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San Telmo

San Telmo

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San Telmo is the oldest barrio (neighborhood) of Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

, Argentina. It is a well-preserved area of the Argentine metropolis and is characterized by its colonial buildings. Cafes, tango parlors and antique shops line the cobblestone
Cobblestones are stones that were frequently used in the pavement of early streets. "Cobblestone" is derived from the very old English word "cob", which had a wide range of meanings, one of which was "rounded lump" with overtones of large size...

 streets, which are often filled with artists and dancers.

San Telmo's attractions include old churches (e.g. San Pedro Telmo), museums, antique stores and a semi-permanent antique fair (Feria de Antigüedades
Feria de San Telmo
Feria de San Telmo is an antique fair that takes place in the barrio of San Telmo, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was created in 1970 by architect José María Peña....

) in the main public square, Plaza Dorrego
Plaza Dorrego
Plaza Dorrego is a square located in the heart of San Telmo, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the 19th century, San Telmo was the main residential barrio of the city and Plaza Dorrego was its focal point....

. Tango
Tango music
Tango is a style of ballroom dance music in 2/4 or 4/4 time that originated among European immigrant populations of Argentina and Uruguay . It is traditionally played by a sextet, known as the orquesta típica, which includes two violins, piano, double bass, and two bandoneons...

-related activities for both locals and tourists are in the area.


Known as San Pedro Heights during the 17th century, the area was mostly home to the city's growing contingent of dockworkers and brickmakers; indeed, the area became Buenos Aires' first "industrial" area, home to its first windmill and most of the early city's brick kilns and warehouses. The bulk of the city's exports of wool, hides and leather (the Argentine region's chief source of income as late as the 1870s) were prepared and stored here in colonial times. Their presence led to the first residential settlements in this area: that of Africans, slaves and free, alike.

Separated from Buenos Aires proper by a ravine, the area was formally incorporated into the city in 1708 as the "Ovens and Storehouses of San Pedro." The neighborhood's poverty led the Jesuits
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 to found a "Spiritual House" in the area, a charitable and educational mission referred to by San Pedro's indigent as "the Residence;" the 1767 Suppression of the Society of Jesus led to the mission's closure, however.

The void left by the Jesuits' departure was addressed by the 1806 establishment of the Parish of San Pedro González Telmo (or "San Telmo"), so named in honor of the Patron Saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

 of seafarers. The move failed to replace lost social institutions, however, and San Telmo languished well after Argentine independence in 1816. The Jesuit Residence, restored as a clinic by Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

n friars, was shuttered in 1821, and San Telmo saw no public works for the next 30 years except a Black Infantrymen's Quarters and the construction of the dreaded Mazorca Dungeon by Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas
Juan Manuel de Rosas
Juan Manuel de Rosas , was an argentine militar and politician, who was elected governor of the province of Buenos Aires in 1829 to 1835, and then of the Argentine Confederation from 1835 until 1852...


San Telmo began to improve despite these challenges, particularly after Rosas' 1852 deposal. The establishment of new clinics, the installation of gas mains, lighting, sewers, running water and cobblestone
Cobblestones are stones that were frequently used in the pavement of early streets. "Cobblestone" is derived from the very old English word "cob", which had a wide range of meanings, one of which was "rounded lump" with overtones of large size...

s and the opening of the city's main wholesale market led to increasing interest in the area on the part of the well-to-do and numerous imposing homes were built in the western half of San Telmo. This promising era ended abruptly, however, when an epidemic of yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

 struck the area in 1871. The new clinics and the heroic efforts of physicians like Florentino Ameghino
Florentino Ameghino
Florentino Ameghino was an Argentine naturalist, paleontologist, anthropologist and zoologist.Born in Luján, son of Italian immigrants, Ameghino was a self-taught naturalist, and focused his study on the lands of the southern Pampas...

 helped curb the spread of the epidemic into points north; but, claiming over 10,000 lives, the crisis led to the exodus of San Telmo's growing middle and upper classes into what later became Barrio Norte
Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires
Barrio Norte is the informal name given to a part of Buenos Aires centering around Santa Fe Avenue and the Recoleta district.Recoleta, Belgrano and Palermo, are within a region with a per capita immediately comparable with that of many European cities-Overview:An unofficial neighborhood, Barrio...


