La Casa Minima, a tiny home in Buenos Aires revealing Argentine’s slavery past it has sought to erase

Stephen Nartey November 23, 2022
Casa Mínima, San Telmo, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Oral tradition indicates that La Casa Minima was once owned by a freed slave. It is situated at San Lorenzo in the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires of Argentina. It is not the ability of the edifice to have withstood the scourge or time for many decades or its fascinating architecture that is of interest to many historians but its linkage to Argentina’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

It is one of the narrowest buildings in Argentine culture. It has been whitewashed with some of the ancient clay bricks used in erecting it but it is visibly screaming loud because some of the white paint on the structure is peeling off.

La Casa Minima measures 2.5 meters at its widest point and it smacks of its long past with old wooden doors painted green with a second balcony sitting above it, according to Atlas Obscura. It stretches 13 meters in terms of its depth from the front view to its rear.

Local tour guides and inhabitants have not relented in sharing its dark history with any visitor to La Casa Minima. It is believed that it was a gift from the Urquiza family to one of their favorite slaves. Local accounts say the structure was handed over to the enslaved African in 1813 shortly after his freedom was handed over to him.

There is a coincidence to this narrative because Argentina began the process of abolishing slavery in 1813 when it introduced the Free Womb Act granting all babies born to slave mothers their freedom. Slavery was finally outlawed in Argentina in 1853 and Buenos Aires implemented it in 1861. Historical accounts indicate that the history surrounding the ownership and occupancy of La Casa Minima are plain facts that can be verified.

It was once a single home spanning some 16 meters wide. But, the slicing of a piece of it to either new owners or rentals eventually collapsed it into the narrow architecture that stands today. Historians say the bad mathematics that went into its sale and sketchy planning by the managers of the facility is what has reduced the one fascinating edifice to a piecemeal. Instead of the managers of the estate to conscript neighbouring units into a single facility, they decided to leave it in a standalone piece.

Some historians say Argentina has been wrestling with the identity of a mixed race of African descent for decades now. But, there is ample evidence in some local delicacies, historical relics and cultural dance that bridges the present with Argentine’s involvement in the slave trade.

Many Afro-Argentines have been struggling to establish their African ancestry following conscious government efforts to erase the existence of anything that connects Argentina with its dark past.

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