Spanish 309: Buenos Aires, Past and Present

Cross listed with Anthropology 385, History 399 and LACS 385. 3 credits. HAL.

"Buenos Aires, Past and Present" is a course focused on the history and culture of Buenos Aires, one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world. Buenos Aires is a vibrant metropolis traversed by multiple cultures and traditions that have gradually crystalized after massive waves of immigrations that have been transforming its urban landscape since the late nineteenth century. As part of this course, students will examine the many narratives that brought about an intriguing melting pot in which various ethnicities and cultures overlapped and shaped each other's configuration.

The map of the city itself, with its many barrios, reflects the many cultures that coexist with each other, as it can be seen in the Italian tradition of la Boca, the bougie culture of Palermo, the Sunday Fairs in the San Telmo historical district, the Jewish flavor in Once and Villa Crespo, the Koreans in Flores, the Japanese gardens in Palermo, or the Chinese district in the neighborhood of Belgrano.

The course will also deal with the tumultuous political history of the country. Students will examine the period in which rigged electoral processes marked the advent of a belle époque in the city’s urban landscape that, at the very same time, reflected a stark neglect for the rising presence of lower social sectors. This process will be stacked against the rise of Juan Domingo and Eva Perón to power, with the subsequent inception of the Welfare State. A State that, on the one hand, catered to the demands of the working classes, and, on the other, increasingly antagonized the traditional elites that had ruled the country since its foundation. The scope of inquiry of the course will also tackle more recent times, from the military dictatorships of the second half of the twentieth century to the return of democracy in 1983. Class discussion will analyze the past thirty years of democracy in Argentina, the political and financial meltdown of 2001, and the rise of Kirchnerism, a political movement that is currently reshaping the country’s cultural and political debates with an intensity that was not seen since the overthrow of Perón in 1955. Students will learn how politics in Argentina is deeply felt on an everyday basis, and how political processes often intersect with football, music, print culture, and popular culture in general.

Whereas students will discuss in the classroom setting a wide array of texts dealing with the past and present of the city, they will also be immersed in local culture by participating in hands-on guided explorations across the city whose topics range from tango, blues and rock music, to theatre, film, football, politics, and architecture. The breadth and depth of this theoretical and practical input will equip students to contrast their day-to-day experiences in the city with the themes they study in the classroom. The learning objectives of the course will be met via active participation in class and oral presentations.