The first time I visited Argentina I went for a run through downtown Buenos Aires. On my way back my tunes were drowned out by loud shouting amplified by bull horns. Turning to my left I saw hundreds of people filling a busy avenue with picket signs, masks, and assault rifles. Reading their signs, the protesters were farmers who were unhappy with the amount of money they were receiving for their crops.
This isn’t the only time I’ve seen such protests. In fact, the more I toured Argentina, the more apparent it became that picketing and protesting were the most common form of democratic expression.
This year, my wife and I returned to Villa del Parque with our son for his first South American Christmas and New Years. Normally, the neighborhood is home to a quiet, laid back community that rarely sees action to the likes of what I saw in downtown Buenos Aires.
When we arrived in VdP, we were greeted by temperatures well into the 90s (33C). Within two days the heat and the A/C units had put the power grid to the test. First the fan stopped, then came the car horns, and when I popped my head out the window and I saw that the streetlights weren’t functioning. No luz.
I didn’t think much of it. We had lost power last year due to the heat, and this was not entirely unexpected. The bad part, with no refrigeration our Christmas food was about to go the way of the trash can. My wife leapt into action and called her sister in Devoto. No luz. They, too, were looking for a place to put their food. My wife then called her mom in a different part of Devoto. Thankfully, she had power. S0, we grudgingly loaded up a duffel bag with our food and headed across town. Several hours later we received confirmation that the power was back on at our apartment. We returned home, loaded the frig, and within thirty minutes we were without power once again. WTF? Since it was 9PM we weren’t about to load everything back up and make the return trip. Instead, we waited it out. And luckily a mere six hours later the lights came back on.
The following day temperatures rose to 34C/96F. By 6PM the heat had taken over once again and the lights went out for a third time. We used candles, my laptop, and my iPhone’s Torch LED app for light. Not long after dusk my wife’s brother called to say that folks in his neighborhood were lighting the street on fire in protest. A little while later people began banging pots and pans in our neck of the woods. Then came the picketing. First on the corner of Cuenca y Nogoya. And finally, the people in Villa del Parque lit up our street.
Because I was using my iPhone as both a camera and a flashlight I didn’t have enough power to capture the 230AM arrival of the police, the restoration of power, and the cleaning up of the protest by the protesters. No one was arrested and we have not lost power since the protest.
Perhaps the most egregious part of the story is the Argentine government’s mishandling of the power situation from the get go. Years prior they had sold the power business to private companies and have done little since then to ensure that the power stays on in times of dire need.
I’m not usually one for this kind of activism, but this protest was necessary. I applaud the people of BsAs for their actions and am happy that I was able to capture the true spirit of democracy.
Were you there? What’s your take on the protests? Chime in below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.