Marking Argentina’s first official steps towards nationhood, la semana de mayo is now a week for escarapela , locro and folklore. This holiday celebrates the events of the days leading up to May 25, 1810, when Buenos Aires croillos (the direct descendants of Spanish immigrants) proclaimed the end of the Spanish colonial presence in the region, and commenced Argentina’s quest to form a unified federal government.
Interestingly, it was none other than Napoleon Bonaparte who ostensibly played the most important role in the timing of the criollo uprising. In 1808, the infamous French Emperor invaded Spain, and thus weakened the Spanish Empire. In Buenos Aires, the already eager to rebel upper- and middle-class criollos took advantage of Spain’s depleted political and military prowess, and peacefully demanded the resignation of Viceroy Virrey Cisneros. After an entire week of deliberation and social protest, Cisneros willfully resigned his station. The Viceroyalty was then replaced with the Primera junta , Argentina’s first national government.
In subsequent years, the region suffered from great instability as regional governments haggled over the details concerning the unification of Argentina as nation, and the location of its capital.
Such conflict spanned nearly 70 years, and succeeded more in the unification of a national political, rather than cultural, identity for Argentina. But on the day of el 25 de mayo , Buenos Aires and its porteños join the rest of the country in celebration of these first steps towards independence.
The holiday is also the namesake of one of the most beautiful streets in Buenos Aires. Avenida de Mayo runs between the Plaza de Mayo and the Plaza Congreso. Lined with sycamores, this avenue is the home of some of Buenos Aires’s best known tourist stops: the popular Café Tortoni, various vintage hotels, the 26 Billares Bar, the Palacio Barolo, and the Cabildo, which served as town hall during the colonial era and was the very site of the May Revolution.
If you’re looking for a great place to celebrate el 25 de mayo in Buenos Aires, go to the Pena Colorado (at Guemes 3647). There you can enjoy an excellent locro while taking in the great atmosphere and music. In traditional pena fashion, after dinner the restaurant turns into a giant campfire with guitars and requests flying from table to table. It’s a unique experience that’s truly Argentine. After all that wine, locro and buena onda , you’ll think you know the words as well!