The Heart of Buenos Aires
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                       28 Jan 2008


Buenos Aires, a mega city whose heartbeat is that of past heroes, must survive on the lifeblood of its 13 million people. With fully one third of the entire population of the Republic of Argentina living here, the pulse beat of Buenos Aires determines the fate of the Republic.

Located some 6,000 miles south of the capital of the United States and along the Atlantic Coast of Southern South America, Argentina is the most European of all Latin American countries.

Founded by the Spanish in the 1500’s the growth of Buenos Aires was stymied by the controlling power of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Lima. The Porteños … the people of the port were unable to take full advantage of the excellent harbor available to them on the Plate River Estuary. … In order to survive they resorted to illegal trade with neighboring countries.

The year 1776 marked the beginning of prosperity when Spain elevated Buenos Aires to Viceroyalty status. Free and open market trade was finally permitted by this new authority …... Today, it continues to be a major port city through which grains and meat products, as well as containerized freight, are shipped to Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world.

Greater Buenos Aires covers some 540 square miles with much of it taken up by a non-descript sprawl of suburbs across the semi-infinite pampas. The suburbs are divided and subdivided into hectic motorways all seemingly leading to the city proper known as Capital Federal. The Federal District is equivalent to Washington D.C. in the United States.

The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government are located near the famous Plaza de Mayo. In this area, Argentines gather to express themselves to their government leadership in the form of demonstrations, parades, and sometimes riots. This is also the place where elected presidents greet the people after assuming office. It is said that if harmony reigns at the Plaza de Mayo, then Argentina is at peace.

To the East of the plaza is the Casa Rosada. The Pink House is the Argentine President’s office complex. The building is on the site of the city fort built in 1594. The Port Authority of Buenos Aires occupied the original building, which was remodeled in 1776 for the newly created Viceroyalty. Ox blood was used to obtain the pink color. In 1999 the faded plaster was restored to its original hue.

The government house, the Cabildo … or town hall … is located on the West side of the Plaza. The building was already old when notables of Buenos Aires met here in 1810 to form the country’s first independent government.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is on the site of the first church erected in Buenos Aires. The current structure was begun in 1758. Inside is the tomb of almost mythical hero of Argentine national independence, General José de San Martin.

The Congress Building is located ten blocks from the Pink House on the West end of the Avenue de Mayo. This building is symbolic of the diverse cultural heritage of Argentina. The statues, gardens, and architectural style are reminiscent of that found in European cities.

The Nueve de Julio Avenue is considered the widest street in the world being some 470 feet wide and able to accommodate 20 lanes of traffic. The central marker is the 200 ft. tall Obelisco constructed in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first founding of Buenos Aires by don Pedro de Mendoza. Symbolically, this marker represents the focal point of the entire country. Many highway mileage references use it as point "zero" or the starting point.

The narrow streets surrounded by buildings, which flow into this wide avenue look like canyons. Most of the buildings were constructed during the affluent economic times of the late 1800’s.

The architectural style of the building reflects the diversity of the cultural heritage of Argentina. During the political and social upheavals in Europe and other places … Spanish, Italian, German, French, Russian, Korean, Japanese and others immigrated to Argentina in large numbers. This immigration was strongly encouraged by the Argentine government in order to bring wealth, technical skills, and industrial development to the country. The many generations of these diverse backgrounds has resulted in a unique Argentine culture and life style.

Catholicism is the official religion of Argentina, but for most Argentines the unofficial religion is soccer. Buenos Aires has 16 stadiums to accommodate their world-class teams. To a visitor, soccer seems to be more about rivalry between fans than to playing the actual game. Violence of all types erupts at most games despite the very large police presence. This very violence has been the focus of a major campaign called “No More Violence.” The campaign was begun by a Southern Baptist missionary and has been gaining momentum nationwide. National newspapers and secular organizations have also promoted the campaign in an effort to decrease the physical violence in sports.

Argentina in general and Buenos Aires in particular seem to never sleep. Business activities, social life, and shopping seem to go on into the early morning hours. This nighttime life style is difficult for visitors as well as the residents. Many people must rise early to begin work or other daily activities including shopping for fresh vegetables and meat, waiting in line for hours to pay utility bills, or preparing fresh bread for customers as in this small store front bakery. But…sharing mate, a type of tea, with family and friends is an important part of each Argentine’s day.

The afternoon siesta time is still honored in much of the country but here it seems that the only time people stop is for the train and then for only a short while.

As a horse drawn cart goes by collecting the cardboard set out during the night, the pace of the people is not slowed. Driving on the freeway, the autopista, they quickly pass the villas miseries, or slums located throughout the city. Even with these "miserable neighborhoods", as they’re called, within view, they are seemingly unaware that many of those who live in the shadows of the high-rise apartments, offices, and shops do not have enough to eat, much less a car.

(Different narration voice for following…)

Argentina continues to be stricken by economic crisis. Decades of overspending finally forced the country into the biggest ever debt default. Argentines, once proud of living in one of the wealthiest countries in South America, now face rising costs of living, stagnant salaries and a sharply devalued peso. One in two Argentines now lives below the poverty line. With many unable to even afford food, malnourished children are dying poverty-stricken areas. More than one-fifth of the country’s workforce is unemployed—with no promise of jobs in sight.

An abundance of natural resources are available in this beautiful country, and a proud, educated, and cultured people are searching for solutions to their surmounting problems.

How will the heart of Buenos Aires respond to the serious condition that exists?

How can these millions be reached with the good news that their hope for the future can be found in turning to God? 



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