17 November 2009

2009.11.17_trial separation

Some of you have finally noticed that my blog and I decided to take some time apart. Fear not, the underlying motives are merely circumstantial and have nothing to do with fundamental incompatibility.

Shortly after my last blog post, I found myself defending the Subte (subway) workers' strike/struggle for an independent union to some locals. It was everything I could do to keep my brain from exploding as I dug around looking for the right verb forms to use. For anyone that's tried to convince someone of something political, you can imagine that the process of discerning which verb form is appropriate (imperativo, presente subjuntivo, preterito, imperfecto indicativo, pluscuamperfecto subjuntivo (seriously!)...), remembering the ending of the infinitive form (-ar, -er, -ir), pulling up the extensive list of irregulars, and finally combining these three results to add one of fifty possible endings -- every g.d. sentence -- can be a hindrance. In this moment I realized that I really needed to nail this Castellano Spanish business if I wanted to do more with my voice than order empanadas and talk about the weather, and resolved to abandon all English-based interaction and focus my powers here.

This is where I have been, and will be for a couple more weeks. But I promise to return, ready to recount stories of all the masses that have been swayed.

Also, I'm not coming home in December.

Saludos y solidarity!

16 October 2009

2009.10.16_subterranean fires

I went to an interactive play the other night at IMPA, one of the worker-run factories in Buenos Aires. It was totally the coolest play I've ever been to. There were no balcony seats, or even chairs -- the audience stood around in a large bare room with a leaking ceiling while puddles formed on the concrete floor. It started out dialogue-heavy, so I had little idea what was going on at first, but it quickly became movement-oriented with dialogue projected on a screen, and that I could handle. I could follow enough to know that when a guy hollered "ayuda!" at me, that meant I had to pick up plastic bottles with the performers, and that when a girl commanded "baila!" -- that meant shake it.

No, IMPA is not the stereotypical factory -- upon its takeover in 1998, the workers spawned a cultural city that thrives today. The space provides for not just the production of metallurgic materials and jobs, but the production of ideas through free expression, art, theater, concerts, workshops, and community events.

Just last month, IMPA won a battle that, had they lost, would have meant immediate eviction. This sort of victory is no stranger to worker-occupied factories in Argentina. The Zanon ceramic tile factory (the largest worker-run business in Argentina) recently concluded their nine-year struggle by gaining full legal control of the factory; the Brukman suit factory continues to operate as a cooperative after sustaining insanely brutal police repression; Hotel Bauen lives on after workers tore down official tape intended to block the entrances. Etc.

Throughout Argentina since 2001, companies have exploited economic crises by creating their own bailout. They declare bankruptcy, fire employees, and move their business offshore to a more lucrative location. In 2001, amongst mass protests, and the toppling of five governments, Argentine workers discovered an alternate path of resistance. Today, there are over 250 factories (employing an estimated 16,000 workers) in Argentina that have been rescued by workers, with the help of national organizations, alternative lenders, and huge networks of solidarity.

Many of these saviors have faced and still face tremendous obstacles. In the beginning, they go months without paychecks, scraping up funds to pay off old debts and replace capital that has been sold off by the owners; they must learn management skills and regain clients. Once they get all that wrapped up, THEN they have to fight owners that want their factories back now that they're lucrative again. The quest for legal expropriation is a long and uncertain process, but it is in fighting through these obstacles that people debate and learn; it is through struggle that people become unified and empowered. Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos!

And besides, in these factories, the workers get to give themselves higher salaries and better working conditions. They've done away with the Modern Times image of factory work; they've proved that workers can listen to music and drink mate, and still produce. There are no bosses. Resources recovered from cutting off management costs and executive salaries are used to implement social services, educational centers and health-care clinics. Unlike cooperatives in the U.S., recuperated factories run within a horizontal political and economic frame. All workers have an equal say in factory decisions, and in most cases, receive the same salary. Representatives are voted on, paid the same wage as a janitor, and are instantly recallable. And wouldn't you know it: this democratic control -- this absence of bosses -- actually leads to greater productivity.

