On September 1, 1821, El Argos, a newspaper founded in May of that year by Santiago Wilde and to which personalities such as Manuel Moreno and Esteban de Luca contributed, points out in a short article that “The Argos seems that this title, or any other that means the same, should be given to the block where the famous temple of San Ignacio is located. The union college was established there. There is the public library. The central school by the mutual teaching method. The drawing academy. Those of the French and English languages. It is this same block that the University has been formed and located. The great hall for the representative body is being built. The court of accounts has its offices. Lately, it is assured that in this same place, the general archive formed by all the private archives is established, and that it must be one of the most precious treasurers of the province of Buenos-Ayres ”.
The enumeration would fall short quickly. There, then, the political institutions that governed the destinies of the province, the city and, in certain periods of the nation, would function. Bodies such as the Topographic Institute, the Province Bank, the Directorate of Schools, the Charity Society or the Public Museum would be installed. There the Argentine Scientific Society and the Silver Ornithological Society would be founded.
From that University of Buenos Aires, founded just fifteen days before the article appeared, four of the five Argentine Nobel Laureates would later emerge. Leading figures of art, science and politics have emerged from the National College, a distant grandson of the Jesuit College, including several presidents.
Although less remembered, women also left their mark there. From Isabel de Carvajal, who will donate the property to the Society of Jesus, to the first graduates of the National College and the first university professionals, many other women are part of the history of the place and their memory deserves to be rescued from oblivion.
The passage of time was wreaking havoc on the old buildings and on the successive remodeling and extensions that were superimposed on them. At an unfortunate moment it was decided to erase all vestige of the recent past and demolish the “non-historical constructions” to emphasize the Jesuit period and rebuild the primitive Legislature Hall (to which the Argos refers precisely).
After the Church and the College, the institution that lasted the longest in the Manzana was the University of Buenos Aires; from its foundation in 1821 until the transfer of the Exact Sciences and Architecture faculties to the University City at the end of the 1960s. Nothing remains in the Manzana that recalls its presence. Nothing … except a small sign that, on the door of Peru 222, reads: “University”.
The Argos article closes with a comment that seems to be written for today: “It would also be advisable for the exterior to correspond to the interior richness that this block contains, or at least to show it with the decency of any particular house or establishment.” An extensive canvas that covers the entire corner of Peru and Alsina has reported, for years, that the Apple is being restored to its splendor … but the facts do not seem to confirm it.
José Sellés-Martínez is president of the Institute of Historical Research of the Manzana de las Luces.