A young Austrian reports on his Argentina travels
ARGENTINIA ARDE! May Argentina burn! A symbol and a demand appearing, among many others, on a lot of house walls throughout the country, especially in the larger cities near Buenos Aires and, of course, in Buenos Aires itself.
Fuera Duhalda, chau Duhalda, FMI arde, etc. The country is in a state of awakening.
I really had no idea what was waiting for me in this country. Moreover, I had no idea where I would sleep in Buenos Aires, but the candour and the warmth of the people in south America deeply touched me and, through friends, I got some addresses of people living in Argentina who welcomed us (my travel companion and me) like old friends. Suddenly, the edge was taken of many things because of the simple but very important certainty that I ALWAYS would have a roof over my head and people near me who could help me if there were any problems. A heavy load had been taken off me.
It frightened me and gave me a really bad feeling to realized once more how privileged I am as an EU-citizen. This can be seen in so many areas that it made and makes me feel sick. The mere fact that I was there, in this place, already proved it; just like the fact that everything was so _cheap_ for me: food, public transport....
What is obvious is the safe-guarding of the capital, not only during demonstrations but also in other areas: the large banks, for instance, are not merely protected by wood boards, as for instance in Genova. No! They were covered from all sides by heavy metal sheets which do not allow the breaking of the glass, and moreover, cannot be used to set the building on fire. This _protection_ was noticeable in most places during my stay there, depending on the intensity of the protests. But here too, traces of the fighting could be seen, they either had graffiti or dents and deformations from the sticks of the demonstrators.
Everything is pat of many signs of rage against the government, police and FMI (=IMF = International Monetary Fund).
On the day after my arrival, the 3rd July, there was a demonstration, the first one I was able to participate in. The reasons for it were police-repressions. The deaths of the already mentioned activists Maximilliano Kosteki (23) and Dario Santillan (21) turned out to have been murders, most likely planned and carried out in cold blood. - Memories of the military dictatorship in this country in the late 1970ies and early 1980ies came back to many people living in Argentina. After some considerations, the daily newspapers printed the photographs which had been taken. they proved that Dario had tried to help Maxi who was lying shot on the ground. Dario himself was shot dead cold-blooded while squatting over the severely wounded Maxi. The openness with which this took place was scary. Some of the uniformed killers looked directly into the camera and could easily be recognized on the photos.
As mentioned above, these killings took place as an reaction to the blockade of a very important bridge which is a major entrance to the centre of Buenos Aires. The people blockading the streets, the so-called Piqueter@s (this way of spelling with an @ is used in critical Spanish or more correctly Castellano in order to step up to the sexism in the language. thus, there are Piqueteras - feminine - and Piqueteros - masculine ; the a and the o are combined to in one letter: @. This way of spelling may be compared to the English compromise of _women-wimmin_).
It is a very important and typical form of action in Argentina; and efforts are made to link the various activities in a network. This demonstration went from the train-station Avellaneda, the square where the executions took place, via the above mentioned bridge into the centre to the Plaza de Mayo, the best known and very important square in Buenos Aires. The demonstration lasted for about four hours in chilly rain; similar to Italy, there are no police-escorts all the time in contrast to Germoney and Austria. There were only two fixed police- and special unit-posts along the route of the demonstration, one by the bridge (military, police and riot-police, partially with sharp weapons!) and one for guarding Casa Rosada, the building of the government of Argentina. At the checkpoint by the bridge, some demonstrators were allegedly wounded. The Casa Rosada is completely sealed off during the demonstrations by very strong iron-bar, about 2.30 m high, behind which there are many riot cops armed for the street fights and for defending the Casa.
It was striking for me coming from a rather cold environment as far as human relations are concerned and the dispassionate climate of Austria and Germany, how different the people in South America act. this comparison, in various appearances, will reappear in this report.
