Meredith: Passion, right from the beginning

May 22, 2010

I’m so glad I came to Argentina when I did—the atmosphere is so lively and passionate. But then again, from what I’ve learned from my first couple of days here, it could always be like that. Maybe now it’s just heightened.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the bicentennial celebration of the fight for independence from Spain, the main colonial power in Latin America. There are flags all over, up and down every street, shoved in every corner. The signs, like the one in the picture below, strewn across buildings throughout the city, communicate messages of pride, nationalism—the good kind, if there is such a thing.

On my first day here (Thursday, 5/20), we went to near La plaza de mayo, the main square across from la casa rosada (The pink house, the Argentine equivalent to la casa blanca, the white house). La plaza de mayo is so important to Argentina, home to thousands of political protests and a turbulent history.

On the streets leading up to the plaza were thousands of “indigenous” people from the northern region of Jujuy, who had walked more than eight days to come to Buenos Aires. They met with the president, Cristina Kirchner to discuss their rights and make sure that se cumplen las promesas del estado. These “indigenous” people represent thousands of diverse communities that have come together to demand more social responsibility of the government, especially that the government acknowledges their land rights. These groups were met with other social and student organizations, especially the Tupac Amaru movement, lead by Milagro Sala.

As you can see from the website, the community organization “Tupac Amaru” wants work, education, and health for all. (Hilariously enough, or maybe not, I confused their name originally with this radical leftist movement from Uruguay in the sixties Their central points are below. There are more, but these are the main ones listed in this article on la nación, one of the main newspapers in Buenos Aires.

• The creation of a plural cultural and national state that recognizes the diverse cultures of these groups
• Land reparation
• Monetary assistance, or economic help
• Protection for the glaciers
• Environmental protection (i.e. banning open mines that will pollute the atmosphere)
• Control against pesticides
• Recognition of the aboriginal culture and languages in the schools
• The recognition of their sacred holidays

Among the groups based in Buenos Aires that marched with the la gente de la norte were “Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, las Madres de Plaza de Mayo Línea Fundadora; Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo; H.I.J.O.S Capital y Mar del Plata Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos por Razones Políticas; Hugo Yasky, CTA, Pablo Michelli, Pedro Wasesko, Juan Gelman y Eduardo Galeano, entre otros.” Even regular people, like my host-mom, Ana, joined in the march, clapping, contributing to the solidarity that the groups hope to achieve and inspire. It is estimated that more than fifteen thousand people came out.

Truly, with all things in Argentina, people get “fired up.” There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. People are either really passionate, or not so passionate. They are either rightist or leftist. Against the Kirchners or for the Kirchners. For remembering human rights or for forgetting. I think this is the most interesting juxtaposition of all that I’ve seen so far. Right and left you can see people getting involved in politically oriented activism. Yet at the same time, there are people so indifferent to what is going on, hoping to just pass through the crowd without stopping to notice the inequality in their own country. I can’t really say that America is better though, because it seems most people are willing to do that back home—look away at what is staring them in the face.

Sources and further reading:


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