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Fodor's Buenos Aires
La Manzana de Las Luces (The Block of Illumination)
La Manzana de Las Luces (The Block of Illumination) Review
More history is packed into this single block of buildings southwest of Plaza de Mayo than in scores of other city blocks put together. Among other things, it was the enclave for higher learning: the metaphorical luces (lights) of its name refer to the "illuminated" scholars who worked within.
The Iglesia de San Ignacio is open to the public, but you can only visit the rest of Manzana de las Luces on guided tours led by excellent professional historians. Regular departures are in Spanish, but they provide brochures with English summaries of each stage; groups of over 20 people can call ahead to arrange English-language visits.
Procuraduría. The earliest occupant on La Manzana de Las Luces was the controversial Jesuit order, which began construction here in 1661. The only survivor from this first stage is the galleried Procuraduría, the colonial administrative headquarters for the Jesuits' vast land holdings in northeastern Argentina and Paraguay (think: The Mission). Historic defense tunnels, still undergoing archaeological excavation, linked the Jesuit headquarters to churches in the area, the Cabildo, and the port. Guided visits here include a glimpse of a specially reinforced section.
After the Jesuits' expulsion from Argentina in 1767 (the Spanish crown saw them as a threat), the simple brick-and-mud structure housed first the city's first school of medicine and then the University of Buenos Aires. Fully restored, it's now home to a school of luthiers and a rather tacky crafts market. Corner of Alsina and Perú.
Iglesia de San Ignacio de Loyola. The Jesuits honored their patron saint at the Iglesia de San Ignacio de Loyola. The first church on the site was built of adobe in 1675; within a few decades it was rebuilt in stone. Corner of Alsina and Bolívar.
Casas Virreinales. Argentina's first congress convened within the Casas Virreinales—ironic, given that it was built to house colonial civil servants. Corner of Moreno and Perú.
Colegio Nacional. The remaining historic building on the La Manzana de Las Luces block is the neoclassical Colegio Nacional, a top-notch public school and a hotbed of political activism that replaced a Jesuit-built structure. The president attends graduation ceremonies, and Einstein gave a lecture here in 1925.
- Address: Entrance and inquiries at, Perú 272, Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires C1067AAF | Map It
- Phone: 11/4342–6973 Ext. 129
- Cost: 14 pesos
- Hours: Visits by guided tour only; Spanish-language tours leave weekdays at 3, and at 4:30, and 6 pm on weekends; call two weeks ahead to arrange tours in English
- Website: www.manzanadelasluces.gov.ar
- Metro A to Plaza de Mayo, D to Catedral, E to Bolívar.
- Location: Centro and Environs
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