This demonstration which took place, as I mentioned before, in continuous rain, was held by about 70,000 participants. Although there was no street fighting things were pretty lively: the people danced and sang their death wishes for the government, the FMI, the police with partially very militant words. They were accompanied by numerous drummers who untiringly beat the time and kept the hearts of the demonstration beating stronly. When these people dance, their whole bodies dance, jumping with arms almost fleeing the chest, in a movement that continues into the finger-tips. two or three people start with this beautiful form of protest and all the people around let themselves get caught by this dance which makes the ground shake, and all of a sudden, there are hundreds moving , and there is a tremendous strength coming from this mass. Very often such a protest against the government and the FMI is combined with a nationalism reminding me of the nationalism of the Basque liberation movement; many people in Argentina come with flags to the demos, which is, at the same time, seen as a criticism of the government and the police-units who do not, as it were, represent Argentina, which I found quite strange just like the singing of the Argentina anthem after the demonstration.
2)+Asamblea Parque Lezama Sur*(3
"EL PEUBLO EN LAS CALLES CONSTRUYE SU PROPRIA HISTORIA" or the new discovery of the wheel,
During the first days in Buenos Aires i was able to contact two Asambleas, one of them meets in the northern part of Buenos Aires every Thursday, and the other one every Wednesday closer to the centre in the squatted (occupied?) house "Tierra del sur*(
the Asambleas were started as an answer to the situation in the country as an answer to the repression, the murders. Many people simply got together in public places, parks or churches to discuss what could be done to improve the situation, which activities could be used as an antidote against the government. Asamblea is the Castellano translation of the word assembly. Meanwhile, there are about 200 Asambleas in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires which are now in permanent contact with each other. Delegates who routinely alternate are to be sent to the _head-meetings_ - the _Interbarrials_ (barrio = district). These delegates may be authorized to make decisions for their Asamblea. It is moving to see how this autonomous administration works. These Asambleas show a wonderful strength and saw a great amount of solidarity into the hearts of the people.
What makes these Asambleas a wonderful weapon is the fact that people from very different levels participate, from the two year old toddler to the 70 year old grandmother. ALL of them take part in the Asamblea. This means that the problems and wishes of all the people may be heard as well as their ideas without any hierarchies. At least, where I took part, this was attempted. Many of these ideas are really beautiful, and these ideas need space to be developed. Therefore, these people make plans where they could make a cultural centre. And as the buildings of the "Banco Mayo" stood empty because of bankruptcy, the idea was near at hand to squat them. This happened two weeks after my arrival in the district Barracas. the people there told me that this was not the only building of this bank-group which had been squatted. It indeed is a strange feeling to spend some time in a squatted bank, to sleep there, to watch children playing and being creative, simply to make living space out of this deadly building.
What a change has happened there? What is next? What comes after the squatted villages in the Basque country? What after these banks? What after the factories? Streets, woods, embassies, offices, trees, hearts..... How many people meet in these places for the first time, where there is a feeling of community, which friendships start here, which projects? Which dreams are dreamt here which together will later be realized?
At a concert talking about the death of Carlo Giuliani (20.07.2001), a friend of mine gave way to the following thought: "Not until every police(wo)man has a relative who also protests in the streets, will these uniformed people cease to fire their weapons." And all of a sudden, it seems as if this sentence might be realized in a different way and even without force. If we take the cultural centre of this Asamblea Lezama del Sur, the Asamblea squatting a bank: because of the many activities organized for children, it might happen that the son or daughter of a policeman finds his/her way into the bank, into this self-governed building, he/she may make friends in this building. How could such a policeman think of removing his own child from this building, and thus to take him/her the possibility of spending creative time?
The police came three times as far as I recall and asked what was going on there. But after some people had explained that this was a social centre which was being realized, they went away without giving them any trouble. In my talks with the squatters, the people of the Asamblea, it turned out that the police acted in such a discreet way because it seemed unwise to clear a squat like this one when the political situation was so vague and the solidarity of the people among each other so overwhelming. this is so important: solidarity with the Asamblea. The police would not fight against a few marginal groups of squatters but against a huge mass of people, mothers, fathers, children, grandmothers, grandfathers, etc. As for solidarity: Directly after the squatting, a man working across the street, in the office of a leading Argentine telephone company offered to provisionally supply them with electricity. The nearby grocer immediately allowed them discount when he learned that they were to buy foodstuff for the Asamblea.
