Thrown within the unique culture and fun lifestyle of the Porteños (the residents of Buenos Aires) you probably won’t spend too much time thinking about home. However, on a sight-seeing tour of the city, for just a moment you may be reminded of your North American roots when you come across the Buenos Aires Obelisk.
At the intersection of 9 de Julio and Corrientes Avenue you will see a very familiar building… The Washington Monument? No, but similar. The image of the Obelisk is one that is commonly used to represent Buenos Aires and Argentina. With the magnitude of the building itself, as well as its radical location on two of the world’s largest streets, it’s no wonder it has become such a recognizable figure.
The complete construction of the Obelisk took only 31 days back in 1936. Its pencil-like structure is said to have been used is commemoration of the forced kidnapping and torture of 10 students during Argentina’s last dictatorship. This unfortunate event is known as La Noche de los Lapices, or the Night of the Pencils. Since this time the government has transformed, but the building stands tall as a symbol of Argentina’s past.
It’s impossible not to notice the 220 feet of the Obelisk that stretch up above street level. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it has become a regular gathering grounds for various cultural events and activities. On any given holiday or futbol match – which may as well be a holiday in Argentina – the monument and surrounding plaza are swarming with people celebrating, the media, fans, various television crews, street performers, and everything else you can imagine.
The Obelisk has also been used as a place to subtly display political messages. During the Peronist government back in the 1970’s a sign which read “El silenco es salud”, Silence is health, was hung from the colossal structure with which the government made their message loud and clear. And creepy.
There is an astounding amount of information and history that has revolved around the Obelisk since its creation. Its symbol is not only one that represents Argentina and Buenos Aires, but also the people, the culture, and the past. To get a crash course on all it has to offer, you can select a number of subway lines to get there. Lines B, C, and D of the metro system all have stations that sit beneath the Obelisk and are connected through various underground passages and galleries.
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