In colonial times, the Manzana de las Luces was Buenos Aires’ most important center of culture and learning, and today the block still symbolizes education and enlightenment. Two of the five original buildings remain; Jesuit defensive tunnels were discovered in 1912. Free tours in Spanish are given at 2pm from Monday to Friday, but you can go inside and see the main patio area without taking a tour.
The first people to occupy the Manzana de las Luces were the Jesuits, who built several structures including the Procuraduría (1730; administrative headquarters), part of which still survives today. (Unfortunately for the Jesuits, they were later expelled from the premises – and Argentina – in 1767 by the King of Spain.) Along with housing offices, these buildings hosted converted indigenous people from the provinces. Later, during the 19th century, they were home to various museums, legislative offices, schools and universities.
Today, a cultural center on the premises offers workshops and music, film and theater events, and a wonderfully atmospheric milonga takes place in here on Friday nights.