Buenos Aires Travel Planet

Buenos Aires visitor’s guide

The Obelisk

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The Obelisk

The 67.5 metre tall Obelisco (obelisk) can be seen from most points in Buenos Aires city centre. It sits proudly in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio: a 140 meter wide avenue that holds the record for being the widest street in the world. The Obelisco and the avenue on which it stands both honor Argentina’s birth date and release from Spanish colonial rule on July 9th, 1816.

The iconic image of this white tower in its nocturnal and most stunning state is one that represents Argentina and Buenos Aires for argentine nationals and tourists alike. Souvenirs from lighters to umbrellas pay homage to this national monument, with pictures of the tower illuminated at night, surrounded by the rush of traffic and streaks of golden light. The Obelisk seems like such an integral part of the city that it’s surprising to learn that it was only inaugurated in 1936. The project was undertaken by a German construction company, G.E.O.P.E. - Siemens Bauunion - Grün & Bilfinger who used only 157 men to construct the Obelisk. It is quite incredible how quickly it was built, taking only 31 days to build the Obelisk’s huge concrete and white stone structure.

Throughout its history, the Obelisk has been at the heart of controversy and it hasn’t always been as beloved as it is today. In 1939, just 3 years after its inauguration in 1936, the demolition of the monument was approved by City Government. Arturo Goyenche, the mayor at the time, sanctioned the pulling down of the tower because of alleged risks to public safety, the lack of aesthetic appeal and due to economic reasons. I wonder what postcards and souvenirs would be brandished in today, if national government officials hadn’t stepped in to save the Obelisco.


The Obelisk remains standing proud to this day and has been used in recent years as a platform to commemorate events, for example, most recently to mark Argentina’s 200 years of independence. The bicentenary was kicked off with an impressive light display, projecting the colours of the Argentine flag onto the creamy exterior of the Obelisk.  However, some other uses of the Obelisk haven’t been so popular. To mark International AIDS Awareness Day in 2005 and to raise awareness of safe sex, a 67 m long pink “condom” was placed over the huge white tower in downtown Buenos Aires. This sparked outcry from some members of the public, religious groups and architects who claimed it was completely unnecessary and tasteless. Check out this Buenos Aires travel guide for more architecture in Buenos Aires.

The condom stunt certainly highlights the phallic nature of the Obelisk and many Argentines are proud of the structure’s macho and sexual nature claiming it represents the passionate nature of their society. There is no denying that compared to its counterparts like, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, the Obelisk is one of the most phallic national monuments around.

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