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The Obelisk in Buenos Aires, Argentina - Famous Columns and Towers
542    Dibyendu Banerjee    30/05/2023

Towering over Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, the iconic Obelisk in Buenos Aires, locally known as Obelisco de Buenos Aires, has nothing to do with Egypt and was erected in 1936 to commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of Buenos Aires by Pedro de Mendoza in 1536 and marks the spot where the Argentine national flag was hoisted in the city for the first time.

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The 221 feet (67.5 m) tall obelisk, a symbol of national pride, is located in the Plaza de la República, a city square, situated at the intersection of two of the city’s most important streets, July 9 Avenue, a major thoroughfare in the city centre with an incredible 16 lanes at some points, and Avenida Corrientes, famous as the street that never sleeps.

obelisk in buenos

Designed by the illustrious Argentine modernist architect Alberto Prebisch, who was also the designer of the Teatro Gran Rex, an Art Deco style theatre on Avenida Corrientes, at the request of Mariano de Vedia y Mitre, the mayor of the city, construction of the obelisk began on 20 March 1936 and completed in a record time of 31 days, on May 23 of the same year.

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Made of 14,600 sq feet (1360 sq m) of Olaen white Córdoba stone and 24,000 cubic feet (680 cubic m) of concrete, it stands on the site of the demolished church dedicated to St Nicholas of Bari, in which the Argentine flag was officially hoisted for the first time in the city in 1812, which is one of the inscriptions noted on the north side of the monument.

obelisk in buenos

The four sides of the 221 feet shaft of the Obelisk, each side measuring 128.87 feet (8.8 m) signify the important moments in the history of the city of Buenos Aires, which include the supposedly foundation of the city in 1536, the second definitive foundation in 1580, the first celebration of the flag of Argentina in 1812 and finally, the proclamation of Buenos Aires as the nation’s capital in 1880.

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Its tip, measuring 16 inches (40 cm), is blunt and it ends in a lightning rod, intended to protect the structure from a lightning strike, which cannot be seen due to the height of the monument; while its cables run through the interior of the obelisk. The Obelisk is equipped with only one entrance and has a straight staircase of 206 steps inside the structure, with seven resting places every 20 to 26 feet (6 to 8 m), leading to the viewing platform on the top, which has windows on each of the four sides.

obelisk in buenos
Gathering at the Obelisk, celebrating Argentina victory at the Qatar 2022 soccer World Cup

Although the Obelisk came to be known as one of the best-known landmarks in the city, only three years after its inauguration, the city council strangely sanctioned its demolition in June 1939, on the ground of economic, aesthetic and public safety reasons, which was immediately vetoed by the municipal executive power, as it was a monument under the jurisdiction and custody of the Nation and is part of its heritage. It was twice decorated as a Christmas tree in 1973 and 2010 and once as a pencil in 2006. However, throughout its history, the monument has suffered vandalism, which includes politically motivated graffiti. In the 1980s, a group of activists broke in and spilled paint from the top windows, which prompted the city authority to its public closure and install a defensive fence around its base in 1987. Although the move by the authority stirred controversy, eventually it proved effective in reducing the number of defacing incidents. In November 2005, after the completion of a comprehensive restoration, the monument was painted with 90-micrometre acrylic paint to a Paris stone hue, replacing the previously used white and on the 1st day of the next month, the obelisk was covered by a giant pink condom to commemorate the World Aid Day.

obelisk in buenos

Celebrations of sporting success such as important victories for the national soccer team often take place before the iconic monument, along with much drinking and dancing and general merriment. For the bicentennial celebrations of the city in May 2010, more than 3 million crowded the area and rallied around it, just before Diego Maradona, the famous ex-star player and the then coach of the national soccer team of the country, declared to run around it in naked, if his team wins the World Cup.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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