The 1991 debut of the 180-store Galerías Pacífico shopping mall is what saved downtown’s Florida Street from becoming a complete ghost town in the 1990’s. Its opening was also a financial blow to the already hemorrhaging Harrods Buenos Aires a block away, and in part led to that department store’s closing in 1998.
The 1889 building on the 700 block of Florida, at Cordoba, was originally modeled after Paris’s most important department store, Le Bon Marché. Later it was the first site of the National Museum of Fine Arts and home to the British Pacific Railway administration office, from which it derives its name.
In 1945, the building’s huge central dome was constructed. The Beaux Arts style frescos by artists as Antonio Berni, Lino Spilimbergo, Manuel Colmeiro, Demetrio Urruchúa and Juan Carlos Castagnino are some of the most celebrated in Buenos Aires. In 1989, one hundred years after its opening, the building was declared a national historic monument. Shortly after it was reopened, artists Rómulo Macció, Josefina Robirosa, Guillermo Roux and Carlos Alonso added an additional four frescos.
For visitors it’s definitely worth taking a spin around the mall to admire the elegant building, although as with most shopping along Florida Street, the merchandise is not particularly unique. The mall is home to international brands such as Polo, Tommy Hillfiger, Christian Dior and Hugo Boss and the prices rival those in the developed world. Some local brands such as polo outfitter, La Martina and Lopez Taibo, for leather shoes and accessories, may be of more interest to visitors.
Behind the designer glitz of Galerías Pacífico, is a darker, spookier past that few tour guides mention. As author Naomi Klein describes in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in 1987 a documentary crew discovered the literal writing on the wall — names and messages left by former prisoners who were presumed to be tortured in the building’s depths during the 1976-1983 military rule of Argentina.
Those with kids in tow may find Galerías Pacífico’s clean bathrooms and ground floor food court utilitarian. The most worthwhile destination in Galerías Pacífico for culture vultures is the Jorge Borges Cultural Center, where there is a constant rotation of international exhibitions and events ranging from reasonably priced, high-quality tango shows to film screenings and folk music performances.
→ cont. reading: The Naval Center—A Beaux Arts Gem on Florida Street
• Hours: Mon-Sat 10am—9 pm
Sun 12 pm until 9 pm
Centro Cultural Borges
• Hours: same as Galerías Pacífico