Around 700km northwest of Buenos Aires, the bustling, modern metropolis of CÓRDOBA sits on a curve in the Río Suquía, at its confluence with the tamed La Cañada brook. The jagged silhouettes visible at the western end of its broad avenues announce that the cool heights of the sierras are not far away, and it’s here that many of the 1.3 million Cordobeses take refuge from the valley’s sweltering heat during summer. Because it lacks the dynamism and style of Rosario, its rival for the title of Argentina’s second city, many people spend only an hour or two here before sprinting off to the nearby resorts. But Córdoba has a wide range of services, and its excellent location makes it an ideal base for exploring the region, while the colonial architecture at its heart remains an attraction in its own right. Moreover, the city is reputed nationwide for its hospitable, elegant population and its caustically ironic sense of humour, something you’ll come to appreciate the longer you stay.
On July 6, 1573, Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, Governor of Tucumán, declared a new city founded at the fork in the main routes from Chile and Alto Perú to Buenos Aires, calling it Córdoba la Llana de la Nueva Andalucía, after the city of his Spanish ancestors. The Monolito de la Fundación, on the north bank of the Río Suquía nearly a kilometre northeast of the Plaza San Martín, supposedly marks the precise spot where the city was founded and commands panoramic views.
Almost from the outset the Society of Jesus played a crucial role in Córdoba’s development, and King Carlos III of Spain’s order to expel the Jesuits from the Spanish empire in 1767 inevitably dealt Córdoba a serious body blow. That, plus the decision in 1776 to make Buenos Aires the headquarters of the newly created Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, might well have condemned the city to terminal decline had it not then been made the administrative centre of a huge Intendencia, or viceregal province, stretching all the way to Mendoza and La Rioja. Like so many Argentine cities, Córdoba benefited from the arrival of the railways in 1870 and a period of prosperity followed, still visible in some of the city’s lavishly decorated banks and theatres. By the close of the nineteenth century, Córdoba had begun to spread south, with European-influenced urban planning on a huge scale, including the Parque Sarmiento. This all coincided with a huge influx of immigrants from Europe and the Middle East.
In the first half of the twentieth century Córdoba emerged as one of the country’s main manufacturing centres. Sadly, the post-2001 crisis boom that occurred in other parts of the country never reached Córdoba, and the industries that once ruled here are now shadows of their former selves. However, despite the recent global economic downturn, the local government has invested heavily in arts and culture in the last few years, with the opening of several new museums and cultural spaces, such as the Museo Superior de Bellas Artes Evita and the Paseo del Buen Pastor.