“The original words to the Argentine national anthem were written by the subject of today’s post, Alejandro Vicente López y Planes, a writer, lawyer and politician, who became the caretaker, or interim, president of Argentina for a mere 5-6 weeks in mid 1827 when Rivadavia, the subject of my last series of walks, was forced to resign after a negotiations scandal with Brazil. Basically, López oversaw the dissolution of the Congress and the call for and execution of elections that brought Manuel Dorrego to power. He was also, at different points in time, the mayor of Buenos Aires and the Governor of the province. Now, those original lyrics go on a bit and I’m not going to reproduce them all, you can see them on Wikipedia if you like. They’re not the “modern” lyrics which were adopted in 1924, as the original 10 stanzas were both interminable and very anti-Spain, something that once ties with that country were reestablished, didn’t seem appropriate. So, for example, the opening stanza changed from:
Hear, mortals, the sacred cry:
“Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”
Hear the noise of broken chains,
see the noble Equality enthroned.
On the surface of this land now rises
A Nation glorious and new,
Her head is crowned with laurels,
And a Lion lies at her feet.
To just the first four lines of that, taking out the allusion to having beaten the Spaniards. Whether Vinny would have approved or not, we’ll never know.
And so, we set off on the next of our little Argentine presidents’ walks….
Vicente López, as a street, runs through northern Recoleta, beginning at Av. Pueyrredón and ending at calle Montevideo. Here at the former it begins directly across the avenue from the hill known as La Isla (the Island), a little enclave of pricey apartments that surround the British embassy. It is also sometimes referred to as “Little Paris”, though to my mind doesn’t recall that city as much as other parts of Recoleta do. I’ll leave La Isla for another day’s explorations in detail.
The first block or so of the street is a dog-leg continuation of the strip along Azcuenaga, basically a series of “gentleman’s clubs”, i.e., stripper bars and telos, or hourly hotels (“telo” is Lunfardo, or local slang, that reverses the syllables in many words, tel-o = ho-tel). At night, particularly on weekends, the area is teeming with middle aged men looking for a little somethin’ somethin’… if you get my drift.
At 2220 is the Museo Roca, which I’ve talked about before in my write-up of Museum Night here in Buenos Aires. Despite describing itself as an Institute for Historical Investigations, it’s actually an institute for the study of the paranormal.
At the corner of Azcuenaga is this office building that houses a marketing research company, and on the ground floor, until recently a shop for high end kitchenware, is now the relocated Locos por Futból sports bar (decent sandwiches and beer on tap) that had been the mainstay restaurant of the Village Recoleta shopping mall….
And the next block is the start of Village Recoleta. The first block is primarily little restaurants and bars, strip mall style. Nothing of great note, an interesting bar called Portezuelo that offers up a selection of wines by the glass and numerous single malt scotches, and Jota P. Ese that has one of the better all you can eat sushi deals in the area, as long as you don’t long for anything more than salmon.
Until about two years ago this was the main shopping for the area, the Village Recoleta mall, and also our neighborhood cinema. It’s undergoing a lengthy gut-renovation that threatens to extend for years. It was supposed to, like many construction projects around here, already have been reopened a couple of months ago, but generous estimates are now predicting mid-next year, while the more sage folk in the ‘hood figure another 2-3.
It faces onto the south wall of the famed Recoleta Cemetery, the entrance to which can be found around the corner on Junín…
At the corner of that street is the auditorium and school for the Our Lady of Pilar church, best known for being the place where Juan and Eva Perón were married. These days it’s a place to go for free or cheap concerts, flea market sales, and continuing education classes.
Across the street from it is a small plaza with this little pyramid, dedicated to novelist and art critic Manuel Mujica Lainez, colloquially known as “Manucho”, most famous for his historical novels set throughout the Colonial and early years of the Argentine republic.
As we continue on the next block, to one side is an old school administration building, and to the left, the new tower of the Loi Suites Recoleta hotel.
But much of these next few blocks is taken up with a mix of apartment buildings and old homes that, to me, are more evocative of Paris than La Isla. It’s worth looking up, some of the scrollwork balconies and windows, as well as other architectural details, are simply beautiful.
Seriously, look up already.
At 1900, the corner of Ayacucho, is the well known Rodi Bar, still my favorite place for a steak sandwich in the city, plus great fries.
Crossing Av. Callao, the same basic architecture continues. At the corner of Rodriguez Peña you’ll find the Recoleta “El Mercado”, part of the city’s old market network, this one founded in 1900. These days the interior of the market is a Carrefour supermarket, and the outside is a strip, primarily along Rodriguez Peña, of small shops – butchers, greengrocers, cheesemongers.
In fact, while more expensive than most other markets of similar ilk in the area, it’s the place I head to if I need some sort of specialty item as it’s a good bet I can find it in one of the shops.
Opposite El Mercado at 1661 is the Pasaje del Correo, or Post Office Passage – I assume that at some point in history this was where the neighborhood post office was located. These days it’s a chic galeria with little workshops and a trio of restaurants, a small cafe here at the front, and then far at the back, one of our favorite brunch spots, Siróp and the good, but oh so pricey, Nectarine.
And, the street winds down with more pretty architecture and lots of trees, and leads to…
…the Plaza Vicente López y Planes, to be continued in another post.