Sound a bit communist? It is!! GASP. It's more communist than Stalin or Mao or Castro ever were. These factories succeed on a critical point where "communist" countries have failed -- they are controlled by the workers. THIS is democracy. This isn't a dictatorship looming over a planned economy, and (without mentioning any names) this isn't the shadow of democracy where we have the privilege of casting a vote every two to four years, for one of two candidates that will both ultimately answer to the corporate cash anyway. This is true democracy, and yes, albeit small-scale and internal, Marxism. Yet to these workers, it's not about some abstract ideology. Though many have developed ideological political views in the process of struggle, to most it's simply an obvious choice, a choice of vitality made out of necessity; a choice between a job with better working conditions, better pay, empowerment... or no job and impending poverty.

As for IMPA, they're not done. They've won their first victory, but they've yet to win legal expropriation. Ademas, the workers at IMPA have not failed to recognize that their struggle is emblematic of a larger movement, and they vow to remain committed to the ongoing struggles of other factories.

For an incredible documentary about the takeovers, and the initial inspiration for my current presence in Argentina, see The Take. For a depressing yet oddly hopeful documentary about how foreign interests have undermined Argentina's economy, see Argentina Latente. And standby for chapter two: Recuperated Factories Infect the World. It's time to stop asking, and start taking.
“If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement, then hang us. Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, and there, and behind you, and in front of you, the flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out. The ground is on fire upon which you stand.” -- August Spies, executed during the fight for the eight-hour day.

10 October 2009

2009.10.10_la nueva ley de medios

Argentina's congress is currently voting on an exciting media reform bill that will split the available media licenses into thirds -- 1/3 will remain in the hands of private business, 1/3 will go to government and public use, and 1/3 will be issued to NGOs and community groups. In addition, restrictions will be placed on media ownership, such as preventing the ownership of broadcast and cable networks in one city. This move would cause huge media conglomerates, like Clarin, to sell off some of its babies.

Let's interject a background check on Clarin here. Clarin owns three TV stations, two radio stations, and eleven print publications. It controls about 50% of cable TV, and according to Clarin's website, ONE of its TV stations accounts for FORTY-FOUR percent of TV advertising. It's also got some shares in telecommunication companies and Internet providers. Being the largest media conglomerate in Argentina, Clarin is naturally a vocal opponent to the current "leftist" administration.

Back to the matter at hand. The new law has not gone without opposition. Who's the primary driving force behind the opposition? Duh! It's Clarin. Clarin has narcissistically asserted that the law's primary intent is to silence its criticisms of the government. Sadly, this narrow-minded idea has caught on. A recent CNN article on the new law chose to focus on Cristina's personal vendetta against Clarin, outright ignoring the fundamental points of media diversity, regulation, and antitrust.

Others are concerned that the reform gives too much power to the government. It's the age-old question -- do we want an oligarchic government to control everything? No. Would we rather have big business control everything? Fuck no. At least with the government, we have a shot at democratic control. With private corporations, our voices will never be heard above the resounding "cha-ching" of profit.

The current battle marks the first attempt at media reform since Videla, yes the murderous dictator, instituted law that guaranteed huge profits for private media companies, banned community associations from obtaining media licenses, and criminalized any reporting on the systematic extermination of leftists, unionists, and students taking place across the country. This was almost thirty years ago. For thirty years, the media has been consolidating because of this dictator, and today in Argentina, a mere five groups own nearly all the media outlets in the country. The enduring media law still gives big corporations the advantage over small independent organizations, and the conglomerates don't have to deal with pesky competition.

This new law paves the path to breaking the monopolization of media by private companies, to giving equal access to non-profits and government organizations, and to giving the media more voices. Government centrists claim that with the new bill, there "will be full freedom of speech." Yeah, I don't know about that. But when considering whether the new law is worth fighting for, one must consider that it has been inflammatorily referred to as "indirect expropriation" by the right-wing forces against it. Well then, I'll take TWO! I like to think of it as the public option -- it's not single-payer, but it's definitely a step toward it.


Today thousands of signs (I'm not even going to try to count heads) appeared in front of Congress and rallied for hours, and as far as I know people are still rallying. I can't believe that a month ago I got excited reading about this thousands of miles away in San Francisco, and now I'm here, standing side by side, yelling and chanting and clapping with the people that are making this happen.

