This complex, energetic, and seductive port city, which stretches south-to-north along the Rio de la Plata, has been the gateway to Argentina for centuries. Porteños, as the multinational people of Buenos Aires are known, possess an elaborate and rich cultural identity. They value their European heritage highly. Their lifestyle and the architecture of the city are both remarkably more European than any other in South America.
Buenos Aires’ physical structure is a mosaic: as varied and diverse as its culture. The city has no dominating monument. Instead, Buenos Aires is composed of many hidden corners and intimate details. Glass-sheathed skyscrapers cast their slender shadows on 19th century Victorian houses. Tango bars fill with the hazy, piquant tang of cigar smoke while dusty, treasure-filled antique shops lie just across the way.
The city’s neighborhoods are small and highly individualized each with its own characteristic colors and forms. In the bohemian district of San Telmo, the city’s multinational heritage is embodied in a varied and cosmopolitan architecture – Spanish Colonial design couples with Italian detailing and graceful French art nouveau. Artists left their mark in La Boca by painting the district’s pressed tin houses, leaving the district’s side-streets as avenues enveloped in color.
European influences permeate Argentina’s and especially Buenos Aires’ art, architecture, literature and lifestyle. However, in the field of literature in particular, this action has been a cross-cultural transaction. Argentina produced writers of international stature such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Ernesto Sábato, Manuel Puig and Osvaldo Soriano. With many Argentines having studied in Europe, Buenos Aires has self-consciously emulated European cultural trends in art, music and architecture. There are many important art museums and galleries in the city, and it has a vigorous theatre community. One of the world’s finest opera houses, the Colon Theatre, still attracts some of the world’s best performers. In a number of international film festivals, Argentine cinema has achieved international stature, especially over the past decade.