Leaving behind hundreds of properties, a few of the larger lots were converted into needed parks, the largest of which is Lezama Park
Lezama Park
Lezama Park is a public park in the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, Argentina.-Overview:Historians believe the park's eastern barranca to have been the site of Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Mendoza's landing on what became the first, failed attempt to establish Buenos Aires in 1536...

, designed by renowned French-Argentine urbanist Charles Thays in 1891 as a complement to the new Argentine National Museum of History
Argentine National Museum of History
The Argentine National Historical Museum is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is a museum dedicated to the history of Argentina, exhibiting objects relating to the May Revolution and the Argentine War of Independence.-History:...

. Most large homes, though, became tenement housing during the wave of Immigration in Argentina from Europe, between 1875 and 1930. San Telmo became the most multicultural neighborhood in Buenos Aires, home to large communities of British
English settlement in Argentina
English Argentines are citizens of Argentina who can claim ancestry originating in England. The English settlement in Argentina , took place in the period after Argentina's independence from Spain through the 19th century...

, Galician
Spanish settlement in Argentina
Spanish settlement in Argentina, that is the arrival of Spanish emigrants in Argentina, took place firstly in the period before Argentina's independence from Spain, and again in large numbers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries...

, Italian and Russian
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

-Argentines. The large numbers of Russians in San Telmo and elsewhere in Buenos Aires led to the consecration of Argentina's first Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 in 1901. Growing industry to the south also led a German
German settlement in Argentina
German Argentines are Argentines of German descent. The term "German" usually refers to Ethnic Germans who immigrated to Argentina from Germany, Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, former Yugoslavia and elsewhere in Europe...

 immigrant, Otto Krause
Otto Krause
Otto Krause was an Argentine engineer and educator.-Life and times:Krause was born in the Pampas town of Chivilcoy to Leopoldina and Carl August Krause, both German Argentine immigrants arrived in 1851...

, to open a technical school
Otto Krause Technical School
The Escuela Técnica Otto Krause is an educational institution located at the intersection of Paseo Colón Avenue and Chile Street, in the San Telmo section of Buenos Aires, Argentina...

 here in 1897.

San Telmo's bohemian air began attracting local artists after upwardly mobile immigrants left the area. Growing cultural activity resulted in the opening of the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art
Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art
The Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art known locally as the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires or MAMBA is a modern art museum located in Buenos Aires, Argentina....

 by critic Rafael Squirru
Rafael Squirru
Rafael Squirru , is an Argentine poet, lecturer, art critic and essayist.- Biographical notes :Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Squirru was educated at Saint Andrew's Scot School and at the Jesuit El Salvador Secondary School...

 in 1956, as well as in the 1960 advent of the "Republic of San Telmo," an artisan guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

 which organized art walks and other events. San Telmo's immigrant presence also led to quick popularization of tango
Argentine tango
Argentine tango is a musical genre of simple quadruple metre and binary musical form, and the social dance that accompanies it. Its lyrics and music are marked by nostalgia, expressed through melodic instruments including the bandoneon. Originated at the ending of the 19th century in the suburbs of...

 in the area; long after the genre's heyday, renowned vocalist Edmundo Rivero
Edmundo Rivero
Leonel Edmundo Rivero was an Argentine tango singer, composer, and impresario.-Early days:Rivero was born in the southern Buenos Aires suburb of Valentín Alsina. Joining his father in some of his travels, he was exposed to the lifestyle and the music of the gauchos of Buenos Aires Province from...

purchased an abandoned colonial-era grocery in 1969, christening it El Viejo Almacén ("The Old Grocery Store"). Soon becoming one of the city's best-known tango music halls, it helped lead to a cultural and economic revival in San Telmo.

The 1980 restoration of the former Ezeiza family mansion into the Pasaje de la Defensa ("Defensa Street Promenade"), moreover, has led to the refurbishment of numerous such structures, many of which had been conventillos (tenements) since the 1870s. As most of San Telmo's 19th century architecture and cobblestone streets remain, it has also become an important tourist attraction.