The Evita/Peronista signs were ubiquitous, so I took this sign out of context in defiance:

And http://www.infobae.com/contenidos/476996-101275-0-D%27El%C3%ADa-y-militantes-oficialistas-llegan-al-Congreso-para-seguir-el-debate-de-la-Ley-de-Medios

It's two in the morning now; they've been debating for almost 20 hours. I watched the debate live on the news for a while, and I saw a guy waving a paper and doing the Italian emphasis gestures repeatedly. I'm pretty sure this is a good sign.


02:27 (ART): El senado aprobo en general la ley de medios. 44-24. EAT it, Clarin!

07 October 2009

2009.10.07_back to the p-word (political, not punctual)

For my first three weeks here, I was a punctual citizen -- I think mostly because being on time was a lot less work than dealing with potential additional planning and talking. Now that I've found my comfort zone, tardiness seems to have worked its way back into my attributes. So I arrived at the starting point of the march thirty minutes late. There was definitely a march there, but with the high frequency of demonstrations in Buenos Aires, I started to wonder if it was my march, or if that one had left and another had already started. It was pretty big, and there was no way I was going to track down my friend to validate my whereabouts, but it was pretty big, so I went with it. With signs like "For a just distribution of the riches," "For the fundamental rights of work," and "For health and job security"; and with slogans that declared support for the people of Honduras, it couldn't suck. And it didn't.

The march was instigated by the CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina) and the CTA (Central de los Trabajadores Argentinos). The CGT is a massive national trade union with a broad base, and the CTA, also a multi-tendency organization, was actually formed from a split in the CGT in the early 90s by workers that refused to yield to Menen's free-market agenda. While the organizations have a history of differences, today they showed their readiness and willingness to come together with tenacity to pressure the rats in power when justice calls. As expected, the energy was high, and while the drums and horns were loud, the signs and speeches hit all the right notes. The confetti, a cloud of hundreds of political fliers, said this was my kind of party. But my favorite part was that I got to do what I do -- photograph people. I haven't had this many people want their picture taken since the days when I shot drunk vacuous college girls at sorority parties for not nearly enough money. Uck. Anyway, these people are the reason I take pictures, and they don't even want their picture -- they just want their picture taken.

Oh yeah, I eventually found my friend, through the lens of my camera, and he informed me that I was at the right march, so that worked out.

04 October 2009

2009.10.04_an apolitical picture story

I dedicate this picture story to my Whore, who was dismayed by my vow to post more politics.

Sundays in Buenos Aires have an apocalyptic feel to them. Before I even leave my building, I can hear the the absence of cars honking. The porter is off duty, and as I exit the lobby and cross the vacant street, a newspaper blows by. Kirchner did something again. The street lights are still working, but the bank, the pharmacy, the markets -- from the verdulerias to the carnecerias -- are all shuttered, and I quietly forfeit my mission to buy tape that day. It's a trade-off, but one I'm totally cool with. Without all the bustle, my senses are more acute, and I notice things that normally escape my attention, like elevated garbage bins.

I'm just walking now, checking out the silence and the breeze and the sun and the shadows. I don't have anywhere to go, and I don't have to watch where I'm going. I can walk up to gated store windows and stare as long as I want, and nobody stares back. Nobody is around to talk to, except for this huge cat, but he's busy watching over this bike. Even my local park is empty, with the exception of The Slide.

Political photo break:

A few blocks later, I'm abruptly surrounded by people and commotion. Plaza Serrano is having its weekend fair, where the bars and restaurants morph into bar and restaurant shops, and the guests dine among racks of clothes. It's like consumerist Robots in Disguise. I quickly tire of the sound of money exchange, and head out in another direction. A guy asks me for directions, and I finally give them to him after making him repeat himself twice. He's going my way, so we walk and talk for a while. He, like everyone who's never been to the U.S., thinks I'm crazy for leaving. We do the cheek kiss as we depart, because we've known each other for three whole minutes.