. THE COMPARISON WITH SPAIN IN 1936? And a personal account of the Cacerolas demonstrations in Buenos Aires.
During my first days in Buenos Aires, a friend sent me an e-mail from Graz, Austria, in which he told me that there was no place in the world where he would rather be than in Argentina, except perhaps in the Spain of 1936. For me in Argentina, what did this statement means as I was actually there and, therefore, had a completely different picture than he. Spain and Barcelona are one of these magic phrases which are so meaningfully uttered in revolutionary circles because this fight depicts a certain feeling and recalls a time which, indeed, must have been something very special. How should I be able to compare the situation in Argentina with the situation in Spain in 1936? this seems impossible to me, simply for the reason that I was not there at the time of the Spanish revolution. Furthermore, all these historic backgrounds which play such an important role if you want to understand the correlations, how such a movement can develop which leads to such grave occurrences as it happened in Spain.
The friend in Buenos Aires who gave us an introduction into the metropolis and into the life there, told me such wonderful stories about these now famous, infamous days in December 2001. The people were full with all the events of the country, the crash of the economy, with the so incredibly _strange_ situation of hunger in those surroundings with preconditions as the ones in Argentina. It thus happened that a few began to stand in the streets, armed with nothing but a cooking-pot and a tool to beat on it. They did not really know why they did it, but it seemed to be way of protesting, and all of a sudden, they felt like the ones who laid claim to the streets und who pronounced what lurked in the heads of so many others... And the sound of the jingling cooking-pots echoed through the streets, and others heard it and were touched. They laid down their work, took a cooking-pot with a spoon as an instrument of protest, left their flat and joined the people in the streets,. All of a sudden, there were thousands of people running shouting and jingling through the streets. The destination of the _demonstration_ seemed to be clear to all of them: the above mentioned _Plaza de Mayo_ with the Casa Rosada at one end. The square where even the president pathetically had to leave the _Casa_ by helicopter.
I don_t know if it is possible to make a comparison with Spain in 1936, and I shall never know it, but I think that everything that is happening there is something very special (let_s make it to something natural!) in the present situation of the _New World Order_: All these revolutionary movements, all these struggles which are fought in these days, street-blockades by the Piqueter@s, self-organisations in the Asambleas, the power of the Cacerol@s, mass-demonstrations, graffiti....
THE NOCTURNAL HEAVEN OPENS ITS DOORS TO LET US IN - the way west to Mendoza By bus through the whole latitude of the country, from the Rio Plata to the foot of the Andes. I was happy to see a wonderful sunrise, the snow covered mountains dipped in pink before me and the rising sun behind me. I experienced this after a night-ride on the _Colectivo_ (motor-coach), the usual way of travelling in Argentina because almost all the trains have been stopped due to lack of money. Again, we stayed with people we had got to know indirectly, and again this wonderful candour which I experienced here so often.
This time we were accommodated by the artists of the _Argonautas_, a theatre group in Mendoza. And what again fascinates me is the presence of children; at least once a week I take part in some activities for children, this is so great! The _Argonautas_ people told me that there was a squatted cultural centre in Mendoza; unfortunately I didn_t manage to visit it, however, the emphasis there was also put on the work with children. Children have a totally different rating in the social context of living together than the one I know. The children are involved in almost every activity which may both be positive and negative. Thus, children hardly ever experience a feeling of being excluded, and they are allowed to participate in many activities, whereas in Central Europe, I experience that children always are _sent to bed_ are therefore against their will excluded from the social life.
_I hope you win_, the man behind the counter said when I told him why I just had spent 3 1/2 hours before the Internet PC and in which kind of work (anti capitalistic) work I am involved. _I hope WE win_, I answered, and he knew that with WE all of us are meant. This experience is another example for the spirit which is strongly felt throughout the country, this spirit which is often called solidarity. For me it was like a well of water shortly before you die with thirst. The chance to tell so many different people what I do and what my work is about and to be congratulated for doing it by a man entering my life as a _normal_ worker in some place or other, gave me a lot of energy, especially for my life in my usual surroundings in Europe. And the idea to start an attempt of involving a lot more of the so called normal people and to at least partially let them in the know is something very beautiful; if we all began to tell all the people WE encounter what we are working at, at least in rough outlines, this would be a great success. Because in order to really endanger the ruling system, even the so-called normal people have to talk about how important a change is, and not just the _left ilite_.
