There are two museum ships in Puerto Madero: the ARA Uruguay and her more famous yet less interesting sister, the ARA Presidente Sarmiento. But just because she doesn’t have the very cool history of the Uruguay doesn’t mean the Presidente Sarmiento is boring.
The Sarmiento was a training ship for the naval academy. It was English-built and launched in 1897. Retired in 1961, it’s been a museum since 1964.
Lots of stuff to see from the glory days:
The sign wasn’t super clear on the origin of the taxidermied Lampazo here, but it seems like in 2014 they decided that he’s probably Buli, owned by Lt Calderon and ship’s pupper on the 37th voyage. I don’t know how he came to be taxidermied and under glass on the Sarmiento, and I didn’t see anything on board to shed light on that. Such pressing questions remain mysteries.
The crew dining room now has a video you can watch, and going on through it leads to the officers’ digs, which are nicer.
The Captain’s quarters are off-limits to visitors, presumably because the naval personnel currently assigned to the ship have taken over the best space for offices. But there’s a nice little model of it.
You can climb up on the decks, too, which afford a nice view of the Woman’s Bridge and other ship stuff.
The Presidente Sarmiento is open seven days a week, 10 am to 7 pm. It’s 20 pesos to get on board (at the moment!) and located in Puerto Madero, kind of across the street and to the right from the Casa Rosada. It’s a very short walk along the river to the ARA Uruguay, so if you’re super into museum ships, you can hit them both.
Established in 1810, the library inaugurated its current building in 1992, thirty years after it was first designed (because Argentina). There are a few things associated with the National Library that I will be including here, such as the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, which is actually more of a small space for temporary exhibitions and events–not quite enough to do a whole post on.
Currently, there’s a couple of exhibits up, one of which is on scientist, novelist, and impressive prizewinner Ernesto Sabato. You might remember him from a really life-affirming subway display I found awhile back.
The upstairs currently houses a show on Sara Gallardo.
Like I said, not a whole lot to the museum itself, but as it’s at the back of the library complex, it can easily included in a visit to the whole shebang.
At the moment, the building is dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Patoruzú, who looks VERY QUESTIONABLE to me but is still an icon here, and widely considered Argentina’s first super hero (he’s got super strength and he’s also rich, which is Batman’s sole power, so Patoruzú already has one up on that guy).
Right now, there’s an exhibit on the books of Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s pretty fun.
I can absolutely feel the librarian’s giddy enthusiasm for being able to create this room.
If I don’t get a haunted mirror for Christmas this year, why do I even have a family.
There were a few of these pictures that were activated when you walked close to them. This whole thing was neat.
At the back of the library’s complex, near the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, is an adorable little shop.
It’s the National Library’s bookstore for its publications, where you can also get sweet library merch, like a coffee mug or poster. There’s also this TINY BOOK VENDING MACHINE SO BRING 20 PESOS IN COINS OK?
So if libraries are a thing for you (as they are for all quality people), you can roll a visit to the National Library into your Recoleta meanderings, as it’s a couple of blocks from the Recoleta Cemetery, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Las Heras subway stop on the H line. There’s a cafe of the basic snack and coffee sort on the first floor of the main library building (second floor by US reckoning), but obviously plenty of other places are around. Check the website for the hours of all the various elements mentioned here.
Welcome to the first entry in the Cemetery Series! Things will be slightly different in this series–for one thing, I will be including cemeteries that I have visited not-super-recently, which I don’t do for museums because exhibits change, etc. Cemeteries tend to be a bit more consistent.
I did visit this one, recently, however: El Cementerio La Cumbrecita. La Cumbrecita is a small pedestrian village in Cordoba, Argentina, that relies entirely on tourism. It was founded in 1934 by German immigrants who missed the scenery of the old country. It was rocky, treeless hillscape at first, and there were no roads, but slowly it was transformed into an Alpine-style town surrounded by the pine and spruce trees they planted. The town went from German-immigrant-summer-home village to a tourist spot, where visitors can now have the slightly dissonant experience of a European village widely populated by green parakeets.
The cemetery is not very easy to get to.
While I found it on Google Maps quickly enough, it is at the top of hill, necessitating a long, occasionally steep walk. As I discovered later, the cemetery path off the main road is no longer marked. That’s it on the right there. I continued left.
Eventually, I ran out of road. But it was a very long walk, and I wasn’t in the mood to give up. Looking around, I saw a plank. Must be a reason for it, right?
I walked carefully across it. It was readily apparent that there was no path on the other side of the plank, so I hugged the hillside on the right for a couple minutes and then ran out of place to walk. But, there was a gate, beyond a lame-ass fence up the incline on the right.
Seemed like an unorthodox way to get into a cemetery, but I didn’t see a more legit looking entrance, so I climbed up the hillside and wiggled under the fence, as you do. Maybe it was the back gate?
It was in fact the front, and only, gate.
The cemetery yard is a very small place, laid out on the hillside. I have to think that most of the graves are for ashes (or are only memorial plaques), because they’re rather teeny. It’s a peaceful, overgrown spot, full of wildflowers and buzzing insects.
