next time!


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