The way to the Andes: My first metres of hitch-hiking in South America and YEAH! A clichi has come true, the first car that picked us up was a pick-up and where did we sit? on the loading space, of course.. Hitchhiking turned out to be no major problem in Argentina, not even with four people sitting on a three (wo)men-bench passing three police checkpoints before the border with Chile. Our destination was the small village _Puente del Inca_ amidst the Andes which we reached in four stages without having to wait long in between. There, all of a sudden, a different side of Argentina could be seen, for Puente del Inca is a tourist centre, and we saw mainly rich Argentines who had come there to go skiing. This was a strange atmosphere being in a place where the political situation seemed to be irrelevant, especially for a group of people with whom we shared the Refugio, who all seemed to be the sons and daughters of very rich parents. On the way to Puente del Inca, as well as in the town itself, there were huge military camps where whole families of military personnel lived. One part of the town is tourist place and the other half consists of a military camp.
What I experienced in Puente del Inca, and that was absolutely beautiful for me, was the starry sky, which is invisible in all these big cities which do not allow glimpse above because the constant artificial light blurs our perception. NI DIOS - NI AMO and the way to Rosario to the anarchistic meeting. We got the address of a squatted house in Rosario whose people welcomed us and offered us sleeping places. One of the squatters showed us the way to the _Biblioteca y archivo-historico social Alberto Ghiraldo_ (5), where the anarchistic meeting was to take place on July 20th. The squatted house, named _Las Bruch@s de Pichincha_ had, in the beginning, great difficulties surviving. The results of the repression are still visible inside of the house which was shot at by the police with special weapons, a mixture of sharp ammunition and rubber shots if I understood correctly. A round of this weapon can still be seen in the room where concerts are held. Over to the library which is taken care of by very lovable people. this place functions as point of intersection in Rosario and is again and again visited by all kinds of different anarchists. I received information material and newspapers in Castellano as a gift after donating a small sum of money. The atmosphere during the meeting was very pleasant. I don_t know how many different groups participated of if they were mainly individuals. There is a group from Buenos Aires whom I recall: _F.O.R.A. - Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina_ (6) - very nice people.
As my knowledge of castellano is not perfect yet and I, moreover, suffered from the flue which I was trying to cope with during those days, I do not remember the exact contents of the discussions; please take this as an excuse for the not very comprehensive report. During these days, news came about the events in Paraguay bordering on Argentina. Two people were killed by the police because of the repressive actions of the authorities against the demonstrators. The demonstrations were directed against the economic policy of the president whose answer was very clear: riot-police and military with the above mentioned result: 2 people dead.
REALIDAD NO EXISTE and Anarchism in Humahuaca Up into the north of Argentina to the border of Bolivia.
Through San Salvador de Jujuy and during the bus-ride, I again was fascinated by the way people treat each other. During the whole trop I could watch two Indigena parents with their children who were about three and five years old. They sat on the laps of their parents and became restless after a while - which is nothing special I think. But never before have I seen parents who were so patient with their children as this mother and father. It was wonderful to be able to experience this. No attempt of aggression, no _sht_! or other sounds of intimidation. Again I was overwhelmed by this interpersonal approach. After all, these parents had hardly slept during that night on the bus, but they did not put heir own load on the children.
The area in the north of Argentmna has its own beauty, it becomes more and more similar to Bolivia. And many people praise its exceptional beauty. The north of Argentina is hilly and, thus, meets another South American clichi. In Humhuaca, the about sixty years old anarchist _Raoul Prchal_ *(7) lives in a commune together with 6 to 8 others. They live very _primitively_ without electricity, but with running water. When we were there, the whole day, they worked on the house and the room which was being built for trampers.
