¡Todos al Obelisco! is a frequent call to action after a sporting event, usually when a club wins the championship or the national squad wins a tournament (those, unfortunately, have been thin on the ground recently.) It means that everybody gathers at the Obelisco to celebrate a victory, wearing their team’s colours. Unfortunately, more often than not, things get out of hand and violence and vandalism ensue. Sometimes, the Obelisco attracts political groups with an axe to grind and who gather to protest or to celebrate their party’s electoral victory or to protest against the government, because who doesn’t love to hate the government? Lately, it’s become the taxi drivers’ favourite spot to protest against Uber.
In December, 2005, the monument became a giant pink condom to mark World AIDS Day and on the 30th anniversary of the Noche de los Lapices (the night of September 16, 1976, when university students’ homes were raided and they were kidnapped by military task forces) it became a giant pencil.
The Obelisco’s exceptional location makes it all possible. It sits on the intersection of two very wide avenues, 9 de Julio (16 lanes) and Corrientes (6 lanes) and it can be seen from a long way away. This iconic landmark was built in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Buenos Aires by Spanish conquistadors Pedro de Mendoza and Juan de Garay. Like other famous landmarks around the world, it met with fierce resistance from those who considered it an eyesore. It’s not exactly beautiful but I cannot imagine Buenos Aires without the Obelisco.
It is said that a time capsule is hidden at the top; it could be an urban myth or an attempt at connecting past and future. This year marks the 80th birthday of this iconic landmark.
The best time to stroll around Buenos Aires and see the Obelisco is November, when the jacaranda trees lining the streets are in full bloom and the whole city takes a pale purple tint.