The current Pasaje Roverano was inaugurated 100 years ago this year (2018), replacing a previous building that was demolished to make way for Avenida de Mayo. The eclectic office block with its commercial arcade, a passageway that links Avenida de Mayo and Hipolito Yrigoyen, has many curious secrets, and there’s a man who knows them all.
For 41 years, Omar Ruiz has been arriving at 7am to open the gates to the historic building and oversee its comings and goings until locking up at 9pm and making his commute home. He began as lift attendant at the age of 17, maintaining the old wrought iron birdcage elevators, before becoming the encargado, a kind of caretaker-cum-concierge who looks after the general running of the building and a typically Porteño occupation.
“I like it here,” he says. “I’ve spent more time here than in my own home and I know everything from memory; all the movements of the building; all the faces that come and go. There’s a lot of movement and that keeps you in shape.”
He still receives and sorts the post for the various units and fixes occasional issues with the building.
“There’s a lot less correspondence now, but the old letterboxes are still used. The building hasn’t changed. You can’t touch it because it’s historic, and really everything was built to last.”
The arcade has been use to shoot several films including The Signal (La Señal) starring Ricardo Darín and more recently a film about the life of Pope Francis, who, when bishop of Buenos Aires would regularly have his hair cut at the building’s barbershop, a place that despite a change of ownership, aesthetically appears to have changed not a jot over the decades. Another curiosity that many don’t know is that the building has its very own entrance to the Buenos Aires subway system - you can walk down a flight of stairs into the basement and direct into Peru station.
“One day I was playing with a magnet and found that it stuck to part of the rail here but not to others. I began scrubbing and polishing and discovered that some parts that were painted black were not iron but bronze.” Omar then took it upon himself to remove the paint and restore the whole rail to its former resplendent glory.