Travellers are welcome and may stay free of charge, they are only expected to leave not perishable food for the commune in exchange. The people are very kind. Life in this commune reminded me of the life some farmers still live in remote areas in Styria/Austria. On winter evenings, the whole family meet in the kitchen, the only warm place in the whole house, and everything happens there; in very cold nights, they even sleep in the kitchen. (How this is done in Raouls_s commune I don_t know). We made music with the people of the commune, were allowed to try on devil_s costumes from the carnival of the area around Humahuaca, or rather we had choice: now they have been worn by _Gringos_. The nights there are very cold for Argentine conditions. This is no help if someone is ill, especially if it is a baby of about a year. We share a tiny room with a family.
Their child was ill, coughed the whole night and could hardly breathe because nose was full with mucus. All of the time, I wished the child were in a warm place where he simply could get well, and I felt helpless. In the morning, I asked his mother if I could get something for her and the boy from town, but she declined.
Right on the next day, I decided to go back to San Salvador de Jujuy, the next larger town south from there. Again, I met people whose addresses I had got through other, and again, I experienced an overwhelming hospitality. This time, I had rather great difficulties explaining to my hosts what veganism is and what my views of god are. My denial of a belief in god was hard to swallow by the mother of the family. And YEAH! I saw BOOM BOOM KID *(8) the band from Buenos Aires, formerly FUN PEOPLE. And what an experience that was.
Remark: America del Sur is D.I.Y!!! I saw this on many levels; also on the hardcore-level; The concert tool place in the garage of a one-family house. Except for the percussion, everything was brought there by bbk, including the PA-installation. About 200 people took part (the garage was rather big). And rarely before, I have seen such an exuberant crowd! During the first two bands, both came from Jujuy, the people were spread over the whole room; this changed, however, after half of the first piece by bbk. Then it became a pandemonium, flying arms, legs and heads. And a motivated group of musicians. Boom Boom Kid toured Europe in September. And as it was the capitalist reason which was acting, capitalistic machines were the results ...
the building style of architecture in America del Sur: For people coming from America, this information may not sound anything special; for me, however, who has so far mainly travelled in Europe, this colonial style is rather strange and incredibly uncreative. When the European immigrants spread over America, the rulers not only destroyed the indigenous culture but they also dictated the other immigrating people how they had to build and robbed them of their creativity. Colonial style means a kind of construction in which one streets runs through a whole city from one end to the other and always has the same name. The buildings are concentrated in blocks; all the cities I had seen until then looked the same as far as their structure is concerned; naturally a little modified according to their natural conditions such as rivers, hills, etc. (Although even these topics are, as everybody knows, no deterrence to many people). Everything is divided into blocks, everything planned to the last detail, the streets never change their name, unless the street changes its course due to its environment. It is also striking that in all the cities, I again and again found the same names. Here too, orders seemed to exist which regulated this, once more, a sign of dullness and lack of creativity.
EL NEOLIBERALISMO ESTA EN TODAS PARTES: LA RESISTENCIA TAMBIEN:
back to Buenos Aires After 22 hours bus-ride, my next contact with people of F.O.R.A., this time directly in their _headquarters_ in Buenos Aires, a beautiful, black and red painted door suggests the contents behind it. Unfortunately, no-one of the people I had met in Rosario, was there; I, nevertheless, could sleep there, received a short introduction into the history of F.O.R.A. and was able to visit their library and, last but not least, I had dinner together with very lovable people. On the next day, I went to the Squats Tierra del Sur where, once more, I was welcomed by the squatters there. friends of the Tierra del Sur - squats had squatted a house four weeks prior to that. I was lucky to be able take part in their opening festivities; children, were again an important and central part of the celebration; clowns, satirical cabaret artistes and jugglers performed and presented their _work_ which, indeed, was very beautiful. Generally speaking, there were manifold ways of expression at such celebrations and festivities, there were fire-dancers as well as musicians, and everybody was part of the festivity and no-one was ONLY a spectator, nobody was only an onlooker at the spectacle. During my second stay in Buenos Aires, I again went to this squat and learned once more how small the world is.
