Stanford Presidential Lectures and Symposia in the Humanities and Arts

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Buenos Aires in the 20s and 30s

Buenos Aires in the 20s and 30s: although every attempt at periodisation is controversial, these decades, perhaps as no other, witness change in a spectacular manner. What is in play is not only the aesthetic avant-gardes, or economic modernisation, but rather modernity as a cultural style which permeates the fabric of a society which offers little resistance, whether in the projects of its political élites or in its density of life. The impact of the socioeconomic processes, initiated in the second half of the 19th century, altered not only the urban landscape and ecology but also the lived experiences of its inhabitants. Thus, Buenos Aires is interesting as a physical space and as a cultural myth: city and modernity presuppose one another because the city is the stage for those changes brought on by modernity, it exhibits them in an ostensible and sometimes brutal fashion, it disseminates and generalises them.

Text taken from Mediating Two Worlds : Cinematic Encounters in the Americas. London : BFI, 1993.
(© 1993, Beatriz Sarlo)


Portrait of Gardel

Picture of Gardel's Funeral
Image taken from cover of La Historia Popular: Vida y milagros de nuestro pueblo. Centro Editor de América Latina, Buenos Aires, Vol. 24, 1971.

Taken from Ricardo Luis Molinari's Buenos Aires: 4 Siglos. Buenos Aires: Tipográfica Editora Argentina, 1980, p.405.

Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) became a legendary figure not only in Argentina but all over Latin America. He pioneered tango as a form of popular music. His tragic death in a plane crash at age 45 only heightened his mythical personality. His funeral was attended by enormous crowds of fans.



Women in Car
Automobile fever captured the attention of Buenos Aires women in the 1920s. Here (1928) these porteñas cruise by Palermo Park in their convertible sedan, dressed very much a la mode with their "bell-shaped" hats. (Photo taken from Ricardo Luis Molinari's Buenos Aires: 4 Siglos. Buenos Aires: Tipográfica Editora Argentina, 1980, p.327.)




Photo of Crowded Street
The 20s saw porteño life experience the changes of a modern city. Here, (1923) a traffic jam on Florida Street shows Buenos Aires in the midst of it urban transformation. (Taken from Jose Luis Romero and Luis Alberto Romero's Buenos Aires: Historia de cuatro siglos. Vol. II. Buenos Aires: Editorial Abril, 1983, p. 175)




Photo of Race Track Crowd
Leisure life could not be complete without an afternoon at the racetrack. This 1929 photo of the Hipódromo Argentino shows another facet of the "roaring" 20s in Buenos Aires. (Taken from Ricardo Luis Molinari's Buenos Aires: 4 Siglos. Buenos Aires: Tipográfica Editora Argentina, 1980, p. 402.)




Fierro Cover
Published between 1924 and 1927, Martín Fierro's 45 issues provided a venue for avant garde ideas, including early writings of Borges. In mid 1925 it had reached a circulation of over seven thousand, atypical for an artistic-literary magazine.




SUR Cover Portrait of Ocampo Intro to SUR
Victoria Ocampo (1890-1979), essayist, critic, publisher and promoter of cultural activities. With her own money, she founded the cultural journal and publishing house SUR in 1931, bringing the works of Virginia Woolf, Joyce, Camus, Huxley and other notable foreign writers and artists to Argentine readers. (© 1939, Gisèle Freund)




Photo of obelisk
The Obelisk dominates the Avenida 9 de Julio and is the most recognized landmark of Buenos Aires. It was built in 1936 to mark the 400th anniversary of the city's founding. (© 1936, Archivo General de la Nación)



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