History of Buenos Aires

Latin American countries such as Argentina are a group of peoples of various cultures, languages and ethnic varieties, whose present reality is the result of long complex historical processes.

The conquest and occupation of the Argentinian territory began in the mid XVI century and the natives had already interrupted the advancement of the Incas from Peru through Bolivia.

As they fought battles and reduced the Indians, the Spaniards founded cities that served as support to continue their colonizing advance.

The primitive settlers of the area today included in the Buenos Aires scope were the Querandí people.

The name Querandí was given by the Guaraní people, as they would consume animal fat in their daily diet. Thus, Querandí means “men or people with fat".

Physically, the Querandí Indians would present a beautiful, well-proportioned body. They were tall and extremely warlike. They would wear leather clothes, similar to a fur blanket; women would also wear a skirt that covered their bodies up to their knees.

With a semi sedentary lifestyle, they would group their leather tents by the water supply in the winter, and they would go on their their raids inland in the summer.

They were good runners. They would hunt partridges, deer, quails and ñandúes with the help of their bows and arrows and their boleadoras. Pottery was their industry.

They would believe in a great god whom they called Soychu, who would have a contender or evil spirit: Gualichu.

With the Spaniards, they adopted the horse, thus generating a new lifestyle. Even if they continued being nomads, they could make contact with other native peoples.

In 1516, the Spaniard Juan de Solís landed on the shores of the River Plate (Río de la Plata), but the natives resisted his attempt of conquest and the expedition failed.

Magellan touched the port soon afterwards and went up the River Plate in search for a connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. When he saw that there was no such connection, he continued navigating southwards along the land presently called Patagonia, making contact with the Tehuelche peoples, whom he called Patagones.

After this, he discovered the strait bearing his name and connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

In short, the conquest and population streams developed by the Spaniards left from three different places: Higher Perú, Chile and Asunción del Paraguay.

From Higher Peru, the cities of Santiago del Estero (1553), Tucumán (1565), Córdoba (1573), Salta (1582), Catamarca (1583), La Rioja (1591) and Jujuy (1593) were founded. The stream leaving from Chile founded the cities of Mendoza (1561), San Juan (1562) and San Luis (1594). And the one leaving from Asunción del Paraguay, founded Santa Fe (1573), Buenos Aires (1580) and Corrientes (1588). The Indian resistance prevented these streams from settling down in the South.

The first foundation of Buenos Aires took place in March 1536 by Don Pedro de Mendoza (1487-1537), who had been empowered by Carlos V “to conquer and colonize the lands in Solis’ River, called River Plate". He was given the title of “adelantado”. The exact place where the city was founded is not accurately known as no traces of the foundation act have been found.

In June 15, 1536, a cruel battle between the Spaniards and the Querandí peoples took place.

About forty Spaniards and a thousand Indians were killed in the fight. The surviving Indians allied with one another and destroyed the recently founded city.

It was another Spanish conqueror, Juan de Garay (1528-1583) who, in 1542, was appointed by the adelantado Juan Torres de Vera y Aragón to found the city in order to colonize the southern territories and populate the shore. Then, he embarked towards the River Plate and in the present Mayo Square, he carried out the second foundation of Buenos Aires in June 11, 1580.

Juan de Garay called the city Santísima Trinidad and its port Santa María de los Buenos Ayres.

Later, he went southwards on an expedition in search for the legendary City of the Caesars (1581-1582) and, after other trips and explorations in the River Plate area, he was killed by the Indians on the banks of the Carcarañá River, near the ancient Sancti Spíritus Fort.

The Querandí Indians, who lived in the surroundings, were friendly at the beginning and obtained Spanish goods in exchange for food resulting from hunting and fishing; but, suddenly, they chose to interrupt contact and food became scarce among the Spaniards.

With the intention of submitting the Querandí peoples, Pedro de Mendoza organized a military expedition led by his brother, Diego de Mendoza, which was defeated on the banks of the Luján River on June 15, 1536.

As from that moment, Buenos Aires was left in the at the mercy of hunger and the sporadic Querandí raids.

Late in June, the Querandí peoples laid seige to Buenos Aires and the survival situation became worse for the Spaniards. The Indians were finally dispersed but about a thousand expeditioners died in the scuffle.

Seriuosly ill, Pedro de Mendoza delegated the command of the settlement to Captain Francisco Ruiz Galán until Ayolas came back and left towards Spain in April 1537.

The conquest of the River Plate was carried on by Ayolas and by the rest of the members of Pedro de Mendoza’s original expedition.