It only takes a few minutes to walk though the whole place, which you might or might not find gratifying after the long hike up, depending on how into quiet, hidden graveyards you are. I discovered on the way out that there was a path that did not require wiggling under a fence that led to the main road. So that was nice.
You can find more information on La Cumbrecita here; it’s a lovely little place to relax and hike and dip your feet in the river.
You might recall I have visited a bank museum before, that of the Banco Ciudad. It was a very interesting look at the bank’s founding and role in society, and I was slow to add any other bank museums to my list when I found another one. I assumed it would be similar.
BUT IT WASN’T.
Banco Central is the national bank of Argentina, and its history is of course tied to the economic history of the country, which is, to put it generously, bonkers. The museum, officially known as the Museo Histórico y Numismático Héctor Carlos Janson, takes an entirely different course than that of Banco Ciudad and focuses on the history and development of currency. That history is also bonkers.
The first room of the museum looks briefly at the history of currency in South America.
Anyway, back before Europeans arrived for their extended pillage-murder spree, frequently used currency items included cocoa beans, leaves, small metal pieces, and cowrie shells.
Next up are examples of colonial-era currency.
The colonial coins were minted in Potosí, in Bolivia, close to Cerro Rico, a huge silver mine that Spain spent years plundering. A stunning number of miners have died there over time, earning the place the name “the mountain that eats men,” because nothing in colonial history isn’t horrifically grim (mining the mountain continues to be horrifically grim).
Next up, the first currency minted following independence:
Money was minted by the provincial governments, which is why the gold coin above says “Provinces of the Rio de la Plata.” The Banco de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata was created with the aim of unifying the nation’s printed currency, but the other provinces were not cool with this so it did not happen (had a lot to do with economic troubles from the war with Brazil). So, money from all over continued.
Notes were printed abroad, and included portraits of important figures of independence in the New World, such as Simón Bolivar, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and William Penn.
Things got weird, as things tend to do, during the civil war. General de Rosas, blurrily pictured below, dissolved the national bank and created an administration to issue paper money and coins. These were monedas corrientes. I am not nearly as well-versed in Argentine history as the museum’s informational panels assume, so I can’t much fill you in beyond that.
You will note, possibly, two things about the following bill: One, its domination is 1000, which means it was rapidly devaluating, generally not at all a good thing; and two, it’s got palm trees and kangaroos on it.
The money was at the time printed in Buenos Aires, but the plates were engraved in London. The museum notes that printing houses at the time worked for several countries and contends that’s why the kangaroo and llama appear together on an Argentine banknote, but frankly I still have a lot of questions.
I also find the next phase of currency a wee bit confusing, something that can likely be attributed once again to my lack of knowledge of the nation’s history, but next you get “pesos fuertes” and “pesos corrientes.”
Here we take a small detour into a historical oddity. A French lawyer showed up in the west of the country and in 1860 declared himself “King of the Araucania and Patagonia.” He then created a constitution, a flag, and a national anthem, and started minting money.
He was arrested, declared insane, and deported, but he apparently took his claim very seriously and tried, for the rest of his life and without success, to really make it stick. He died childless, but people have claimed to be his heirs for awhile now, and they actually still mint (technically worthless) coins, I guess for the sole purpose of having them displayed at the Central Bank museum.
Now, I’m going to hop forward about 100 years, skipping a major financial crisis, to get to the financial crises of recent history. There was a substantial devaluation during the military dictatorship, which attempted to stabilize things, but, spoiler alert, did not.
The military dictatorship fell and democracy was restored in 1983, but there was still a huuuuge problem in the form of a massive external debt, currency devaluation, and serious inflation. The new government started whacking off zeroes, so that 10000 old pesos would equal one new peso.
It did not work. These were printed in 1983; by 1985, 10000 peso notes were back in circulation. That year, the president decided what the country really needed was to start from scratch. The peso was old and busted. The Austral was the new hotness.
The name “peso” made its return with the “pesos convertibles” in the 90s, when the peso was pegged to the US dollar at a 1 to 1 rate. This also didn’t work and led to the financial crisis of 2001, which many Argentines can tell you absolutely wild stories about. The president famously fled the Pink House by helicopter. Some of the bills from this period are still in circulation; I could dig some out of my wallet right now.
This time of utter economic collapse led to a widespread return to a barter economy, leading to the use of these barter network vouchers.
Things got…okay after that. And then less okay. That’s kind of how it goes here.
The current government, for political reasons I’m not going to get into, decided that the money needed a makeover, so now it’s all about the nature.
After the rooms of currency, the museum has some historical artifacts related to the history of banking in Argentina, including French scales used to weigh coins.
Eva Perón spent a few months working out of the Central Bank, and they have her office furniture.
I’m going to wrap this us with the museum’s most endearing feature, a selfie point.
The Banco Central Museum is located in the financial district of Buenos Aires, blocks from the Plaza de Mayo, at San Martín 216. It is open Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm, and is free. There are some information cards in English for each room, although several were missing when I visited, and they are not particularly complete. The main signage is solely in Spanish. As it is located in the city’s heart, you can get to the museum in a million, billion ways.