Thursday, 2 January 2014

Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires

Avenida de Mayo is the central avenue in the city of Buenos Aires. The street connects the two main government buildings in the city, the Casa Rosada and Plaza de Mayo with the National Congress and Plaza Congreso. Both sides of the street are lined with tall, decorative buildings with wrought-iron balconies, grand entrances, ornamental columns and sculptures. This part of Buenos Aires is old, most of it built before the population exploded in the latter half of the twentieth century, and the buildings show their age. Some are crumbling and most are dirty from the air of the city. They are beautiful.
The street is lined with majestic sycamores that filter the light and obscure the building facades, making their beauty a bit of a mystery. The sidewalks are full of people going to work, eating, and selling food or newspapers. Where the subway stations surface on the sidewalk from below, they have been designed with iron railings and signs consistent with the architecture of the buildings and are beautiful in their own right. They become a place to congregate and they blend in with the rest of the architecture.

The street itself is large and busy: four lanes all going in one direction and full of taxis, cars, and buses belching fumes. It is unpleasant to cross for pedestrians but not impossible. Most people move up or down one side. It is a good picture of Buenos Aires: a contradiction between the beautiful architecture, pleasant trees and people walking and the dirt, decay, and hectic pace of the Southern City.
The street is full of loud and dirty cars and buses and as such it is a loud and dirty place itself. Nonetheless, the sidewalks are wide and comfortable, crosswalks work well at every intersection, and subway entrances and bus stops provide access to the rest of the city.
Avenida de Mayo is impressive. Indeed, it is largely due to this street that that people come away with the impression that Buenos Aires is the “Paris of South America”. The French-style architecture and large, mature street trees create a comfortable and interesting setting for the life on the street level. The street receives special treatment, such as the wrought-iron subway entrances, and it is well-maintained. The bus stops provide no seating, as is customary with bus stops in Buenos Aires. Neither are there seat walls or other opportunities to relax without being a patron at one of the many sidewalk cafes.
Most people use Avenida de Mayo to move. It is not so much a destination as an experience in-transit. The sidewalks and roadway are full of people moving through the city. However, the street level bookstores and cafes along with an occasional cinema or other attraction do provide a destination point for people.
Most people using the street are moving from one point to another in the city. Nonetheless, there are many conversations- people talking to the man running the local newspaper stand, people conversing over lunch or while having their shoes shined, people conducting business. There are also many people walking down the street on a mission, talking only to their cell phone or not at all. The most dominating sounds are that of the traffic. There are tourists and groups here, but the user population (cars and people) is in such a constant state of flux that they are absorbed.

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