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Historias de Buenos Aires

Barrio de San Telmo

Buenos Aires had its first division as neighborhoods, from the Cathedral: the city to the North and to the South of it. At the beginnig, the patricias families lived in the South, .this area is subdivided into two different parts: Monserrat and across the street from the Zanjas (trenches, now Chile St.), San Telmo. On the top of the barrack , there was a main road for the carts and carriages to transport goods to the port.

By the mid-nineteenth century, blacks made up a third of the population of the city and they had their own social center called The Nation Conga. In time of Juan Manuel de Rosas, that road became the current street Defensa. Due to the yellow fever epidemic, in 1871, the patricias families moved from the South to the North of the city, those lands, instead of workshops and warehouses,  were villas and mansions. Thus, the North of the city – the area of ​​Florida, starting from San Martin Square, through Recoleta and Palermo was the area for wealthier classes and the South became synonyms of abandonment, poverty and overcrowding.

San Telmo was filled with a variety of languages ​​and “strange” habits and traditions. Immigrants accounted for almost half of Argentina’s population. They occupied the abandoned houses that the oligarchy left and they subdivided spaces into one or two rooms, which were assigned to different families. And in this way, the conventillo ( tenement )was born. They were considered privileged, because at least they shared an old house, with certain amenities. On the other hand, those who shared tenements of La Boca were precarious houses made of wood and metal and materials taken from the remains of boats and ships from the port.Despite the passing of time, colonial hints still remain in San Telmo and Monserrat. To give you an example, in Alsina and Defensa St. the Church and Convent of San Francisco, started to be built in 1730, under the direction of Giovanni Andrea Bianchi (Andres Blanqui, 1645-1740), one of the most well known arquitects in colonial time: the colonial headquarters (El Cabildo), the Main Cathedral and the Church of Pilar in Recoleta to mention some of his works. Other testimonies, San Pedro Telmo Church, also known as Basilica of Our Lady of Bethlehem and San Ignacio Church, the first Jesuit one in the area, The Illuminated Block (Manzana de las Luces) where an important center of learning and education was settled, following the ideas of European encyclopedic and encouraging our national heroes to be inspired by these lights of knowledge.( In Peru St. 222, the first College and University of Buenos Aires.)

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