Oil. 50 x 70 cm. Year 2012.
Known as San Pedro Heights during the 17th century, the area was mostly home to the city's growing contingent of dockworkers and brickmakers; indeed, the area became Buenos Aires' first "industrial" area, home to its first windmill and most of the early city's brick kilns and warehouses. The bulk of the city's exports of wool, hides and leather (the Argentine region's chief source of income as late as the 1870s) were prepared and stored here in colonial times. Their presence led to the first residential settlements in this area: that of Africans, slaves and free, alike.
Separated from Buenos Aires proper by a ravine, the area was formally incorporated into the city in 1708 as the "Ovens and Storehouses of San Pedro." The neighborhood's poverty led the Jesuits to found a "Spiritual House" in the area, a charitable and educational mission referred to by San Pedro's indigent as "the Residence;" the 1767 Suppression of the Society of Jesus led to the mission's closure, however.
The void left by the Jesuits' departure was addressed by the 1806 establishment of the Parish of San Pedro González Telmo (or "San Telmo"), so named in honor of the Patron Saint of seafarers. The move failed to replace lost social institutions, however, and San Telmo languished well after Argentine independence in 1816. The Jesuit Residence, restored as a clinic by Guatemalan friars, was shuttered in 1821, and San Telmo saw no public works for the next 30 years except a Black Infantrymen's Quarters and the construction of the dreaded Mazorca Dungeon by Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas.
San Telmo began to improve despite these challenges, particularly after Rosas' 1852 deposal. The establishment of new clinics, the installation of gas mains, lighting, sewers, running water andcobblestones and the opening of the city's main wholesale market led to increasing interest in the area on the part of the well-to-do and numerous imposing homes were built in the western half of San Telmo. This promising era ended abruptly, however, when an epidemic of yellow fever struck the area in 1871. The new clinics and the heroic efforts of physicians like Florentino Ameghino helped curb the spread of the epidemic into points north; but, claiming over 10,000 lives, the crisis led to the exodus of San Telmo's growing middle and upper classes into what later became Barrio Norte.
Leaving behind hundreds of properties, a few of the larger lots were converted into needed parks, the largest of which is Lezama Park, designed by renowned French-Argentine urbanist Charles Thays in 1891 as a complement to the new Argentine National Museum of History. Most large homes, though, became tenement housing during the wave of Immigration in Argentina from Europe, between 1875 and 1930. San Telmo became the most multicultural neighborhood in Buenos Aires, home to large communities of British, Galician, Italian and Russian-Argentines. The large numbers of Russians in San Telmo and elsewhere in Buenos Aires led to the consecration of Argentina's first Russian Orthodox Church in 1901. Growing industry to the south also led a German immigrant, Otto Krause, to open a technical school here in 1897.
San Telmo's bohemian air began attracting local artists after upwardly mobile immigrants left the area. Growing cultural activity resulted in the opening of the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art by critic Rafael Squirru in 1956, as well as in the 1960 advent of the "Republic of San Telmo," an artisan guild which organized art walks and other events. San Telmo's immigrant presence also led to quick popularization of tango in the area; long after the genre's heyday, renowned vocalist Edmundo Rivero purchased an abandoned colonial-era grocery in 1969, christening it El Viejo Almacén ("The Old Grocery Store"). Soon becoming one of the city's best-known tango music halls, it helped lead to a cultural and economic revival in San Telmo.
The 1980 restoration of the former Ezeiza family mansion into the Pasaje de la Defensa ("Defensa Street Promenade"), moreover, has led to the refurbishment of numerous such structures, many of which had been conventillos(tenements) since the 1870s. As most of San Telmo's 19th century architecture and cobblestone streets remain, it has also become an important tourist attraction.
A big number of contemporary art galleries, art spaces and museums are located in this area. In 2005 the gallery and artist-run space Appetite opened on this area, and created a huge flow attending to its openings and parties that caught the attention of public and media right away, as well as other art galleries that started opening in this neighborhood, becoming the actual Mecca of contemporary art. The first to talk about it was Rolling Stone magazine when they published by the end of 2006: "When all the movement seemed to be getting installed at Palermo, the Daniela Luna tornado opened the appetite with an art gallery in San Telmo and little by little is monopolizing the neighborhood and transferring the scene."  A few months later, New York Times described "To find Appetite, an avant-garde gallery that everyone I met recommended, I had to return to one of San Telmo's less atmospheric blocks. Pop-punk exuberance is Appetite's stock in trade, its walls (and floors) are covered in a profusion of styles"  Many media remarked the transformation of San Telmo into a destination for contemporary art lovers, such as the newspaper La Nacion, that counted around 30 galleries and art center in 2008. Later that year, the same newspaper published another article that started: "Contemporary art moved into the neighborhood. San Telmo Art District is born."
References and external links
- ^ "The emblems of the 48 barrios of Buenos Aires were presented" (Spanish) by ámbito.com August 29, 2011
- ^ Marina Mariasch "The best of an intense year for art in buenos Aires", Rolling Stone, December 2006
- ^ Matt Gross, "Making the Most of Those Long Argentine Nights", The New York Times, February 4, 2007
- ^ Laura Casanovas, "San Telmo les da cada vez más espacio a las galerías de arte", "La Nacion", March 24, 2008
- ^ Delfina Helguera , "San Telmo en ebullición", La Nacion, May 28, 2008
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