I've started playing this game with myself, where every time I go out, I retroactively label an event as the primary purpose for the outing. I know it sounds stupid, but it's not like I actually believe that some things are meant to be or that things happen for a reason or some crap. I just like having the freedom to relinquish any preconceived notions about my trip, and waiting until it's complete to decide on a purpose. At this moment, I see what I came out for -- a dog-owner standoff*. A man waits for his dog to poop on the sidewalk; he has nothing in his hands but the leash. Halfway down the block, a woman waits for her dog to poop on the sidewalk; she is holding the leash and some plastic bags. Her gaze is locked on him, as she slowly bends down to pick up the poop. His dog is done too, but he doesn't leave. He stands, and stares back. She straightens, with the poop, and stares more. He points to the plastic bags in her hand and then to his dog's poop. Oh shit. She's staring really hard now. How this ends, I have no idea, because I couldn't walk any slower without becoming part of the standoff, and I did not want to get hit with a bag of shit. (I have no photographic evidence for the same reasons.)

*I'm pretty sure that's what this was.

30 September 2009

2009.09.30_the workers in effect

What did I say.

Today I gathered with thousands of pissed off citizens in Republic Square, primed to march to the Labor Ministry, demanding free and democratic unions, and the reinstatement of fired Kraft workers.

It was huge. Just when I thought everyone was here and we were ready to go, I looked over the hedge, and saw this gang coming down the street:

And look! It's actually the media, right where they should be:

(Now please don't put me on the news; my boss would flip.)

Then, at the starting line of the best protest I'd ever been to, it happened -- my camera battery died. Now I'm left trying to describe, in less than a thousand words, what my camera does in the flash of a shutter. Ahhh! The pressure! Okay. (Here are some photos of the setup, if you prefer).

The energy was off the chain. The march was so loud I couldn't hear myself chant (which is fine, since I didn't really know the words). There were trombones and trumpets and fireworks. Every tenth person had a drum, and when they coalesced, my insides would shake. There was juggling... and peanuts! At one end of the march there were workers with their arms thrown over each other's shoulders, at the other, groups of grown men chanting and jumping in unison, and all throughout, lines of people linked arm-in-arm that spanned the width of the street. Old curmudgeons couldn't wipe the grins off their faces.

This is clearly something that they do here, and they are damn good at it.

The array of organizations and contingents was overwhelming. Even my very own subway line (I live here now, it's mine) was represented. Solidarity among subway lines was demonstrated with signs like Ni mejores ni peores; diferentes; La "D" and Uno es todo; Somos uno; La "A" while one contingent claimed to be La loca banda; La "E" and another simply declared that they were here: La "H" presente.

Without permits or other bureaucratic nonsense, we cut (took) the streets. With no regard for traffic, we completely shut down Avenida Corrientes, a six-lane vein in the heart of the city center, and we swarmed restaurant patios with impunity. The banks on the street were all gated off (with a cute little hole for customers to crawl through), and I'm pretty sure I saw envy on the faces of the suits standing behind the gates, watching.

The best part of the day? Practically pigless! No riot gear, no tear gas, no belligerent machismo for miles. I counted SIX cops on motorcycles that blocked traffic as we rounded a corner, but while a demonstrator spray-painted pro-worker slogans on the street, yards away, they chatted. I also caught a glimpse of a horde of riot police lurking behind the gates of the Labor Ministry waiting for a showdown, but unlike riot cops in the states, they only played defense.

Though the largest protest in the city today, it was not alone. Elsewhere, Kraft workers blocked a highway; nightclub owners blocked streets in protest of a government-imposed 5:30 AM closing call; pensioners, former inmates, and port workers protested other things at other places. Just another Wednesday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2009.09.29_fuera Kraft!

Today I stumbled upon a music festival at the Plaza de Mayo, home of mass demonstrations, and political hub for Buenos Aires. The event was dedicated to supporting the current struggle of Kraft workers in Buenos Aires, and to denouncing government labor policy (or lack of). Click for more snapshots:

After 40 days of employee occupation, Kraft managed to expel the workers and reopen their Buenos Aires plant Monday. A court order lead to the arrest of 60 workers, and the injury of 12, as Argentine police, ordered by the government to defend the interests of a North American company, executed operation Sell-Out.

