Casa Rosada and Plaza de Mayo
Often known as the “pink mansion” by tourists or fresh expats, the Casa Rosada (Pink House) is the executive mansion and office of the president of Argentina. Considered one of the most notable buildings in the city, due to its vibrant pink color, rich history, and location, this building is a must-see for anyone visiting Buenos Aires for the first time.
Casa Rosada, as it stands today, was built in 1857 and erected after the fort of Juan Baltazar of Austria was torn down to make way for a new customs complex. The renovated structure did keep the fort’s old administrative annex, which was later used as a presidential office by Bartolomé Mitre and later Domingo Sarmiento. It was Sarmiento who played a major role in beautifying the house by adding patios, gardens, and wrought-iron gates. He’s also responsible for painting it pink, a symbolic gesture meant to lessen political tension by fusing together the colors of the two opposing parties at the time, the Unitarians (white) and the Federales (red).
Declared a national historic monument in 1942, the interior of Casa Rosada is also something to behold. Adorned with beautifully tiled floors and decadent frescoes, the inside of the house is an apt representation of the wealth and power the aristocratic rulers of Argentina held. In places its walls are decorated with golden angels, and intricately carved marble work can be found in abundance throughout the palace.
In 1957, a museum was created in Casa Rosada to commemorate the building’s rich history and display presidential memorabilia, including various sashes, batons, books, furniture, even three carriages. Remains of the original fort that stood on the plot where Casa Rosada now lies were also dug up and added to the museum. Over the years, Casa Rosada has undergone numerous renovations and expansions, which continue to this day. There are free, hour-long tours provided from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, and on holidays. For more information click here.
Casa Rosada sits at the eastern end of the Plaza de Mayo, a large square where the 25 May 1810 Revolution took place, and has since become a popular political hub and historic landmark in the city of Buenos Aires. The park is named after the May revolution that eventually led to Argentina’s independence from Spain in 1816. On Oct. 17, 1945, demonstrations in the park organized by the supporters of Juan Perón led to his release from prison. Perón would later become president of Argentina, and every Oct. 17 his supporters gather in Plaza de Mayo to celebrate the Peronist movement. In an attempt to overthrow the Perón government, the plaza was bombed in 1955, an event which killed 364 people.
Over the years, Plaza de Mayo became known as a place to voice you political opinions or grievances, which is what the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have done since the 1970s, congregating with signs and pictures of their children who were subjected to “forced disappearance” by the Argentine military during its Dirty War. Those thought to be committing subversive acts, or with allegiances not aligned with Argentina’s military government at the time, were subjected to illegal arrest, abuse, torture, and eventually death. These mothers used the significance of Plaza de Mayo to spread awareness of the regime’s sordid activities.
In 2001, Plaza de Mayo was the scene of yet another heated demonstration that ended in bloodshed, when five protesters were shot by armed guards. People had gathered to express their angst at the government’s failure to contain an economic crisis. Protesters took the the streets in many of the larger cities in Argentina in an effort to be heard, some of them rioting. The situation came to a head when on December 20, federal police killed five protesters.
Both of these landmarks are in a highly trafficked area, in between the main streets of Defensa and Paseo Colón, and while you’re visiting these historic landmarks you can also stop in for a coffee at another one, Café Tortoni. This café is know to be the epitome of the “porteño” café, a term frequently used to describe those who trace their roots to the earliest days of Buenos Aires. Opened in 1858, Café Tortoni eventually, like so many European cafes, became home to the city’s cultural elite and burgeoning intellectuals. Today, it’s still a great play to sit and play a game of cards, or talk about the decline of the modern novel.