Life in Buenos Aires is different than life in the United States. Of course, there are the obvious cultural differences like kissing on the cheek as a greeting. But the people of Buenos Aires (called Porteños) are also different. One of the most interesting aspects of Porteños is that they are very political. From graffiti art to street protests and everyday dialogue, it is clear that Porteños are not afraid to speak their minds. When walking on the streets, almost everywhere you go you will graffiti with political messages written over advertisements, sides of buildings, or sidewalks.
the vegan movement
Surprisingly, some of the most common messages that I have seen are about veganism. Spray painted or written in permanent marker in large capitalized letters are the phrases: “Animales no comida” (Animals not food) and “Basta la mata” (Enough with the killing). These are messages that I have not seen in the United States. It is surprising how common these messages are. As a vegan, I feel empowered to see how this movement is spreading across the world, even in places like Buenos Aires where meat is one of the most prominent parts of the diet.
memory, justice, truth
Another type of graffiti message that I have seen is the phrase “Memoria, justicia, verdad” (Memory, truth, justice). This message is referring to the actions of the previous dictatorship in Argentina, which committed horrible acts against its people. There were over 30,000 young people kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the government without cause. These people are called “Los desaparecidos” (the disappeared). Many of the young people were women who were pregnant. Their babies were given off and their mothers never seen again. To this day, there are still people finding out that they are the child of a disappeared person.
One of the most noticeable and palpable types of protest is the transportation strike. On Wednesday of this past week, there was a public transportation strike (called a “paro”) that left the entire city without any trains, subways, or buses. Classes were cancelled, businesses were closed, and most people just stayed inside. The city was the most quiet and peaceful that it has been since I have gotten here. My host mother says that these transportation strikes are common, especially with elections coming in October. She says that workers unions are incredibly strong here and they take part in transportation strikes to both get the government’s attention and hurt it financially.
Given the history of Argentina, it is understandable that the people would be so politically active here. I had learned a lot about the dictatorships and the harm that they caused in school, but it is different to see the effects first hand. The last military dictatorship ended in 1979, which is not that long ago. The people here are very well-informed, outspoken, and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. It is refreshing and eye-opening to see how the people here actively take part in their democracy, something that United States may take for granted.