The employee occupation was instigated by Kraft's massive layoffs and anti-union activity. 162 workers, mostly activists and union representatives, were fired in July for fighting for better health conditions and provoking other workers. If you ask Kraft, they deserved it, but if you ask anyone but Kraft, it was part of a larger design to rid the plant of union organization and worker protections; a plot to make more money off cookies and Handi-snacks.

"They wanted to quiet us so they could begin applying the 12-hour American work shift, employing agency laborers that rotate every six months, increasing production without increasing salary or work force, freezing salaries and all the measures that these types of companies apply," said Cristian Abarza, axed after eight years.

Illinois-based Kraft, the second-largest food manufacturer in the world, reported record revenues of $42 billion in 2008, and they just can't stand to lose their Buenos Aires plant, Argentina's second-largest food processing center. But Argentina, like always, is not going to take it laying down. Monday night, thousands of leftists, unionists, workers, and citizens marched from Congress to the presidential palace. They're mad at Kraft, and they're mad at Cristina Kirchner, who's in the doghouse both for steering clear of talks between Kraft and the Labor Ministry, and for buddying up to one of Kraft's representatives this last weekend, the Obama administration.

The Kraft pickle is just the current focal point of a profound conflict between the Kirchner administration and labor forces, so stay tuned for more mass protests and road blockades!

28 September 2009

2009.09.28_out from under the repression

My friend received this communique from a demonstrator in Honduras. Google and I did our best to translate accurately, but in case you don't believe us, the Spanish is below. It gets a little rushed and the grammar starts to struggle toward the end, but if you know anything about the situation in Honduras, you'll let it slide.

From Ingrid Storgen
Boy friends, girl friends [I translated this directly for cultural effect]:

I am in a building near the Brazilian Embassy with 30 comrades, mostly members of Artistas del Frente Nacional Contra el Golpe de Estado [basically, artists against the coup].

We have sought this place to rest, keeping aware that at any moment the army and police will enter the perimeter where about 5,000 of us met to give protection to President Manuel Zelaya.

They attacked us at 5:45 am with gunfire and tear gas. They killed an unspecified number of colleagues in the first barricade at the end of the bridge Guanacaste. They surrounded and attacked the barricade at the bridge of La Reforma.

In our estimates, the operation had about 1,000 police and military.

Cornered and beaten. 18 seriously injured in the hospital. They continue to pursue the brave students who organized the precarious barricades last night in the Barrio Morazán and Guadalupe Neighborhood.

The time now is 8:00 am. Outside the Brazilian Embassy they have placed a loudspeaker with the national anthem at full volume while they search the houses adjacent to the Embassy. They threw tear gas bombs into the embassy. The president remains inside, threatened by the coup plotters that argue through the media the "legal" reasons to proceed with the raids.

Thousands of people heading to Tegucigalpa have been detained around the city. The town is completely empty, ghostly. The curfew was extended to all day.

The repression against the unarmed demonstrators was brutal. On several occasions, Radio Globo and Channel 36 have been taken off the air.

Hundreds of prisoners.

We are isolated.

Here are the core of the organizers of the major cultural events in resistance: poets, songwriters, musicians, photographers, filmmakers, boy painters and girl painters [just trying to preserve the culture] ... humans.


We have a 17-hour curfew. And we will continue until 6 pm on Tuesday.

(We don't doubt that they will extend it ... the same happened in the department of El Paraíso two months ago)

The military and police have invaded the privacy of the neighbors of the Brazilian Embassy.

The police and the military ... have broken the windows of cars and motorcycles of persons in the resistance, they are burning their cars (they have left them there, like seals)

There is talk of three people dead, injured (the injured were taken to hospitals ... the military is raiding the hospitals)

Those caught are taken to the stadium Chochi Sosa. (the same that Pinochet did)

PLEASE: Help us spread the news.


De Ingrid Storgen
Amigas, amigos:

Me encuentro en un edificio cercano a la Embajada de Brasil junto a 30 compañeras y compañeros, la mayoría integrantes de Artistas del Frente Nacional Contra el Golpe de Estado.

