One of the most important city ports of the Western Hemisphere, Buenos Aires has a history inextricably connected to the fluctuations of the Atlantic economy as well as to its strategic position as a gateway to vast and fertile flatlands that extend far beyond the city limits. Founded and re-founded in the 16th century as a secondary colonial outpost, Buenos Aires was dramatically transformed by the demands of the European markets at the turn of both the 18th and 19th centuries. In this context, two crucial developments are decisive for understanding the physical, social, and cultural fabric of the city: the emergence of the gauchos and the arrival of millions of European immigrants. The gauchos, although primarily inhabiting the pampas, would nonetheless project their influence on the city’s margins and later be elevated to cultural icon; whereas the immigrants would give Buenos Aires the particular imprint for which it is internationally recognized. Crucial periods of the city’s history, repeatedly visited by scholars, can only be explained as the result of the interplay between local and international political, economic, and demographic factors. These include the autocratic and populist rule of Juan Manuel de Rosas in the 1830s and 1840s, the influx of Italian, Spanish, and Jewish populations between 1880 and 1930, and the rise of Juan D. Perón as a popular leader in the 1940s (along with the formation of his still influential movement). The experience of living in an urban environment subject to quick transformations, particularly since the end of the 19th century, has had a decisive impact on Argentine literature, music, and visual arts. The creations of poets, novelists, musicians, artists, and filmmakers have proven crucial for constructing a lasting image of Buenos Aires for local and international consumption. Tango, perhaps the city’s most singular cultural expression, has played an unparalleled role in this regard. But if a turn-of-the-century burgeoning city has occupied an undisputed place in the artistic and scholarly imagination, there is also the Buenos Aires of economic decline and cultural conflict that gradually emerged in the last century. Despite having being affected by several dictatorial regimes and financial crises on which recent scholarship and cultural production have increasingly focused, contemporary Buenos Aires continues to be a sociocultural and economic center for tourists, students, and new waves of immigrants (mainly from Latin American and East Asian countries).
Degiovanni, Fernando and Rosenberg, Fernando, "Buenos Aires" (2014). CUNY Academic Works.