Buenos Aires Travel Blog› entry 5 of 17 › view all entries
I was very excited to learn that I was going to be in Argentina, and Buenos Aires at that, for the 25th of May. The day is likened to the United States 4th of July and significant because it marks Argentina’s independence from Spain. Coming from the very nationalistic state of Texas, where BBQ was perfected, and the ‘good ol’boy’ is the only type of boy to have, I felt that I knew how a powerful display of nationalism should go down. I have thrown my own 4th of July celebration, complete with steaks, streamers, fireworks, and a gathering of family. The idea though of 4th of July in my family is focused on just that- family. It’s a time of gathering, a reprieve from the daily grind, a holiday, and a vacation. Many use it as an excuse to get away, but few use it as a reflection of past political choices. With this in mind was very excited to get to attend the Argentine celebration of independence in downtown BsAs.
I met my professor and a few friends at a corner café- for coffee and medialunettes (a perfect Argentine breakfast). We hopped in our off-duty tour guides (Gabriel) car for a ride to the town square. This in itself was very different from what I am used to- in Brenham (my hometown) our town square is only used for vendors to set up booths when we have parades, but never for a demonstration. We had to park far away and walk through the streets as the crowd was already reaching far into the 10,000’s and the streets had been blocked off. We marched over fallen streamers, banners, and popcorn. People were shouting, passing out leaflets of political conseqence and playing drums in every direction. As we pushed through the crowd, trying to get nearer and nearer to the main square- Plaza de Mayo- all of my senses were exploding. I couldn’t hear anything, people were pushing up against me, the smell of smoke and sweat was overwhelming, and the end of people was nowhere in sight. Our small convoy tried to single file through the thickening lot of people but eventually we were forced to a stop as their was no where to go. We were still far from the Plaza but if I twisted a little I could see the large teletron TV screen and I could definitely hear the blaze coming out of about twenty makis.
It was President Kitchener giving a speech addressing the people of Argentina. I couldn’t make out much of what he was saying, but it was mostly a “we are so great for paying off the IMF, and we don’t need to take any of their shit”/ “We are so awesome” speech. What struck me was the enormous about of country people and lack of portenos. I wondered, and still do, why no one was using the balconies or windows in the streets above. My professor remarked that it was because most of the city of BsAs doesn’t support Peronsism or the current President, and that for them, the 25th of May was a day to leave the city for the country.
All in all it was a 360* turn around from my view of an Independence Day. In the US, the 4th of July is literally a celebration, and like Christmas it is more of an excuse to party than a recollection of the past. However, the Argentines use it more as an excuse to create political strife and exploit their new causes rather than recollect on the past. Both countries are exploiting the cause of the holiday but for very different reasons, and those reasons tell much about their relative cultures: Argentina with its intense political activism and the United States with its intense capitalism.