Just as the people of Buenos Aires were putting the horrors of the Dirty War behind them, they fell victim to an economic catastrophe. In 1999, a combination of factors including a falsely inflated exchange rate between the Argentine Peso and the US dollar led to a serious recession and people began losing faith in the peso and in Argentine banks. In late 2001 there was a run on the banks and in December 2001 the economy collapsed. Angry protestors in the streets of Buenos Aires forced President Fernando de la Rúa to flee the presidential palace in a helicopter. For a while, unemployment reached as high as 25%. The economy eventually stabilized, but not before many businesses and citizens went bankrupt.
Buenos Aires Today
Today, Buenos Aires is once again calm and sophisticated, its political and economic crises a thing of the past. It is considered very safe, and is once more a center for literature, film and education. No history of the city would be complete without a mention of its role in the arts:
Literature in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires has always been a very important city for literature. Porteños (as the citizens of the city are called) are very literate and place a great value on books. Many of Latin America’s greatest writers call or called Buenos Aires home, including José Hernández (author of the Martín Fierro epic poem), Jorge Luís Borges and Julio Cortázar (both known for outstanding short stories). Today, the writing and publishing industry in Buenos Aires is alive and thriving.
Film in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires has had a film industry since the beginning. There were early pioneers of the medium making films as early as 1898, and the world’s first feature-length animated film, El Apóstol, was created in1917. Unfortunately, no copies of it exist. By the 1930’s, the Argentine film industry was producing approximately 30 films per year, which were exported to all of Latin America. In the early 1930’s, tango singer Carlos Gardel made several films which helped catapult him to international stardom and made a cult figure of him in Argentina, although his career was cut short when he died in 1935. Although his biggest films were not produced in Argentina, they nevertheless were hugely popular and contributed to the film industry in his home country, as imitations soon popped up. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, Argentine cinema has gone through several cycles of booms and busts, as political and economic instability have temporarily shut down studios. Currently, Argentine cinema is undergoing a renaissance and is known for edgy, intense dramas.