Every city in the world has its square or plaza that is considered the center of the city. Without any doubt, Buenos Aires’ center is Plaza de Mayo. Originally it was the location of the independence movement of the city in 1810 during the month of May (hence the name) and the actual plaza was created later on to commemorate that event (there is even a mini-obelisk in the city as a monument).
It may not be the geographic center of the city, but it has always been a political point of interest, where you will find famous buildings like the Casa Rosada, the home of the executive branch of the government, and the Catedral Metropolitana. It is always full of people and has some great photo opportunities, making it a popular tourist destination.
Since the original independence, the plaza is also famous for being a constant sight of major manifestations and marches. If you are in Argentina and you want the general public to know something, you need to say it in the plaza. It is where politicians give speeches, where workers go on strike, where musicians play free concerts and where national events take place.
Some of the more famous happenings in Plaza de Mayo:
Eva Perón (and most presidents of the country) famously spoke to the crowds (and then Madonna recreated this in the musical, Evita). Most people can picture it when she sang, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” with her arms spread out wide.
The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who have been protesting the disappearance of their children during the military dictatorship, can be seen with their signature white handkerchiefs every Thursday at 3:30pm. They are a must-see for any history buff.
Annual events like Gay Pride (every November) and International Tango Day (every December) start in the plaza. Whenever important political news occurs, somehow the Plaza de Mayo is in involved. The memorial for Nestor Kirchner in October of this year, took place in the plaza where people waited in line for hours to pay tribute to the former president.
Other than the “regulars”, one can always find at some point in the week a group of people there looking to get their voices heard. The Expanish school is actually located just a couple blocks away from the plaza, so our students frequently get to experience the different marches that start or end there (you can see a map of our location here). Many days after class, protesters can be seen and heard making a statement for a wide variety of possibilities from low wages to more rights. We do not recommend that students get close and take pictures of the crowds, as this can be rather insensitive to the protestors, but it is definitely a sight to see for anyone visiting the city.