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First Foundation of Buenos Aires: of greed and anguish

Betrayals. Famine. Delusions. Death. On February 2, 1536, Pedro de Mendoza founded the City of Buenos Aires.

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fundacion bs as

“That, as in Jerusalem/The flesh of men also ate it. /The things that were seen there/They have not been seen in the writings/Eating his own asadura/from his brother” reminded  Buenos Aires a frightening Luis de Miranda, a friar who arrived with Don Pedro de Mendoza, in a frightening summer, by the rada del Riachuelo. They came with the illusion of finding and stealing the White King, silver and gold that had devoured  Juan Solis before, and,  incidentally, cure with an exotic plant the “French evil”, “evil italiano”, the s& iacute; philis,  from the potentate Mendoza. The largest fleet embarked on the Indies so far, a thousand five hundred men, between knights and mercenaries, would succumb  not so much because of the resistance of the Querandis and Guarani but by the delusions of grandeur, those “captains and chiefs... were... more proud than experienced... men raised in gifts” Lack of planning, a city thought of as a military post passing from the river of Buenos Ayres, and barbarians instead of civilized, who famelics built houses, a palisade and five churches . In the Buenos Aires, in the desperate verses of Discépolo and  Spinetta,  in the hallucinated letters of  Horacio Ferrer  and Charly Garcia, live those ghosts that were born of wise and suicidal.  And also beat Governor Ruiz Galán, and the settler Juan de Burgos, who while some sailed upriver dazzled by colorful mirrors, rolled up and left the foundations of future Argentine wealth, learned from the native peoples, the work of the land.  

It all started badly and ended worse. Thus you can synthesize the first foundation of Buenos Aires. In the Capitulation that was taken with Don Pedro de Mendoza for the Conquest (sic) of the Rio de la Plata of 21 May 1534 appears, “Don Pedro de Mendoza... that by the much will you have... to increase our royal crown of Castile you offer to go and conquer and populate ... lands that are in the Solis river that call de la Plata and through there climb and pass the land until you reach the South Sea... you have two hundred leagues of luengo from the coast of governorate (a third of the continent)... without us nor the kings being obliged to pay you (which shows the little interest for these places in Europe of the 16th century)... they will carry supply and supply (sumptuous costumes, furniture and weapons were preferred)... forced to bring to the said land a surgeon and an apothecary (only the personal doctor of Mendoza, Hernando Zamora, who cared exclusively for him)... lead ecclesiastics who will instruct the Indians in the Catholic Faith... force them...” signed the Major Commendator of Toledo, not even the Great Charles V, and freed to the adventure a Mendoza, who was a noble family, and who had increased his personal fortune in the violent takeover of Rome. Among his merits were the looting, mansalva executions and rapes of nuns in Italy of Francisco I. Don Pedro not only expected to settle a new slave port and pursue the chimera of the kingdom of argentum, but desperate to come up with the guayacán, a tropical tree that said he cured syphilis - and it grows thousands of kilometers from the Rio de la Plata.   With a weakened health Mendoza, although with capital to spare, he built a tremendous fleet of thirteen ships departing from San Lúcar de Barrameda, and joined three more in the Canary Islands, with a hodgepodge of war veterans in Flanders, inexperienced and familiar nobles, and Flemingos linked to the Corona, among them the first chronicler of the Rio de la Plata, Bavarian Ulrico Schmidl. The unjustified death of lieutenant Juan de Osorio, “until the soul comes out of the flesh,” ordered Don Pedro, victim of the conspiracy, had his brother Diego de Mendoza write,  “hopefully his death is not the cause of everyone's perdition”  luck would be extended day by day, year by year, on this mission that was an enigma for the Spaniards, who tried to understand why the King had commissioned a sick, messianic and bloodthirsty man like Don Pedro.

“People were so upset with the death of the master de campo Juan de Osorio that many were determined to stay on that coast,” recounts the creole Ruiz Díaz Guzmán, the first historian of the region, “went to take the mouth of the Río de la Plata... they went up to give the beach of San Gabriel Island, where they found Diego de Mendoza, who was making planking for batels and boats... were some to see the arrangement of the land, and the first to jump on it was Sancho del Campo, the brother-in-law of Don Pedro, who saw the purity of that tempera, its quality and its freshness, said that buenos aires are those on this floor! From where the name was left ... then Don Pedro determined there to make a seat... from which half a league above he founded a town, which named it the city of Santa Maria, the year of one thousand five hundred thirty-six ” closes on the events of the year. ; or of the first foundation in Buenos Aires, although the date is a subject of discussion, between February 2 or 3.  Nor is there agreement on the exact place on the vera of the marshy and murky Riachuelo, the “mythological father of the city”, sorry Borges, and that may be between the Vuelta de Rocha in  La Boca  or the highlands of San Pedro, at the foot of the ravine of the Lezama Park, or on the current Uriburu Bridge  - nor is there agreement on the site of the second Buenos Aires foundation, between Lezama Park, the current Obelisk and a distant Cazador Canyon, just outside Bolivar.

