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The Buenos Aires City Legislature

The Buenos Aires City Legislature is a central part of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires, as well as an architectural landmark in the city's Montserrat section.

Contents

History

The internecine warfare between those who favored a united Argentina with a strong central government (Unitarios) and Buenos Aires Province leaders who favored an independent nation of their own (Federales) dominated local political life in the decades following the Wars of Independence and led to the 1880 Federalization of Buenos Aires. Pursuant to this new policy, in 1882 President Julio Roca signed National Law 1260, which created the presidential prerogative of the appointment of the Mayor of Buenos Aires, as well as a city council by way of compromise towards the put-upon local gentry.

The newly-formed city council (Consejo Deliberante) originally included 30 Concejales elected via male suffrage (though this excluded the city's immigrants, which made up a majority of voting-age males at least as late as 1914). The body first met during the tenure of Mayor Torcuato de Alvear, with whom a precedent for a productive relationship was established by cooperating on an unprecedented urban planning a renewal agenda. The council's resolution in 1921 for new grounds befitting a governing body of what had become one of the world's most prosperous cities was likewise approved by the Mayor at the time, José Luis Cantilo.

A lot to the southwest of the Plaza de Mayo was set aside for the new building's construction, whose design was awarded through a competition to local architect Héctor Ayerza. Approved and budgeted by the council in 1926, Ayerza's eclectic design drew heavily from French Neoclassical architecture, and construction on the proyect began in August 1927. Built without cost overruns, the new Buenos Aires City Council building was inaugurated on October 3, 1931.

The building has, in the ensuing decades, been home to other noteworthy government agencies, as well. A 1943 coup d'état marked the advent of populist leader Juan Perón, who established the Secretariat of Labor and Social Insurance, and set aside a wing in the building for the purpose. Elected in 1946, Perón had the building declared a National Historic Monument, and allowed the First Lady, Evita, to use the Labor Bureau wing for the Eva Perón Foundation (which had previously been headquartered in another landmark from the 1920s, the Buenos Aires Central Post Office). The charitable foundation remained based in the city council building until Perón's overthrow in 1955.

The 1994 reform of the Argentine Constitution led to the rescission of the President's right to appoint the Mayor of Buenos Aires, and with the election of Fernando de la Rúa as the city's first directly-elected Mayor on June 30, 1996, an assembly was chosen for the purpose of drafting a new municipal constitution. Approved on October 1, the document created a city legislature in lieu of the city council, and increased its membership to 60 (elected for four year terms via party-list voting, as outlined in the D'Hondt method, with half the seats at stake every two years).

Overview

The legislative chamber

Aside from the legislative chambers themselves, the building's interior features a number of achitecturally noteworthy salons and halls, as well as two libraries. The Golden Salon, reserved for ceremonies and other formal events, was inspired in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, and Evita's dispatch in her days as head of her foundation is on diplay as the Eva Perón Salon (a number of scenes for Alan Parker's 1996 film, Evita, were filmed here and in the legislative chambers).

The building houses the Esteban Echeverría Library (which houses a collection of 30,000 texts on law and legislation), the Treasure Library (2,000 volumes, including texts from Visigothic Spain, from the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, the colonial Buenos Aires Cabildo, and others), and the José Hernández Periodicals Library; the most complete of its kind in South America, its volumes have recently beed microfilmed.

Architecturally, the building is perhaps best-known for its 26 cornice caryatids (allegories representing urban life, mostly created by sculptor Troiano Troiani), and for its bell tower. The 97-meter (320-foot) tower houses a clock whose system controls 80 others throughout the building, and a carillon made up of 30 bells (totaling over 27 tons).

The body is led by the Mayor's lieutenant, the Vice-Chief of Government (Vicejefe de Gobierno), who acts as President of the Legislature. He (or she) is assisted by three Vice-Presidents and Parliamentary, Administrative and Coordinating Secretaries. The President of the Legislature was, until recently, Gabriela Michetti of the center-right Republican Proposal party. The first disabled individual to occupy the post, Ms. Michetti left this post in April 2009, ahead of the legislative elections that June (where she won a seat in the Argentine Chamber of Deputies); the 1st Vice-President of the City Legislature, Diego Santilli, is slated to replace her.

The body is composed of 23 committees, and the 60 legislators belong to 16 parties (a number of which form part of coalitions). No one party currently holds an absolute majority, though Mayor Mauricio Macri's Republican Proposal (PRO) is currently the largest, with 26 seats. The center-left party led by the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, has struggled in Buenos Aires and holds 7 seats in the city legislature. A center-left coalition opposed to them, the Civic Coalition, holds 6, the Dialogue for Buenos Aires party (led by impeached former Mayor Aníbal Ibarra) holds 4, and 12 other parties (mostly on the left) share the remaining 17 seats.

Esteban Echeverría Library
Allegories on urban life
The Eva Perón Salon
The Golden Salon

See also

References and external links

Coordinates: 34°36′34″S 58°22′28″W / 34.60944°S 58.37444°W / -34.60944; -58.37444

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