La Casa Rosada: Argentina’s Executive Mansion
Posts from this trip:
- La Casa Rosada, Argentina’s Executive Mansion (this post)
- Recoleta Cemetery, Burial Ground of the Rich and Famous
- My Experience Renting a Furnished Apartment
- Visiting Buenos Aires: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly
The first time I walked by The White House, I didn’t even realize it. If you’ve been there, you know the mansion is pretty close to the sidewalk.
I mean, it was right there – and I didn’t notice.
I’m proud to be an American, but I must say our executive mansion is…modest. Had the friend I was walking with – a Washington, DC local – not casually pointed it out (“oh by the way, that was The White House”) I would’ve missed it entirely.
Granted, I had not intended to see the house that day and, since I was with a local, did not pay attention to where I was walking. And it was a different “era;” security around the house was more subtle then.
To be clear, I am not complaining about our White House. I think it’s stately, if small. More importantly, it’s funded by me and my fellow taxpayers. I am thrifty and I like my tax dollars spent in the same manner.
Unlike our White House, Argentina’s executive mansion is not easily missed.
First, it’s (very) pink. In name – La Casa Rosada, which translates to The Pink House – and in appearance.
Second, it’s enormous. While I could not find exact measurements, I am sure it easily dwarfs the White House’s 55,000 square feet.
The building is the focal point of Plaza de Mayo, itself a large square in central Buenos Aires.
Although La Casa Rosada is the seat of Argentina’s executive branch of government, the President does not live there. (She resides at another mansion in a suburb of Buenos Aires).
Nonetheless, I was surprised by how much public access is available. While you must be on a tour to see most of the interior, the tour itself is publicly available and requires no prior arrangements. You just show up and get in line.
Most surprising is that these tours take visitors into the President’s actual office.
They put away the “sensitive” stuff before the public traipses through – for example, telephones were covered (no seeing who President Kirchner has on speed dial!) – but it is still quite interesting just to be allowed in.
Understandably, the guards watch you like a hawk during that part of the tour. You cannot meander; they line you up in single file and hustle you through in quick procession. Lingering is (politely) admonished and photos are strictly prohibited.
Another highlight of the tour is walking onto the balcony. This balcony is the setting of many important moments in Argentine history; the very spot from which its Presidents have announced wars.
But it is probably most famous as the spot from where Argentines were addressed by their beloved Evita (or sung to by Madonna, if you prefer).
Tips and logistics
Public tours of the interior are only available on weekends and holidays. Tours are free, well organized, and last about an hour (not including time spent queuing for a ticket and then waiting for your ticket to be called).
If you would like an English-speaking guide you should specifically request one (and might have to wait longer for one). I had heard and read that most tours are bilingual so it didn’t occur to me to ask. They just placed me with the next available guide – who spoke no English.
The fact that I spoke only Spanish to the person assigning tours probably didn’t help make my preference for English obvious either. Doh!
In the end it was do-able as I understand Spanish, but it’s not my first (or second) language so the experience was not optimal. The guide was very nice and offered to speak slowly, but my processing skills were sometimes even slower. Plus there were like 30 other people in the tour group so I didn’t want to be the moron holding things up asking the guide to repeat himself all the time.
Even still, I enjoyed the tour and would recommend a visit to La Casa Rosada if you find yourself in Buenos Aires on a weekend.