Taking up the whole east side of the Plaza de Mayo is the unmistakeable pink facade of the Casa Rosada (Pink House), the presidential palace that was begun during the presidency of Domingo F Sarmiento. It now occupies a site where colonial riverbank fortifications once stood; today, however, after repeated landfills, the palace stands more than 1km inland. The offices of ‘La Presidenta’ Cristina Kirchner are here, but the presidential residence is in the calm suburbs of Olivos, north of the center.
The side of the palace that faces Plaza de Mayo is actually the back of the building. It’s from these balconies that Juan and Eva Perón, General Leopoldo Galtieri, Raúl Alfonsín and other politicians have preached to throngs of impassioned Argentines when they felt it necessary to demonstrate public support. Madonna also crooned from here for her movie Evita.
The salmon-pink color of the Casa Rosada palace, which positively glows at sunset, could have come from President Sarmiento’s attempt at making peace during his 1868–74 term (by blending the red of the Federalists with the white of the Unitarists). Another theory, however, is that the color comes from painting the palace with bovine blood, which was a common practice back in the late 19th century.
Off-limits during the military dictatorship of 1976–83, the Casa Rosada is now reasonably accessible to the public. Free half-hour tours are given.
Underneath the Casa Rosada, excavations have unearthed remains of the Fuerte Viejo, a ruin dating from the 18th century. These are accessible via entry to the Museo del Bicentenario (see below).
In 1955 naval aircraft strafed the Casa Rosada and other nearby buildings during the Revolución Libertadora, which toppled Juan Perón’s regime. On the north side of the appropriately bureaucratic Ministerio de Economía, an inconspicuous plaque commemorates the attacks (look for the bullet holes to the left of the doors). The inscription translates as, ‘The scars on this marble were the harvest of confrontation and intolerance. Their imprint on our memory will help the nation achieve a future of greatness.’
Towering above the Casa Rosada, just south of Parque Colón on Av Colón, is the army headquarters at the Edificio Libertador, the real locus of Argentine political power for many decades. It was built by military engineers inspired by the beaux arts Correo Central. A twin building planned for the navy never got off the ground.