Together with the Companiera, we visited the F.L.A.*(10), the Federacion Libertaria Argentina who have built a quite remarkable anarchistic archive (and who can tell horrible stories in connection with the military dictatorship: _normally_, people simply disappeared because of such a philosophy, fetched by four men in a Ford - they here had survived this time out of sheer luck) as well as a library in which you can work , as well as a room where books and magazines are sold.
The way of protest by the Piqueter@s: Once, I was at such a street blockade; at first, tires are laid down across the street and are then set on fire. Then all kinds of things are put on the street in order to erect a stable blockade which is then protected by people. According to the respective situation, there are, or course, differences in proceeding. It is interesting and inspiring to see the militant way of the people marching towards such blockades; they are masked and armed with iron rods.
During the last months, there was even a movie made in Argentina: Piqueteras In this film, various Piqueteras_ activities are shown and Piqueteras(!) are interviewed. The militant behaviour of the blockaders can, here too, be seen, as well as the procedure of the police and the special units against the blockaders; these reports come from rather rural areas: Cutral co (province Neuquen), Mosconi (province Salta) and Plaza Huincult (province Neuquen). Piquete@s fighting the riot police who with tear-gas, water cannons, rubber bullets as well as partially sharp ammunition proceed which is answered by slingshots and stones. The determined proceeding of the protesters is again immensely inspiring for the fights in other parts of the world.
The kisses of Pueyrredsn or the welcoming ceremony of the people in Argentina: When a person enters a room in which, let_s say six people sit and chat, work or do anything else, it is a custom that these people stepping in welcome each of the persons already there with a kiss on the cheek and one arm on the shoulder, perhaps even with a close embrace. The same ritual is repeated when leaving , and all this happens independently of the sex of the people. Men kiss men, women kiss women, as well as people with different sex, everything without a context of a sexual approach, but simply out of the feeling of closeness of the people among each other. What sounds so technical when being described, gives me pleasant feelings when thinking of it: so much warmth between the people which even lies in a welcoming ritual. what speaks against welcoming people openhearted and not in the cool, rejecting, disparaging way I_m used to from the Austrian/German attitude? Imagine: just a hand shake and that carried out in a physical distance of about two metres, how can you tear down barriers?! Perhaps is this ritual there again one of the positive preconditions for the rich degree of solidarity which can be felt in so many places right now.
Another connection bringing the people together, the Mate ritual: Mate is a kind of tea, the taste of which is similar to green tea, but it is much stronger, has more caffeine and a pepping effect through the special way of drinking it. The Mate is poured into a jar, often made from wood, often from metal, especially for mate. The tea is drunk at all hours of the day and the night through a wooden or metal rod with a whole. And what is so beautiful when drinking this kind of tea is the uniting act of drinking; everybody drinks with the same rod out of the same jar which is passed around. (No thought is wasted at washing the drinking rod in between and to disinfect it in order to make it usable for the next person - the way I grew up in the cleanliness mania of the capitalistic system.
By the way, this is also the usual procedure as far as eating and drinking are concerned. Everything is shared with everybody everywhere. I experienced this also in Istanbul with the anarchists there. And what we should work for generally in all parts of the world is to lay aside the idea of possession which is especially horrible where food and drinking are concerned; to lay claim of possession on something like food. No matter how many people are in a room, everybody is asked if she/he wants to join the others eating and drinking. In such a way, people can hardly be excluded from activities, a way of living together which can be found in so many areas. And it is something very beautiful to make this act of eating not only to a question of surviving but also to a social act and to celebrate it with friends and to strengthen the social ties so that they become stronger than the capitalistic connections. As a concluding sentence I would like to say that my euphoria which can be felt in some parts of my report should not be seen as a condemnation of other ways of living in other areas of the world but rather as a source of enrichment, an impetus for opening up our lives and for an intercultural exchange.
Report by ReCistencia appendix: (1) La Idea-Difusisn Libertaria C/ Sta. Barbara, 7 28004 Madrid firstname.lastname@example.org (2) _Tierra del Sur_ Centro Social Olavarria 1293 Buenos Aires email@example.com (3) Asamblea + Casa okupa-Parque Lezama Sur Suarez 1244 Barracas Buenos Aires (4)