Nos avocamos a este lugar para descansar, manteniendo la conciencia de que de un momento a otro el ejército y la policía entrarían al perímetro donde alrededor de 5,000 personas nos encontrábamos para darle protección al Presidente Manuel Zelaya.

Atacaron a las 5:45 am con fusilería y lacrimógenas. Mataron a un número indeterminado de compañeros de la primera barricada al final del Puente Guancaste. Rodearon y atacaron la barricada del puente de La Reforma.

Haciendo cálculos aproximados, el operativo contó con alrededor de 1,000 efectivos policiales y militares.

Arrinconaron y golpearon. 18 heridos graves en el Hospital Escuela. Siguen persiguiendo en el Barrio Morazán y en le Barrio Guadalupe a los bravos estudiantes que anoche organizaron las precarias barricadas.

En este momento son las 8:00 am. Frente a la Embajada de Brasil han colocado un altoparlante con el himno nacional a todo volumen mientras catean las casas aledañas a la Embajada. Lanzaron bombas lacrimógenas dentro de la Embajada. El Presidente continúa en su interior amenazado por los golpistas que ya argumentaron a través de los medios sus razones "legales" para proceder al allanamientos.

Miles de personas que se dirigían hacia Tegucigalpa han sido retenidas en los alrededores de la ciudad. La ciudad está completamente vacía, fantasmal. El toque de queda fue extendido para todo el día.

La represión contra los manifestantes indefensos fue brutal. En varias ocasiones Radio Globo y Canal 36 han sido sacados del aire.

Cientos de presos.

Estamos aislados.

Aquí estamos el núcleo principal de los organizadores de los grandes eventos culturales en resistencia: poetas, cantautores, músicos, fotógrafos, cineastas, pintores y pintoras... humanos.


Llevamos 17 horas de toque de queda. Y seguimos hasta las 6 de la tarde de hoy martes.

(no dudamos que lo extiendan... igual paso en el departamento de El Paraíso hace dos meses)

Los MILITARES y los POLICIAS han invadido la privacidad de los vecinos al par de la EMBAJADA DE BRASIL.

La policia y los militares...han quebrado los vidrios de los carros y motos de las personas de la resistencia, estan quemando sus carros (ellos los habían dejado ahí, como retenes)

Se habla de tres muertos, heridos (a los heridos que se trasladarón a los hospitales... los militares los están sacando de los hospitales)

A los atrapados los llevan al estadio Chochi Sosa. ( lo mismo hizo Pinochet)

POR FAVOR: Ayúdenos a difundir las noticias.

23 September 2009

2009.09.23_fuera golpistas!

Demonstrators united outside the Brazilian embassy today in Buenos Aires, in solidarity with demonstrators at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where Zelaya has been granted refuge. Congressman Edgardo Depetri, of President Cristina Fernandez's Victory Front party, and Nora Cortiñas, from Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo (an association of Argentine mothers whose children "disappeared" during the Dirty War) both said a lot of things I didn't understand. Nevertheless, the messages today were unequivocal: end the repression, return Zelaya to power, and nice call, Brazil.

click for more photos

Since democratically-elected Zelaya was ousted and forced into exile by Roberto Micheletti's coup regime on June 28th of this year, Honduras has seen the longest protest movement in the country's history, accompanied by... wait for it... brutal repression. When Zelaya sneaked back into Honduras on Monday, the de facto state was quick to intensify repressive measures. Zelaya has called for dialogue; Micheletti has called for a crackdown. A curfew was imposed, electricity and water were cut off, military checkpoints were installed, and local international airports were closed. When a demonstration of thousands was broken up at the Brazilian embassy yesterday, mass arbitrary arrests and police beatings ensued; at least two adults and one child were killed; and transmission interruptions and power outages were used to prevent Radio Globo and TV channel 36 from broadcasting. All this to "protect tranquility, life and goods of civilians," maintains Micheletti. The situation is precarious, but Zelaya has promised, "Starting from now nothing will force me to leave; return to the power or death." How exactly Zelaya made it home is a secret, but the feat does suggest that not all of the armed forces are pleased with and ready to submit to the illegal coup regime.

