Saturday, December 31, 2016

Buenos Aires day 2 – no nos han vencido (we have not been defeated)

Our second day was a very moving one. We explored a bit of the centre of the city, the area around Plaza de Mayo. Once more, we were taken aback by the impressive architecture, the massive constructions, the views from the parks... And also by the practical lack of colonial architecture, as opposed to the overwhelming abundance of early 19th and early 20th century architecture. I think I had mentioned this before, but you could really feel you're walking around Madrid or Paris in places!

At Plaza de Mayo there's the famous Casa Rosada, the Pink House, office of the presidency. It's one of the more iconic buildings in Buenos Aires, painted in baby pink. This square also holds one of the very few colonial buildings we saw, the Cabildo – it looked rather basic, reflecting that the great wealth of the nation was yet to come. As well, the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires, Argentina's most important Catholic temple, sits there. We had a peek, and it just so happened that mass was going on. It is a nice building, and it was remarkable how unlike Mexican or Peruvian ones it was, completely devoid of any indigenous influence whatsoever! But my favourite part of the cathedral was one of its chapels, with twisting purple marble columns. Once again, the wealth and style of these places blew my mind.

Now, from the looks of it, it was obvious Plaza de Mayo was going to have some sort of political gathering. That square is where the mothers and grandmothers of people forcibly disappeared during the last Argentinean dictatorship would come to protest. Since standing gatherings of three or more people had been made illegal, the mothers protested by walking around the square in twos, therefore not breaking the law but still being able to stage a protest. Sadly, this was still a move against the dictatorship, and many women were also forcibly disappeared. This square really does mean something. 

I really wanted to see what was going to take place at the square, but it really did look like it was just beginning. So we went for another walk nearby to look at more architecture, including the Galerías Pacífico, a very old shopping arcade famous for its murals on its central cupola. When we arrived, there was even a gigantic Christmas tree! 

But once we were done with this pretty, holiday-appropriate visit, we really had to get back to the square. There was something about different sprayed messages we had seen around the area that were presenting me a moment of social tension, of anger at the treatment of women, of political demands... 

"Presión Social!" (Social Pressure!) with the image of a person being shot in the head.

"Te molesta más una pintada que una piba asesinada?" (a sprayed message bothers you more than the murder of a woman?)

"Pija violadora a la licuadora" (raping dick - into the blender)

When we made it to the square, my jaw dropped. This was no ordinary demonstration, this was the weekly demonstration by the mothers and grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo! Not only that, but my habibi had wanted to see this on his previous visit over 15 years ago, but he missed it. And here we were, in 2016, witnesses of this show of steadfastness, of refusal to let things slip into oblivion, of solidarity...

I even get emotional as I write this and remember the people, the marching, and their songs about forced disappearances, about the people not being defeated yet, about friends and family giving voice to those taken away by the state... Sure, Mexico has seen its fair share of state violence and forced disappearances as well, but Argentina's last dictatorship was so cynical about it, so brutal, and I could easily think of friends and family that would most probably have been killed by the state had we lived in Argentina instead of Mexico. Chilling, moving, eye-opening.

At the square there was this woman from Nigeria also voicing her anger and thirst for action at the situation of women and children taken by Boko Haram in her country. Her passionate speech and attitude fit perfectly in this square.  

After such an intense day, we really needed a beer to relax at night. We hit the perfect spot: On Tap, a brewery some 15 minutes from our apartment. Not only did they have numerous brews of all types on tap, they had amazing burgers! The meat was so thick and juicy and flavourful! And the crowd as, frankly, a bunch or really good-looking young Argentineans. So we had good beer, good burgers, good fries, and good eye candy. A needed mental break from the intensity earlier on.

And this was just our second day in Buenos Aires. See why I need to write about each and every single day?

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