There is absolutely no greater high than challenging the power structure as a nobody, giving it your all, and winning! ― Abbie Hoffman
Remove the terrorist factor and German militant Ulrike Meinhof could have been talking about an Argentinian train driver upon saying: “Protest is when I say I don’t like this. Resistance is when I put an end to what I don’t like. Protest is when I say I refuse to go along with this anymore. Resistance is when I make sure everybody else stops going along too.”
Argentinians love to protest so much so that some individuals have become masters of resistance. After all, they’ve enjoyed 30 years being allowed to practice the art under a democratic society.
Celebrating 30 years of uninterrupted freedom from military rule on December 10 was expected to attract a wave of protests because locals say things are good but could and should be better. Even the Kirchner government is loath to bring a halt to activists right to object.
Certainly the demonstrations in the week leading up to the 30-year celebrations didn’t surprise native Buenos Aires’ Free Walking Tour guide Maggie. Recounting a story describing why locals [portenos] like to participate in a good outcry, she says waiving her hands: “We are very passionate people and passionate people love to bring attention to injustices but sometimes the injustice facing one person needn’t impact the rest of us!”
Maggie was talking about ONE subway worker who held up trains one morning. He decided he shouldn’t have to work that day, so refused to operate the train, bringing the system on that line to a standstill.
Protests in Argentina’s capital have a long history. Under military rule between 1976 and 1983, women who were not allowed to congregate in groups of three would stand apart in front of the President’s “pink” house. They were trying to connect children of the slain with relatives and would wear white handkerchiefs over their heads. Known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, they’re believed to be among the first to stand up against human rights violations …. the handkerchief a symbol of their silent weekly protests.
The symbol is still a reminder today for Argentinians not to forget the families that disappeared during the “dirty war” where anyone who expressed their opposition to the military government vanished without a trace. It’s believed more than 18,000 “political dissidents” went missing.
In the plaza the symbol pops up ahead of protests being held and graffiti splattered over government monuments alerts city residents there’s yet another revolt around the corner.
Police in riot gear form lines and for the locals if it happens at the right time of the day or week it won’t impact on them getting on with their lives. It’s just another day in BA’s free political paradise.
Judy Wilkinson is a freelance journalist and blogger who arrived in Buenos Aires just days before the capital and country celebrated 30 years of the return to democracy.