Avenida Corrientes (English: Corrientes Avenue) is one of the principal thoroughfares of the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. The street is intimately tied to the tango and the porteño sense of identity. Like the parallel avenues Santa Fe, Córdoba, and San Juan, it takes its name from one of the Provinces of Argentina.
It extends 69 blocks from Eduardo Madero Avenue in the eastern Puerto Madero neighborhood to the West and later to the Northwest, and ends at Federico Lacroze Avenue in the Chacarita neighborhood. Automobile traffic runs from west to east. Line B of the Buenos Aires Metro runs most of its length underneath the street.
The Asociación Amigos de la Calle Corrientes ("Friends of Corrientes Street Association") is a group that collaborates on the urban planning of the street. They have placed commemorative plaques on 40 street corners bearing the distinguished figures from the history of the tango.
It was named Del Sol during the 17th century, San Nicolás from 1738 to 1808, and De Incháurregui from 1808 until 1822, when it received its current name. Never more than a street of average width during the nineteenth century, traffic swelled after the city began its rapid westward expansion, around 1880. Horse-drawn tramways first ran on the avenue in 1887; but, they soon proved inadequate and in 1910, Mayor Joaquín de Anchorena signed a bill authorizing its widening.
The plan called for the massive razing of most of the avenue's north-side real estate and, so, met with strenuous opposition from affected landlords, retailers, as well as intellectuals like Roberto Arlt. A coup d'ètat in 1930, however, made way for the plan's implementation, carried out relentlessly until its completion, in 1936. Today, when referring to Corrientes prior to the widening, the term "Narrow Corrientes" (Corrientes Angosta) is used. The newly inaugurated avenue coincided with the construction of the Buenos Aires Obelisk, since then one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, visible for several blocks of the avenue´s downtown stretch. The opening of the Obelisk and surrounding Plaza de la República in 1936 created a roundabout at the 9th of July Avenue intersection. Corrientes, like most major city avenues, was made a one-way thoroughfare by a 1967 municipal ordinance. Growing traffic demands led to the opening of the avenue through the plaza, and around the Obelisk, in 1971.The name "Corrientes Street" (Calle Corrientes) is often still preferred over "Corrientes Avenue" (Avenida Corrientes) specially on the famous centrical stretch. With that name it appears famously in several tango lyrics (see below).
The first few blocks (from Leandro N.Alem to Florida Street) encompass Buenos Aires financial district ("La City") forming its Northern boundary, and are bustling with activity during banking hours - traversed after several blocks by popular Florida Street (which forms the district's Western boundary). Further down, for some blocks from 9 de Julio Avenue to Uruguay St. the avenue forms the Southern border of the lawyers' district surrounding the nearby Plaza Lavalle and the Supreme Court.
For most of the 20th century "calle Corrientes" was a symbol of night life in Buenos Aires, traditionally nicknamed "the street that never sleeps", In the 10 blocks West of downtown from Maipu St to Callao Avenue it held the largest concentration of theatres and cinemas (together with nearby pedestrian Lavalle Street) leading visitors to dub it the "Broadway of Buenos Aires" (independent theatre in Buenos Aires is called today "off Corrientes" after "off Broadway"). The corridor includes some outstanding examples of Art Deco cinema architecture of the 30s and 40s such as Teatro Gran Rex, Teatro Opera, Teatro Premier. With the largest concentration of bookshops (many second hand) Corrientes was during the day a favourite haunt for intellectuals during the 50s, 60s and 70s (specially at celebrated spots such as "Cafe La Paz") while its famous pizza parlours and restaurants (such as "Los Inmortales", "Guerrin") attracted city crowds on Fridays or Saturdays evenings - a night out of "pizza and cinema" (or of theatre going) on Corrientes and neighbouring Lavalle being the standard form of urban weekend entertainment for generations of porteños (as reflected in lyrics such as "Moscato, pizza y fainá"). The "Revista porteña" or "Teatro de revistas" (Argentina's centenary culture of theatre revues) with its glittering vedettes and racy capo-cómicos (legendary starlets and comedians) is still centered around this stretch of Corrientes - the lure of red carpet opening nights where celebrities can be glimpsed adding to the folklore. At the farther end - the Luna Park is still synonymous with mass sports and entertainment events such as box matches or concerts.
Throughout the decades the street has seen its own fauna of urban stereotypes, from the "innocent barrio girl" corrupted by the "bright city lights" of many a tango lyric in the cabarets and night clubs of the 20s and 30s (cf. "La costurerita que dio aquel mal paso" "The Seamstress who Took the Wrong Turn") to the "valijero" ("peeping tom") lone salesmen or office workers on lunch breach (thus named for their briefcases or "valijas") who sneaked to watch X-rated European movies when they appeared in the 60s and 70s (although more visible on neighbouring Lavalle St) to the "psico-bolche" - artsy students and intellectuals (tipically leftist and/or dabbling in psychology, thus the name) who peopled its bookstores and cafes after the return of democracy in the early 80s.
