Buenos Aires is a concrete jungle, but compared to many cities of its scale it is decorated with lush greenery and a healthy helping of delightful parks.
The Buenos Aires City Goverment plans to keep investing in its green space with a new development named “El Parque del Bajo.” The new project would introduce 35,000 meters of new green space by re-purposing some of the area that is now known as Parque Colón. Some cultural and historical heritage activism groups in the area, however, are speaking out against the construction plans, upset that some of the park’s monuments would be relocated.
The plan would add over 6 kilometers of public green space, from Retiro to La Plata highway. Sectors would be improved around the Aduana, Department of Defense, Kirchner Cultural Center and the Casa Rosada.
The main updates involved within the project include the relocation of the presidential helipad closer to Casa Rosada and the construction of a bus station. La Rábida Avenue would be shifted and repaved, and an underground bus depot would be constructed to allow easier bus and government vehicle transit.
Columbus Park’s Relocation
What would the plan mean for Parque Colón, though? The 11th of June 1580 Plaza, Juan de Garay statue and the 100 year old Guernica tree will be removed or relocated. Plans to move the Guillermo Brown statue have not been announced, although it is located in the construction zone.
The Juana Azurduy statue, the one that replaced the controversial Columbus’ statue, would also be relocated. The Columbus statue was removed during the Kirchner administration, in part due to the statue’s perception as offensive to Argentina’s indigenous communities and heritage. However, the Azurduy statue that replaced it was made from materials of a questionable quality, and it is deteriorating faster than anticipated.
Columbus in His Place
Engineer Mario Chiese, member of historical activism group Columbus in His Place, says that the plan “cannot begin erasing historical sites of our city. This is not a sign of progress, nor does it preserve the memory.”
The activism group, along with over 100 interest groups, met with the Government last year to deliver a letter to developers. Their message? Investment in the area is wonderful, but not at the cost of the historical sites. They support a bilateral agreement to preserve and advance while pleasing both interests.
Besides the plan to update the space behind the Casa Rosada, there is still legislation pending in the Supreme Court over the reconstruction of The Columbus Monument’s 15 statues in North Costanera, which was supposed to start March 1st. Columbus in His Place activists ask why the new plan cannot merge both interests, as a shared plan would cost about the same.
Columbus in His Place proposes the Columbus Monument should be rebuilt in its original place, the 11th of June 1580 Plaza and the Brown statue should be preserved, the helipad should be relocated to the roof of Casa Rosada (instead of next to it in Columbus Park) and the bus station should be constructed on the existing La Rábida Avenue.
The counter plan has not been approved, but it is in the process of a public hearing and second review. As the park was declared a historical site in 2014 (via presidential decree), the Columbus in His Place plans may continue with further consideration.
There is currently a petition supporting the Columbus Monument’s rebuild in Columbus Park. Check it out here at Change.org.