Buenos Aires, the federal capital of the Argentine Republic, and the second city of the Latin races in the world (having a population of 1,100,000), as well as the first in commercial importance among the cities of South America, is situated in latitude 34° 35′ 30″ S., and longitude 58° 22′ 20″ W., on the right bank of the Rio de la Plata, at an elevation of about 65 feet. The Rio de la Plata (Plate, or Silver, River), the estuary of which has a maximum width of more than 108 miles, is about 43 miles wide at Buenos Aires.
With a mean annual death-rate of 14 per thousand, the city takes rank in respect of sanitation with the most advanced cities of the world. The mean temperature is 62° 6′ F., snow never falls, and hail only rarely, and the thermometer ranges from 59 F. to 82° 4′ F., at times, however, reaching 95°. The north wind, humid and warm, and in summer even suffocating, charges the atmosphere with electricity, causing general debility and nervous troubles; but this wind never lasts for more than three days, and generally changes to a southeast wind, bringing rain or storm, upon which there follows the cold, dry southwest wind called the Pampero, which clears the sky. The vicissitudes of weather are extremely abrupt, with changes of temperature amounting sometimes to as much as 36°, with violent winds. The Pampero, highly charged with ozone, exercises a disinfecting influence and serves to purify the vitiated atmosphere of the thickly populated sections of the city. The healthiness of Buenos Aires (in English, literally, Good Airs) arises from two other most important causes: the supply of running water and the drainage system—as to both of which something will be said later on. The mean annual rainfall recorded in the five years from 1899 to 1903 was a little more than 43 164 inches. The barometer ordinarily ranges from 29.825 inches to 30.03 inches.
At the time of its founding in 1580 this settlement had 300 inhabitants; in 1744 the population was 11,118; 40,000 in 1801 (estimated); 62,228 in 1822; 177,787 in 1869; 404,000 in 1887; 663,854 in 1895; 950,891 in 1904; 1,084,280 in December, 1906; 1,109,202 (estimated) in July, 1907. All of these amounts, except the third and the last, are taken from the official census. Of the total annual increase in population (46.3 per thousand), 19 to 20 per thousand is due to excess of birth-rate over death-rate; the rest being the effect of immigration. In the 950,981 inhabitants reported in the census of September 18, 1904, the Argentines numbered 523,041; the foreigners, 427,850 (228,556 of the latter number being Italians, and 105,206 Spaniards). Classified by religious beliefs the figures were: 823,926 Catholics; 24,996 Protestants; 6,065 Jews; 8,054 of various other creeds; 13,335 professing no religious belief, and 74,515 unspecified.
The municipality of Buenos Aires is a federal district of 73 3/8 square miles (19,006 hectares). The governing authority of this district, vested in the president of the republic, is exercised through a minister of the interior and a chief of police, for the maintenance of public order, and in a superintendent (intendiente de la capital) and a municipal council, for the construction and management of public works. The police force carry modern firearms. Both the municipal council and the superintendent have been since 1901 appointed by the president with the assent of the senate, though the question of reverting to the former system of popular election was, in 1907, under discussion by the Legislature. The municipal revenue in 1904 was $5,571,846 (5,804,000 pesos oro). In the older portions of Buenos Aires the streets are from 30 to 40 feet wide; the few avenues as yet in existence have a width, generally, of about 57 feet, though the Avenida de Mayo, nearly a mile in length, is 99 feet wide. The paving of the city, formerly defective, has gone on improving from year to year until the present time, when 70 per cent of the public thorough-fares is paved with granite over a bed of cement or sand, 15 per cent with macadam, asphalt, or carob block, and the remainder with cobblestone. There are upwards of 300 miles of street railway, mostly electric, the traffic on which for the year 1903 was registered at 133,719,218 passengers.
Since the cholera epidemic of 1867-68, and the yellow fever of 1872, two public engineering achievements have most powerfully cooperated towards the healthfulness of the city: the waterworks and the drainage system. The supply of drinking water is derived from the Rio de la Plata by means of a great pumping tower whence the water passes, through a tunnel three and two-thirds miles in length, to the reservoirs, to be filtered, clarified, and then raised by powerful pumps to the monumental structure known as the Deposito de las aguas Corrientes. In this building twelve iron tanks, each 1341 feet square and 13 feet deep, are arranged in three tiers of four each, at different levels. These twelve tanks have an aggregate capacity of 72,000 tons of water. The drainage system includes an installation in every house, connected scientifically with the cloaca maxima, or main sewer of the city, which runs a distance of 19 miles and 7 furlongs (32 km.) and discharges into the Rio de la Plata opposite Berasategui. The rain-drainage pipes are connected with the main system in such a manner that in case of a heavy downpour, the excess of water is turned aside to a special rain-drainage conduit, having a capacity of 1419 cubic feet per second, which, after running a distance of nearly two and three-quarter miles, discharges its contents at a point north of Darsena Norte. The establishment of these two great systems of sanitary works has lowered the death-rate from 30 per thousand, in 1887, to 14 per thousand, in 1904.
Other municipal institutions worthy of mention are the great abattoirs of Liniers, which cover an area of more than 61 acres, and from which 700,000 car-cases of beef and 900,000 of mutton, ready for the market, are annually turned out, and the produce-market, an immense depository where the wheat, wool, leather, etc., produced in the country are collected for exportation. The state university of the republic, with faculties of law, medicine, engineering, philosophy, and literature, established in separate buildings, is situated at Buenos Aires; also many institutions of secondary and primary education, both public and private.