For more information on the situation in Honduras now and since the June coup, see today's Amnesty International report.

21 September 2009

2009.09_Argentine idiosyncrasies

To sum.

Sobre el clima: It's so erratic -- every morning (noon) I pull the drapes, and I'm shocked. Today was the first day of spring in Buenos Aires, and as if the universe knew its cues, the rain cleared and the sun heated up the city. I even got the nerve to whip out my fancy camera long enough to grab a few shots.

Sobre el dinero: Shit's so cheap -- I gave the grocery store the equivalent of $7, and they gave me a two-day food supply and a bottle of fine wine. The weird thing is that the cajeros spit out 100-peso bills (100 peses ≈ 26 USD), but that's like a lot, so most vendors refuse to change this bill. This tends to leave me with a lot of $26 bills, and incapable of buying anything because I can afford it too much.

Sobre los alimentos: Okay okay, the meat is good. I give I give! Now give me more.

En las calles: One thing that BA does not have going for it is cleanliness. I waited at a crosswalk today (Seattle taught me to do this), and when the cars cleared, all that was left was a puff of smog so thick that I couldn't make out the silhouettes on the other side. A minute later I was walking behind a boy -- hand in hand with his mom -- that threw a soda cup in the air as high as he could. I wondered how he was going to break away from mom to get it, but he was not wondering the same thing. Both he and his mom watched the cup fall to the ground several feet away, and continued on without breaking their stride. The 80s are back!

Sobre la enfermedad: While Argentina accounts for a quarter of the Swine Flu deaths in the world, nobody wears masks, and there don't seem to be any signs of paranoia, or even caution. However, I did cough in a crowded bar the other night, and the mass flinching that ensued proved that this nonchalant veneer is merely a state of denial. This same theory was reinforced on the subway -- where every window in every car stays open, even on the cold days. Yes the windows on the subways open, and the operators hang out of them and high five each other at stops. It's so cool.

Sobre el tiempo: My friend asked if I wanted to go get a drink the other night, to which I said yes, of course. He then told me he would come get me at 00:00. Now, it was only 19:00 (7) at this point, so of course I triple-checked to make sure 00:00 meant midnight, which it did. Okay, maybe I can't keep up.

Sobre el entretenimiento: See photos of my first Argentine concert at link above. If I'm not mistaken, they speak for themselves.

More on the workers' movement soon, I swear, but here's the thing. People speak very little, if any, English here, which is wonderful, but I'm going to have to get this Castellano Spanish jargon down if I want to hold substantial political conversations. I've tried, but I hear them speak with their Italian accent and gesticulations, and then all that comes out is Italian. I'm actually rather amazed and annoyed with how much Italian I've retained. Whatever I want to say goes through the other-language filter in my brain, pops out of my mouth as Italian, and everyone's stare tells me that I made no sense. I blame it on them for not keeping to their roots.

In the meantime, I watched a great documentary, Argentina Latente (Dormant Argentina), that gives tangible insight into the devastating effects of neoliberal Structural Adjustment Programs and privatization on Argentina. Like any good documentary, it manages to traverse some very demoralizing material, and still end on a motivational note. Though it's mostly about the degeneration of Argentina's engineering industry and its involuntary transition into an export-based agro-industry (compliments of the U.S.), it incorporates inspiring clips from worker-run factories (fabricas recuperadas). One such factory found that, because of technological advancements, it had too many workers with excess time. Instead of laying everyone off, the workers chose to use resources recovered from cutting off management costs and executive salaries to implement social services. What kind of social services? Oh, trapeze and African drum workshops, baby massages... you know, standard factory activities.

I don't know what baby massages are either.

"Our independent history began with men who said 'It's possible,' and showed it was so, with the stubborn effort of the people. After decades of darkness, a rebirth emerges from the Caribbean to the Patagonia as the utopia of native nations and majorities that have been fighting for their emancipation. Latin America has every resource, knowledge and original cultural heritage it needs. It is time to become a great community of nations in order to overcome our little countries' weaknesses." -- Argentina Latente