The real Buenos Aires
A few Saturdays ago, another important day (though not a national holiday), we had had a field trip for the Argentine History class with a group of Argentine history PhD students. Because we always speak in Spanish and try to befriend Argentines, like good study abroad students, the encounter was nothing new.
We went to Casa Rosada, the Pink House, or the Argentine equivalent of the White House. We also visited Museo Bicentenario and had pizza at a famous place, Las Cuartetas.
At the lunch, Lucia Gimenez, a 22 year-old high school history teacher came and chatted to the people at the other end of the incredibly long table our group was occupying. (We had already been speaking in Spanish to one another, so talking to her was easy.) She was bubbly and chatty and easy to befriend. After really becoming friends (becoming Facebook friends), we chatted online some, exchanged phone numbers, and decided to meet again. The location was Plaza de Mayo on Thursday afternoon. When my friends, Kelly, Colbi, Jessica, and Andrew, and I arrived, our jaws opened wide. Right outside the subte (subway) stop, there was a line of police officers barricading a road with a demonstration happening on the other side. There was green smoke from the group of marching protestors, the CGT (The General Confederation of Labor) as well as fireworks and the firing of blanks to make loud noises and cause commotion. Before Lucia mentioned to us that the demonstration was completely safe and that nobody would get killed (yes, I did ask), it was difficult to stay calm. This protest last week was combined with the weekly circling of the Plaza de Mayo by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, who are protesting for the recognition of and more action by the government for their disappeared loved ones from the dictatorship or the “Dirty War” from 1976-83. In the midst of all the commotion and chaos, Lucia sneaks in at once truth and irony in her comment to us: “Bienvenidos al Buenos Aires verdadero Welcome to the real Buenos Aires”
This “real” Buenos Aires seems to be getting ever so real, with the current escalated protests by the CGT. In fact, our program received a detailed email from the U.S. Embassy warning to be cautious yesterday of the demonstration by the CGT and other possible labor groups. Demonstrations seem to be highly common in Argentina, and though they are usually non-violent (says the U.S. Embassy), they are all the while scary to the common foreigner. While I was in no need to go visit the warned protest yesterday, I am glad I got to see the lower-key one last week. Caution and safety are key to anything, but so are experiences. I’m glad I got to see in person and experience a part of the real Buenos Aires.