This Elizabethan-style clock tower, which some call the Argentine Big Ben, was a gift from the British community of Buenos Aires after building the nearby Retiro railroad station complex. At the turn of the 20th century, Argentina had vast natural resources such as grain and cattle waiting to be exploited, but it was the British Empire that had the investment capability and technology to create Retiro and connect Buenos Aires to its hinterlands to get products to markets overseas. This, however, was always a sore point, and for years, many Argentines felt exploited by Great Britain. Recently, the tower was renamed the Torre Monumental, in response to the very common post-Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands War renaming of anything associated with Great Britain, yet nearly all locals still call it the British Clock Tower. The monument survived the war unscathed, but a few years later, during an anniversary memorial service, an angry mob attacked it. They destroyed portions of the base and also toppled a statue of George Canning, the first British diplomat to recognize the country's independence from Spain. (He's now safely kept at the British Embassy.) The Islas Malvinas-Falkland Islands War Memorial was purposely placed across the street as a permanent reminder of Britain's battle with Argentina. There is little to see inside the monument itself, save for a small museum of photographs. The main attraction here is the view: A free elevator ride will take you to the top floor with its wraparound view of the port, the trains, and the city of Buenos Aires itself. There is also a small Buenos Aires city tourism information center inside.
British Names Post-Islas Malvinas -- British influence was once visible all over Buenos Aires, but following the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands War, the city has made an effort to honor Argentines in places once named for British heroes. The person worst affected by this was George Canning, the British foreign secretary who recognized Argentina's independence from Spain. He once had a major Buenos Aires thoroughfare named after him (since changed to Scalabrini Ortiz), but the only remnant now is Salón Canning, a tango hall on that street. At subway station Malabia, under many layers of paint, you might find the old signs that once announced it as Station Canning. Worst hit, though, was the statue of Canning that was once part of the Torre Monumental, formerly known as the British Clock Tower. An angry mob tore down this statue during an Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands War anniversary service. British citizens shouldn't be alarmed: You can still view the statue at the British embassy, where it is now well protected. And besides, Argentines speak more English now than they ever did before the war, keeping Canning's legacy alive, at least in the language.
- © Frommer's 2013
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