Rabbi Ernesto Yattah picked us up this morning to take us on a Jewish tour of Buenos Aires. He is a very interesting man. His grandparents came here from Syria. The family is very secular, so it caused them some concern when he decided to become a rabbi.
The tour included a very intensive history of Argentina starting in the 1500s. The trade and smuggling of silver figured prominently in their rise to power. Plata, the Spanish word for silver is used widely throughout, in names of rivers, towns, and even the name of the country. (argenti, Latin for silver)
I did not know that the inquisition also occurred here. It was mainly driven by the Dominican friars, who were concerned with church dogma. Crypto-Jews were protected by the Franciscan friars in colonial Buenos Aires.
José de San Martín came to Argentina in 1812 to join the revolutionary wars. He is a national hero, having led the battles that liberated Argentina, Chile and Peru from the Spanish. His mausoleum is in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires. It is surrounded by statues, one representing each of the 3 countries he liberated. Soldiers guard the mauseolum, and the guard is changed every 2 hours. We did see one of the ceremonies, which lasts less than a minute and recorded it for Instagram.
The floors of the cathedral are of the most intricate floral mosaic design, laid piece by piece. There must be millions, and they are very beautiful.
Also in the cathedral is a memorial to the victims of the Shoah and the victims of two 1990s terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires. The archbishop of Buenos Aires wanted the memorial to be inside the cathedral, and he is buried beside it. We drove by the site of the bombings, where all the names of the victims are on a wall. No photographs are allowed.
We visited the Jewish neighbourhood of Once, where many eastern Europe and l
ived. Lunch at a kosher deli, Ajim, was delicious.
Our final stop was at the location where Eva Peron lived, and died. The house was destroyed in 1955, after Peron was overthrown. It is now the site of the National Library, a building of architectural controversy. We spent some time talking about her life. Ernest's father had a textile store and Eva dated the manager of the store. He knew her well, and despite the fact that his store was closed down by Peron, he still felt that overall he had been a good president. Stories are never simple, but always very interesting.