From very early times Buenos Aires has been generally known throughout South America by the colloquial name of El Puerto, and to this day the natives of the city are called Portenos, rather than Bonaerenses, or Buenos-Aireans. Nevertheless, until 1885, and even later, El Puerto, being only a river port, and as the bottom of the river had gone on rising with the deposits of mud brought down by the stream, the river front could not offer a sufficient depth of water for vessels of even moderate draught; which were, therefore, obliged to anchor many miles away from the bank. The improvements of Puerto Madero, however, effected between 1890 and 1899, have now attracted ocean steamers of the highest tonnage. Vessels of lower tonnage anchor at the little port of Boca del Riachuelo, the mouth of a comparatively small stream which empties into the Plata south of the city. Both these ports are subject to the necessity of constant dredging to counteract the silting-up of the bottom by the action of the stream. The number of entries and clearings at these two ports amounts to 6000 in the year, aggregating more than 28,000,000 tons. The commerce of Buenos Aires is 849 per thousand of the imports, and 515 per thousand of exports of the whole republic.
The first foundation of Buenos Aires took place in the beginning of the year 1536, under Don Pedro de Mendoza, Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the Emperor Charles V and Adelantado of the Rio de la Plata. In 1541 it was deliberately depopulated by Don Domingo Martinez de Irala, the governor, its inhabitants being transferred to Asuncion, in Paraguay. The second founding took place June 11, 1580, under Juan de Garay, Lieutenant-Governor and Captain-General for the Adelantado Juan Ortiz de Zarate. Since its first foundation the place had been called the Port of Santa Maria de Buenos Aires, and the city was called Santisima Trinidad, taking its name from the day (Trinity Sunday, May 29, 1580) on which Garay arrived there with his followers, and erected the Royal Standard in anticipation of the formalities of the founding proper. Hence the name usual in ancient documents: Ciudad de la Santisima Trinidad, Puerto de Buenos Aires. Santisima Trinidad is still an alternative title of the archdiocese. Buenos Aires in 1617 was made the capital of the province of Rio de la Plata, which was created a vice-royalty in 1776. In 1593 the city was threatened by the expedition under Hawkins sent against the Spanish possessions in South America by Queen Elizabeth of England; in 1627 by the Dutch who had taken possession of Brazil; in 1657 by the French expedition of Timoleon Osmat, a soldier of fortune; in 1698 by another French squadron; in 1700 by a Danish. But on none of these occasions was the city actually attacked. A British expedition under Popham obtained a footing in Buenos Aires (June 27, 1806), but the place was recovered by conquest on the 12th of the following August, and defended against a new and formidable expedition commanded by Whitelock (2—July 5, 1807) by the country people organized as a militia force, who, on the former occasion, made prisoners of the invading force and, on the latter, forced a definitive evacuation of the territory. From 1810 to 1824 the city was a principal center of the uprising which led to the separation of the Spanish-American colonies from the mother country.
Archdiocese of BUENOS AIRES (BONAERENSIS), or SANTISIMA TRINIDAD.—The Diocese of Buenos Aires was formed upon the dismemberment of the original Diocese of Asuncion, in Paraguay, by a Bull of Paul III in 1620. Its first bishop was Pedro Carranza, a Carmelite, who was succeeded by a series of nineteen bishops, ending in 1855, when a Bull of Pius IX created Buenos Aires an archdiocese. This archdiocese comprises, besides the federal district with its 1,100,000 inhabitants, the territories of Rio Negro, Chubut, and Santa Cruz, commonly known as Patagonia, or Tierra del Fuego, and containing altogether a population of 41,964. The city itself is divided into 22 parishes and 2 mission (succursal) parishes, each with its church. Besides these parish churches there are 50 churches and public chapels, also 80 other chapels, many of them semi-public, connected with religious and charitable institutions. (For some account of particular churches see Argentine Republic (Argentina).) The archbishop is assisted by an auxiliary bishop and two vicars-general. The metropolitan chapter consists of a dean, five other dignitaries, and five canons (a theologian, a penitentiary, a canon of the first class, a canon of the second class, and a secretary). There are in the archdiocese 254 secular priests. The seminary, situated at Villa Devoto, is a fine edifice with a public chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It is expected that this establishment will be converted into the central seminary of the republic and a Pontifical university of sacred sciences. There are 54 religious communities. Pious associations for seculars, women as well as men, are numerous, particularly those devoted to works of charity, upon which the people of Buenos Aires spend immense sums. Catholic colleges for primary and secondary instruction are numerous. Among those conducted by religious are San Jose, under the Bayonne Fathers; Salvador, under the Fathers of the Society of Jesus; the Dominican college of Lacordaire; that of the Escolapios, and that of the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine. Active efforts are being made to establish a Catholic university. Among the various periodicals the “Revista Eclesiastica del Arzobispado” and the daily “El Pueblo” deserve special mention. The workingmen have organized themselves into Catholic clubs, the membership of which now exceeds 40,000.
It is to be remarked that the Catholics of this city, like those of the whole republic, whether failing to realize exactly the existing social conditions, or because they have been too much occupied with political contentions, have restricted their efforts to the formation of charitable associations, doing nothing, until very recently, in the direction of socio-political organization. A sectarian persecution which arose during the years 1884-88 aroused the dormant zeal of the faithful, and a Catholic congress was held which produced copious results. A congress of Franciscan Tertiaries was held in 1906, and a second congress of Catholics in general has been convoked for the year 1907, through the initiative of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga in the College of San Salvador.