Each time the Spaniards founded a city, they would reserve a space opposite the main square to raise a cabildo, where the town council meetings would be held. The city was governed from there through various officers (regents, mayors, etc.) who were in charge of justice tasks, police forces, public supply and care of the city. The Buenos Aires cabildo, which has undergone several modifications, was built by the Jesuits in the mid XVIII century.

Another typical building in American cities was the fort. The most famous of them all was the Buenos Aires fort, which would stand where the Government House (Pink House) is now located. It was the fort, and not the cabildo, which would work as the seat for governors, the viceroy and then the First Cabinet Meeting. It was built on a hill from where the River Plate could be controled and the arrival of vessels noticed.

The Buenos Aires port was a window into the world, but it was closed to commerce for years by command of the viceroy of Perú. Such bannishment used to be evaded by local traders, who turned smuggling into a mandatory way of survival.

Since its foundation, Buenos Aires has used the "Vessel Stream" for the unloading of goods, as it was a deep channel. The goods were unloaded very modestly: once the vessels anchored, the boats would carry the passengers and goods to the shore, as there was no pier.

The creation of the Rio de la Plata Viceroyalty entailed its liberalization to foreign vessels, although with certain reservations.

The Indians dwelling the Northwest of the present Argentinian territory would continue to fight the Spanish domination and would try to follow the example of rebelliousness set by Incan Tupac-Amaru, who ended up being beheaded in 1780. The Indians from the pampas and from Chaco were also a reason for the Rio de la Plata authorities to worry about their frequent raids over the settlements. The only Indians that to some extent sumitted to the Spaniards were the ones living in the Mesopotamic region.

In 1776, Spanish king Carlos III ordered the provisional creation of the Rio de la Plata Viceroyalty in order to ensure a more efficient control of his American domains. So far, Buenos Aires and the provinces would depend on the Perú Viceroyalty, whose capital was Lima.

The great distance separating the Rio de la Plata and the viceroyalty head had awakened the greed of the English and the Portuguese, who would profit from smuggling towards Buenos Aires and the littoral area, thus jeopardizing the royal treasury.

The Rio de la Plata Viceroyalty became permanent in 1778, and four years later the Intendency regime, which made the estate supervision more effective, was created.

It was divided into three departments: Río de la Plata, Tucumán and Cuyo.

The leather export industry and the booming introduction of European products through its port to the rest of the country increased the significance of Buenos Aires. Then, the process of transformation of the colonia order began, which would lead to the Independence war.

A strong commercial bourgeoisie settled in the Buenos Aires harbor area was the force that acted in the 1810 revolutionary movement, which created the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. In May 25, 1810, the Buenos aires cabildo removed the viceroyalty from office and announced that it would continue to govern the territories in the name of king Fernando VII.

Subsequently, representations of several provinces met at Tucumán in March 1816 and, on July 9, the delegates proclaimed themselves independent from Spanish domain and declared the formation of the United Provinces of South America (then United Provinces of the Río de la Plata).

The subsequent confrontations between Buenos Aires and the provinces signed its evolution until its federalization.

In September 20, 1880, the Federalization of the City of Buenos Aires was passed, which implied that all income from customs rights at the city harbor would remain in the hands of the National State.

The new president, Julio A. Roca, took office in October 12, 1880 with all the provinces subject to the central power and governed from Buenos Aires, turned into the Federal District of the Republic.

During his government, the City of La Plata was founded to be the seat for the authorities of the Province of Buenos Aires.

A great mass of immigrants arrived in the country between 1857 and 1914, period during which 3,300,000 foreigners entered the country.

In January 4, 1881, the first telephone is installed in Buenos Aires.

In 1882, the first electrical plant is installed and the first slaughter house is inaugurated.

In 1886, the building works of the Buenos Aires harbor begins under the direction of engineer Madero.

In 1889, the works for the opening of the present Mayo Avenue (Avenida de Mayo) begin and, in the same year, the telephone line joining Buenos Aires and Montevideo under the River Plate becomes the first telephone cable laying under water in the world.

In July 9, 1894, the Avenida de Mayo is inaugurated and, the same year in November, the public service of running water is authorized.

In 1896, the first cinematographic exhibition takes place.

In 1897, the first electrical tramway is put into operation.

In 1898, the Botanical Garden is founded under the direction of urbanist Carlos Thays.

In 1903, the first taximeters circulate in the city and the following year, the first radio broadcast is done.

In 1904, the first buses circulate along Avenida de Mayo.

In 1908, the Colón Theater is inaugurated.

In 1913, the first underground line, which joins the Mayo Square and the Once Square, starts to operate.

In August 24, 1916, the first electrical railway, which joins Buenos Aires and Tigre, is inaugurated.

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