The first citadel was built in a precarious form, surrounded by a earth wall of 150 rods per side, and almost two meters high, and a pit with a palisade. The fort was built in a clay and straw structure, used as dwellings, and five churches.  The Sword and the Cross were the symbols of the Conquest . Something that Indians quickly understood, at first friendly and food givers by trinkets, and then hostile due to the mistreatment of Europeans.

don pedro mendoza's

 “ The Indios fear me” 

They claim that Juan de Garay said a few days before dying to the hands of the Querandís in Barrancas de los Lobos, on an expedition to consolidate  the city of the Holy Trinidad, Puerto de Santa Maria de los Buenos Ayres, and founded by the Spanish conquistador on June 11, 1580. Almost forty years had passed that these soils had been abandoned to their fate,  the miserable city razed to the ground by royal order, despite the resistance of the governor left by Mendoza and some settlers, who praised the fertility of the soils, especially corn, and potentialities of animal husbandry in the extensive pampas - from the 74 horses of Mendoza to the thousands of wild horses, those justified the expressions contrary to depopulating the Adelantado Cabeza de Vaca. But that's another story.

“Only one day they stopped coming,” in Schmidl's words, “Then our Captain Pedro de Mendoza immediately sent a mayor Juan Pavón, with him two soldiers, to the place where the Indians were... four leagues -Guaraní in the present Dock Sud, led by Telomian Condition. ... they drove in such a way that the Indians grinded them to sticks and then let them return to our camp,” narrates the skirmish that caused  the endless famine of the insolent city, which would go from a thousand five hundred to the hands of 500 in five years due to lack of food, desertions -which Mendoza was punished with the gallows and whose corpses were consumed, “so it was seen that two men who did justice, ate from half to bottom” - and the recurring excursions to trace the coast behind the fabulous treasures - and the cure for their evil that worsened even though he never passed the deprivations of his men because he ordered, wrapped in blankets spun in gold and cured by Maria Dávila, a daily supply of quails and fruits that his guard obtained at risk of his furs.   One of the most disastrous expeditions was in charge of Diego de Mendoza who marched with 300 infants and 300 riders through the Riachuelo, armed with metal meshes and luxurious harnesses, and they ran into a thousand Indians, who killed one by one the frightened European riders pulled by boleadoras of their colorful horses. Emboldened, the Indians besieged the city, their arrows with fire burned the thatched roofs, and Buenos Aires was a chaos of hunger, disease and smoke, “it was such a grief and the hunger disaster that neither rats nor mice, snakes or other savandijas were enough; also hides and shoes, everything had to be eaten,” wrote Schmidl. Isabel de Guevara, one of the twelve women who came hidden among the men, it was bad luck to embark them according to tradition, told Princess Juana, “After three months a thousand died... the men came so badly, that all the translates carried on the poor mugers ... put together the vallestas, when some time the Indians came to give war... give alarm through the countryside to voice ... ” Mendoza decides to climb Paraná at the behest of Juan de Ayolas, who founded the fort of Corpus Christi -nearby Laguna de Coronda, Santa Fe -, but fails and in a state calamitous, “full of gallic and crippled”, finally embarked on his return to Spain on April 22, 1537.  He would die a couple of months later writing to Ayolas, who would be killed by the payaguas, “If God gave you some jewel or some stone, don't stop sending it to me.” He left in Buenos Aires governor Ruiz Galán that agriculture would begin in the future Buenos Aires terrain, in the manner of the Indians, who by tiredness, or by their usual nomadism, stopped besieging the battered city.  Irala, successor to Ayolas in the Port of Candelaria -current Misiones, continues with the original project of finding the fabulous Sierras del Plata, to base in Asunción, and orders to erase Buenos Aires from the face of the earth in 1541.   The resistance of Ruiz Galán and the settlers, who began to reverse the famine with community work was useless,  “Irala then made clear his warlord fiber. Not to wait or to be slaves of the gleba in that plain they crossed the ocean.” And there, part of the DNA of the Porteños - and Argentines was born.  

 Buenos Aires, horror and dread 

“ In the blackness of the stars they put even more fear . The Spaniards, wished cautiously among the trunks, see the glow of the bonfires torn by the madness of the wind, the dancing shadows of the savages,” says  Manuel Mujica Láinez in “El Hambre” of “Aquí Vivieron” (1952),  “the groan of the Adelantado that does not abandons the bed, adds dread to the conquerors... wielding his sword like a madman... -get him out of there - unfold the candles and escape from that cursed land... it is difficult to distinguish the living from the dead... Don Pedro refuses to see his eyes swollen and his lips of dried figs, but inside the Miserable and rich hut is harassed by the ghost of those torso faces... burying under his embroidered allegories... imagines them, torn... and his murky look returns to the plates where the painted shield of the Marquis de Santillana pretends to his loss a red and green fruit.”

Sources: Hosne, R.  Stories of the Rio de la Plata . Buenos Aires: Planet. 1998; Silvestri, G.  The color of the river. Cultural history of the Riachuelo landscape . Bernal: University of Quilmes. 2012; Schmidl, U.  Stuttgart Manuscript . Buenos Aires: Fourth Centenary of the First Foundation of Buenos Aires. Peuser Workshops. 1948.

Publication Date: 02/02/2021

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