Like several other Perón era housing projects, a name change occurred after military leaders ousted the President. 17 October 1945 marked the birth of Perón’s political presence when workers marched on Plaza de Mayo, demanded he be released from jail & requested his nomination as President. Later consecrated as the Día de la Lealtad & made a national holiday, such a polemic moment in history could not survive the anti-Perón years which followed the coup. A less controversial name for this neighborhood—Barrio General José de San Martín—today commemorates a less controversial historical figure. Locals also know it as the Barrio Grafa, named for the adjoining textile factory (Grandes Fábricas Argentinas), today occupied by Walmart.
Of the two models for housing projects during Perón’s decade in office, the Barrio 17 de Octubre followed the pattern of Barrio Balbastro & Los Perales. No California-style chalets here; just large, evenly-spaced monoblocks… 34 buildings of four floors each, creating a grand total of 959 apartments (783 2-bedroom units + 176 3-bedroom units).
Along with lots of open space & a few local markets, each building was given a name & number… important when all your neighbors live in identical spaces! Also of note is the construction company, Fernando Vinnelli e Hijos, who also built the Ministerio de Economia on one corner of Plaza de Mayo. The wild parakeet population was a bit of a surprise!
But the most outstanding feature turned out to be the water tower… an important part of any housing project, especially one so large. Surrounding its base in large metal letters is the following text: “Por la libre voluntad del Pueblo como expresión de Soberanía” or “A realization of sovereignty by free will of the people.” Very Peronista.
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