I was forwarded this video by a reader, a fellow Argentine-American sort. It’s a fascinating must-see for anyone who has been to Buenos Aires. Judging by the “FW: RV: Fwd: FW:” business going on in the subject line of my friend’s e-mail, this video has been sent around by Argies quite a bit already.
It’s an MGM-produced travelogue video from 1932, probably meant to be shown in the newsreel segment ahead of feature films. It shows Buenos Aires, and Argentina, as it was in the early 1930s. This was still fat-cat Argentina, with wealthy estancieros and businessmen lounging by their riverside estates, at the Hippodrome, etc. As a porteño (native of Buenos Aires), I couldn’t help but share it.
There is one thought I had on how much Buenos Aires has changed in the decades since the film was made. The fountain shown towards the beginning, with the sirens and water gurgling here and there, today is surrounded by an eight foot wall of Plexiglass, hockey rink-style, to keep away vandals, looters (who often plunder Buenos Aires monuments for bronze), and opportunistic bathers. The Plexiglass is an eyesore, but Buenos Aires is no longer in its Belle Époque; instead it’s limping along in its sort of 80-year-long post-boom hangover. As my friend and I mused in an email exchange, Argentina and its capital kind of froze after 1930, when the Great Depression (and a military coup that same year) began to catch up with its once-prosperous democracy and ushered in a long fall from grace, still ongoing.
The old school facets of Buenos Aires that charm the many gringo expats who have taken up residence there (birdcage elevators, art deco and art nouveau buildings, ultra-retro signage, bad plumbing, etc.) are all evidence that things didn’t change all too much once the Depression punctured its for-export beef, grain, and wool economy.