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Wide-eyed in Buenos Aires

Posted by guest  March 19, 2008 04:28 PM

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How wide is the widest street in the world? I wanted to know. But I didn’t feel like measuring Avenida 9 de Julio with a yardstick and turning into the loco gringo.
Wikipedia says 459 feet. Google Sightseeing says 417. Virtualtourist.com says 426. Yahoo plays it safe: “One of the world’s largest avenues.”
Britannica.com says, flat out, that it’s the widest street anywhere. But to get the details you need a credit card number to activate a free trial -- you know how that works.
Buenostours.com says it’s an avenue residents of the city “claim to be the widest street in the world.”
By any measure, the street, opened in 1936 to commemorate Argentina’s 1816 Independence Day, is a lot wider than a US football field is long. And a lot wider than, say, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston. MIT (a source I can run with) pegs Comm. Ave. at “200 feet from building face to building face.”
Posted By John P. Harrington, Globe Staff

But, you may ask, what’s the point of the widest street in the world? Sometimes it seems as if you need to be a quarterback to cross the 20 lanes of traffic on foot – despite the big green strips that break up the lanes into three, seven, seven, and three. It’s probably safe to say the short answer, beyond mere traffic planning, is this: It’s monumental.
Yes, they lost some beautiful old buildings when they carved out the avenue. And parts of it aren’t all that attractive. But what a great place to put a 223-foot obelisk.
El Obelisco isn’t as tall as the 555-foot Washington Monument. But it’s part of BA’s street life. It’s a guidepost. And a very big exclamation point: Hey, you! You’re in Buenos Aires!
And it’s a place to make a point. Lots of protest marches there. On World AIDS Awareness Day, they slipped a giant pink condom over the obelisk. Now that’s cool.
It’s an icon whose appeal I can’t quite put my finger on. Why does a view of it from half a mile away, down a narrow crowded side street, seem so much more dramatic than a shot of the D.C. monument?
I’m not sure. But meet me at el Obelisco.

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