The emergence of video, the Internet, Cineplex and shopping malls conspired to steal much of the former allure of Corrientes, and saw the closing of several famous cinemas and theatres. Yet sidewalks were widened and beautified in 2005 to facilitate retail activity along the avenue, which had declined since the 1970s. and today Corrientes is once again thriving at night - specially among theatre goers, with several major playhouse renovations and additions. Since the 80s the trend towards world famous Broadway musicals in Spanish coexists with the more traditional or avant-garde serious theatre and the popular Teatro de Revistas. The last blocks of this main stretch, between Avenida Callao and Uruguay Street are converted into an expansive outdoor reading room during Bookstore Night, an annual event inaugurated in 2007.
Points of interest
Base to obelisk
- Luna Park, former boxing ring, currently used for other sports and entertainment events
- The back of the Buenos Aires Central Post Office
- Comega Building
- The downtown microcentro banking district ("La City")
- Pedestrian Florida Street
- Teatro Gran Rex
- Teatro Opera
- Many of the country's most important theater companies.
- Numerous traditional and historical restaurants, including Argentine cuisine, Spanish cuisine and Italian cuisine.
- The Obelisk of Buenos Aires, at the intersection with 9 de Julio Avenue and the Plaza de la República.
“The street that never sleeps”
- Heladería Cadore ice cream shop.
- Los Inmortales pizzeria, previously the Café de los inmortales, ("Café of the immortals") with photos of the historic figures that visited it.
- Güerrín pizzeria
- Café La Paz, historic meeting place for leftist activists and intellectuals
- Bar Ramos
- La Giralda Cafeteria, serving Spanish-style hot chocolate and churros
- General San Martín Theater, which concentrated modern drama and ballet during the later half of the 20th century (as opossed to the Colon Theatre)
- Teatro Broadway
- Paseo La Plaza, an urban oasis with theaters, retail stores and restaurants
- Hernández, Liberarte, and many other famous bookstores
"Off-Corrientes" refers to the alternative playhouse scene, much of it literally concentrated on surrounding streets. The Ricardo Rojas Center of the University of Buenos Aires, which promotes experimental art, and like-minded venues such as Gandhi and Liberarte (which blend bookstore and cultural centre) although catering to "off-Corrientes" crowds, are themselves located on Corrientes.
Further down, Corrientes traverses the Balvanera borough (popularly known as Once) the traditionally Jewish neighborhood known for its many synagogues and the wholesale and retail sale of clothing (now home to merchants of other nationalities, including Koreans, Bolivians and Peruvians).
Beyond Pueyrredón Avenue is the neighbourhood of Abasto, named thus for holding the once cavernous Art Deco Mercado de Abasto, the city's former central fruit and vegetable market (whose front faces Corrientes Avenue) and for being the home of Carlos Gardel, Argentina most famous tango singer - popularly known as "el morocho del Abasto" (the dark-haired from Abasto). In disrepair not many years ago, the neighborhood is slowly making a comeback, after local developer IRSA turned the imposing old market into what is today, the city's largest shopping center.
Villa Crespo is another traditionally Jewish neighborhood traversed by Corrientes Avenue. Unleavened bread is available for passover, as are other seasonal specialties. It is in this area (formerly called "Triunvirato") that the greater part of the 1948 Leopoldo Marechal novel, Adán Buenosayres, takes place; Marechal also wrote Historia de la Calle Corrientes in 1937. The neighborhood is home to the Atlanta football club.
The barrio was home to tango great Osvaldo Pugliese.
Corrientes ends at the Estación Federico Lacroze train station next to Parque Los Andes, where fairs where held until September 2005. Just west of the park is La Chacarita Cemetery; the largest in Argentina. The cemetery is at times referred to colloquially and in tango lyrics as La Quinta del Ñato (a lunfardo term referring to a person's last dwelling).
Corrientes in tango music
Corrientes Avenue is featured in several tango lyrics, notably:
- A media luz by Carlos Lenzi and Edgardo Donatto
- Calle Corrientes by Alberto Vaccarezza and Enrique Delfino
- Corrientes angosta by Ángel "Pocho" Gatti
- Corrientes y Esmeralda by Celedonio Flores and Francisco Pracánico
- Tristezas de la calle Corrientes by Homero Expósito and Domingo Federico, 1942
- Pucherito de gallina
- Café Dominguez
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