Visitors to Buenos Aires can now see a part of the city that has long been hidden. Two museums offer portals into a fascinating world underneath the city. CGTN’s Joel Richards takes us on a tour.
“This was the first sector that was uncovered, from 1985 to 2001,” said Jorge Eckstein of the El Zanjon Museum. “First we had finished up to 1996, in 1996 we discovered what was behind this wall.”
In these long dark tunnels are centuries of history. Eckstein, owner of the museum, has dedicated the last 33 years of his life to this project, turning it into one of the most visited museums in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires.
“When you come here, we go back to the 15th century,” he said. “History and legend are the same thing, because the stories we tell you happen to be the true history of this place.”
This is one man’s vision, a personal project. Eckstein bought a dilapidated home in the old quarter of Buenos Aires with the idea of turning it into a restaurant. As restoration work began on the property, he discovered a series of underground tunnels dating back to early settlements in the city.
“That is what it is this project today — reconciliation,” he said. “It is reconciliation between the past, the present and future, the integration of three things at the same time, a reconciliation between culture and commerce.”
The private museum is in the heart of Buenos Aires, near another underground museum that tells not only the history of the city, but the history of Argentina.
“This museum is built on the foundations of a customs building which was constructed in Buenos Aires in the 1850s,” said Luciano de Privitellio, director of the Bicentenary Museum. “They’re the oldest remains of a civilian building in the city.”
Sitting under the Government House, Argentina’s Bicentenary Museum tells the nation’s story. It is also home to a mural by the Mexican painter David Siqueiros, but it tells the history of Argentina’s presidents, a subject of debate and controversy.
“It is hard to write an account,” said Privilellio. “It’s not possible to write one that is neutral – that doesn’t exist. But we want to write one that is politically broad and diverse, because history is part of the political debate in a very profound way and history is complicated.”
Buenos Aires draws visitors to its food, wine, tango and football, but visitors and locals alike can also delve deep into two very different yet compelling versions of its history, displayed underground.