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Sunday, March 26, 2006


Wish I could spend today Domingiando (Sundaying). Wish I could get up late, buy La Nación and read the horoscopes from the magazine over a big fat café con leche with freshly baked medialunas. Then maybe wander out to San Telmo to join the hordes at Plaza Dorrego and buy myself a useless piece of antique crapology from one of the stalls. Or maybe just stroll up to Congresso for a bit of sunshine, passing by Clara's to drag her out and make her watch the superclassico (the Boca-River match). Or go for the long-haul option, jet across the city and do the chichi thing, brunching at Olsen´s and pottering around Palermo. Instead, I´m in the Time Out office again, and all I can hear of the match is the occasional cheer or the manic clamour every time someone scores. But the great thing about Buenos Aires is that it doesn't matter what time I leave here. There'll still be something going on. Even if I wander out through Congresso, down San Jose to see if the greatest secret bread shop is open, turning onto Belgrano past the long police station where the flirty guards keep watch for passing chicas, meander down Cevallos and finally through the big iron gate of home. Even if, when I get home, I lie down on my big red bedspread for a little while to take the evening siesta, listening to the family downstairs bang pots around the kitchen. Even if I get up and shower (hot, cold, hot, cold gas powered shower), and play a little Be Good Tanyas on my guitar, even then, there'll still be something going on. There'll still be time to head out to the Gibraltar, the Sunday night regular destination, and, while I might miss the sushi, I'll still catch all the regulars shooting pool in the back room and holding fast to the weekend.

Friday, March 24, 2006

never again

It took me half an hour to walk up Avenida de Mayo today. On my way, I passed tens of thousands of people swarming towards the plaza to commemorate thirty years since the military coup that ousted the governent and ushered in a violent dictatorship. Over the seven years that followed March 24, 1976, 30,000 people were ´disappeared´by the military regime - around the same number of people that are on the streets tonight, shouting, dancing, banging drums and hurling slogans into the air. Thirty years ago, they would have been afraid to raise their voices. But three decades on, the fear is gone and has been replaced by anger, and a sense of triumph at having come through such a dark period unbeaten. There's even a kind of carnival atmosphere in the crowd today, with some people dressed up in colourful costumes and dancing samba-like through the street. And today´s protest is a typical Argentinian protest. It smells of barbecued meat (makeshift barbecues are dotted around the square to feed the hungry demonstrators) and sugar coated almonds. And the slogans keep repeating. No to the ALCA (the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas), no to the repayment of Argentina´s external debt, no to Argentinian troops in Haiti. Every ten minutes, someone yells through the loudspeaker: "The thirty thousand disappeared." And the crowd yells back: "Present, present, present for ever." Then it changes to a chant in support of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group of remarkable women who defied the junta, demanding to know what happened to their lost children. "The Mothers of the Plaza, the people embrace you." At one stage, as I moved out of the square, I got caught in a crowd of dozens of young people jumping as they sang: "You have to jump. You have to jump. Whoever isn´t jumping is a member of the military." I passed hundreds of people carrying pictures of the disappeared on huge placards over their heads. I passed human rights groups. I passed unions. I passed neighbourhood groups. I passed militants. And as I walked, every now and then running into a familiar face in this crowd of thousands of thousands, I felt a buzz that was strangely joyous, despite what the date signified. It felt like things can change.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Mind the gap

Alex told me yesterday that the best thing about living in Argentina is that it keeps you sharp. According to Alex, living in England is too easy, it makes you soft, because you're looked after at every step. Alex lived there for seven years, before coming back to Argentina with a big wad of cash and a thick Irish accent picked up from his boss in the bar trade. His theory is that there are serious disadvantages to living in a society where you don't have to keep your wits about you all the time. If the state minds you, you forget how to mind yourself. And if there's one thing that sums it all up for Alex, it's the phrase "Mind the gap". Here, in a country littered with gaps and slip ups and loopholes and things you really should be minding, you have to keep a watch out yourself or you land on your own arse. Argentina won't tell you where the gap is, or whether you should mind it or not. And that, for Alex, is the best thing about being here. "Keeps you sharp," he told me. "Keeps you thinking."