HISTORY of Palermo
The neighborhood of Palermo is bounded, in
accordance with article 1 of By-law No. 26,607, Municipal Bulletin No. 14,288,
published on May 4, 1972, by: La Pampa, Pres. Figueroa Alcorta Avenue, Valentín
Alsina Avenue, Zabala, Cabildo Avenue, Jorge Newbery, Cramer, Dorrego Avenue, Córdoba
Avenue, Mario Bravo, Coronel Díaz Avenue, Gral. Las Heras Avenue, Tagle, the
Gral. Bartolomé Mitre railroad tracks, Jerónimo Salguero Avenue, Rafael
Obligado Riverside Avenue.
The origin and the reason for the name Palermo given to the neighborhood isn’t
quite settled. While some ask themselves whether it bears any relation to the
Italian city, the possible origins of the name can be sought with Don Juan Domínguez
Palermo, who in the early seventeenth century was the owner of the lands. As
places were very commonly named after the churches there or after the saints who
were adored, other neighbors hold that the neighborhood was actually called that
way because there was an oratory where an image of St. Benito of Palermo was
venerated, so that the faithful used to say they were going to see Palermo.
Undoubtedly, this was the neighborhood of the Restorer of the Law, Don Juan
Manuel de Rosas. Initially, he was the owner of a greater part of these grounds
(some 540 city blocks). It was in 1836 that he became the privileged owner of
these beautiful grounds, where he decided to build his official residence on
what are today’s Libertador and Sarmiento Avenues.
But history has its ups and downs and after his defeat on February 3, 1852, in
Caseros, Justo José de Urquiza, the victorious general, occupied the residence,
which would later become the headquarters of the School of Arts and Trades, of
the Military College and of the Naval College. In 1889 the Restorer’s house
was entirely demolished to give more air to the park created by Sarmiento, an
old political enemy of Rosas. In what used to be the lands of the man who had
been governor of Buenos Aires for several decades, the Tres de Febrero park (thus
called in commemoration of the date of the battle of Caseros) was inaugurated on
November 11, 1875.
This is today the site of the great breathing space in Buenos Aires, with 740
acres between Del Libertador Avenue, Salguero, Rafael Obligado Avenue and Pampa.
There are found the marvelous lakes and their green spaces, where, every
September 21, students gather to celebrate their day, while families take
advantage of the spot to take walks along the lovely grounds during the rest of
For many years Palermo boasted of the food carts along the riverside Avenue.
There one now finds major restaurants with a beautiful view of the river, where
Buenos Aires residents and tourists enjoy pleasant evenings and Argentina’s
good beef. Also in Palermo is the Spaniards’ Monument, the real name of which
is Magna Charta and the Four Regions of Argentina. It is the work of the
sculptor Agustín Querol y Subirats and it is given its common name because it
was a donation of the Spanish community. It is located on Sarmiento and Del
Libertador Avenues. Its materials are bronze and marble, with the final detail
of the image that represents the Republic.
Palermo Chico is the site of the so-called Barrio Parque, a residential and
extremely beautiful spot. Geographically it is located on Figueroa Alcorta
Avenue, between Tagle and San Martín de Tours. There one can see large hotels
and very well-appointed two- and three-story town houses.
Also in Palermo we find the Museum of Decorative Art, which operates in what
used to be the Errázuri Palace, a prime example of the Bourbon architecture
that influenced a greater part of the majestic buildings in the Buenos Aires of
the early twentieth century. It can be seen at Del Libertador Avenue and Pereyra
Lucena. At the José Hernández Museum of Argentine Subjects – Del Libertador
Avenue No. 2373 – one can see all the collections pertaining to our traditions,
including all translations of “Martín Fierro.”
The oldest part of Palermo is known, precisely, as Palermo viejo (old Palermo)
and it ranges from the rear of Plaza Italia toward the southeast. Its beginnings
were as a lower-class outskirt, worthy of tango lyrics and of the pen of writers
like Evaristo Carriego and Jorge Luis Borges.
Within Palermo we likewise find a beautiful place, in the area next to the Basílica
del Espíritu Santo or “La Guadalupe,” which was designed by the architect
Juan Beckeert and is built with black marble originally from the old Vienna
opera house itself. The floor tiles are German, the stained glass is French, and
the remainder of the marble and wood is high-quality Argentine material.
Other frequently visited parts of Palermo include the Botanical Garden on Santa
Fe and Las Heras Avenues. It has over 17 acres of greenery right in the city and
its inventory lists more than 7,000 species. Facing it, we find the Zoological
Garden, now known as the Buenos Aires Zoo, on Sarmiento and Las Heras Avenues.
It was created at the initiative of President Sarmiento. Since being turned over
to private hands on a concession basis, this legendary city zoo has recovered
its past brilliance with professional care for the specimens inhabiting it.
Among the very special sights that can be seen are the white tigers, of which
there are fewer than 200 specimens in the world. In addition to the impressive
array and variety of species that live in spots that recreate their natural
habitats, the Buenos Aires Zoo also offers specially designed spaces like the
bears’ gothic pavilion; the French palace, with its slate roof, that houses
the lions, or the 10,000-square-foot reproduction of a Bombay temple which is,
obviously, where diverse Indian elephants reside.
At one of the most important locations in the city of Buenos Aires, on Sarmiento
and Santa Fe Avenues, there rises the legendary Rural Society. Following the
signing of the title deed to the lands where the Rural Society is located, the
organization undertook an ambitious building project, which has allowed the
staging of diverse contests and exhibitions. To such an extent, that the most
recent edition of the Book Fair was held in its premises. However, the most
famous offering of the Rural Society is the country’s cattle show. It is
usually held in the month of July or August and is visited by people from around
the country and abroad. The best of the countryside converges on this spot where
awards are conferred on the champions of the Argentine farmlands.