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on June 11, 2019 on 6/11/19 from ,

Plazas: They’re More Than Meets the Eye

the most peaceful way to spend the day 

This week marks the half-way point of my time here in Buenos Aires, Argentina! The past three weeks have gone by incredibly fast and have been filled with amazing experiences that I cannot wait to share with my friends and family back home.

One of my favorite things to do in the city is go to a plaza or park and spend time reading, doing homework, walking, or simply sitting and enjoying the atmosphere. Parks and plazas are very common in Buenos Aires, and many other Latin American and European countries. Whether it be spending time with friends, walking their dogs, taking a nap in the sun, or bringing their children to play, Porteños love taking advantage of public spaces around the city.

Park entrance in Palermo.

what are they really for?

It is quite interesting to observe how people make use of the public spaces here. For instance, when walking through the city I passed by a primary school. Directly across the street from the school was a small plaza with two rows of trees planted in the center. If it hadn’t been for the words on the wall of the plaza, I wouldn’t have known that it was actually a memorial.

The plaza was in front of what used to be the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. Years ago, in 1992, the embassy was bombed, killing the bomber, Israeli civilians, and many Argentine civilians. In fact, the twenty-one trees and seven benches in the plaza are meant to represent the victims of the bombing.

The school across the street was also destroyed during the attack, but was later reconstructed. Now, during breaks and after school, the plaza is filled with school children playing, laughing, yelling, having fun. It is beautiful to see how the site of such a devastating event has been transformed into not only a memorial that commemorates the victims, but also a place of enjoyment and recreation for the public.

Plaza Embajada de Israel commemorating the victims of the Israeli embassy attack.

They’re everywhere!

Throughout the city, it is not uncommon to see many plazas that contain memorials and significant monuments. For example, the Plaza Lavalle is located in an area with many theaters, government buildings, schools, and other cultural and historical monuments. The plaza is surrounded by the supreme court Tribunales building, Teatro Colon and Teatro Cervantes, memorials commemorating victims of terrorist attacks and disappearances, and monuments of important people and events. Inside of the plaza are benches, plants, trees, pathways, and playgrounds.

Plaza Lavalle (left) and entrance to Teatro Colon (right) separated by road/walkway.

Like all other plazas and parks, Plaza Lavalle is a place of relaxation, social gatherings, and a safe space for children and families. At the same time, it is also a place of great cultural, historical, and governmental significance. For me, this is an unusual combination, but also a refreshing experience that I have grown to appreciate.

Tribunales (Supreme Court) located in Plaza Lavalle.

the role of public spaces in buenos aires

My experience in the United States is quite different in terms of the prevalence of public spaces and the way that they are used. Stopping at a plaza or park to eat lunch, walk around, or sit for a while is a normal part of everyday life in Buenos Aires. But in the United States, it is rare to see people take time out of their day to slow down, take a break, and appreciate communal spaces the way they do here. 

What I find most interesting is that Buenos Aires and its inhabitants appear to be like other large cities found in the United States. However, the role of parks and plazas is much different here, and is reminiscent of a leisurely, slow-paced way of life, like that of some European countries. While it is a fast-paced, modernizing city like countless others around the world, there are also small details like this that make Buenos Aires a unique mixture of cultures and lifestyles.