Thursday, October 28, 2010

Los Kirchner

Today has been quite a strange day in the city of Buenos Aires.
First, the nation was shut down because today was the day of the Census. My roommate, Emily, and I were discussing whether or not the United States or Argentina has a more effective form of taking the Census. In the United States, you're mailed something, and you mail it back. Or they come to your house and ask you the same questions that you could have answered yourself. In Argentina, they shut down everything, all of the trains and buses run infrequently, and almost everything but hospitals and the occasional pharmacy. Someone comes to your house (between 8am-8pm) and they fill out a piece of paper. So Argentina isn't any more environmentally efficient because they still use paper forms like we do in the USA, but they get it all done in one day?
Anyway, I didn't have to wake up early and go to class, but I will have to make my classes up on Friday instead because this was an unexpected, once every ten years, type of a holiday.

Second, the ex-President and current President's husband died this morning. My homestay family, who I know does not like the current President, and many other families were deeply saddened today. The city is in a 3-day period of mourning, but I'm not sure how that will affect anything in the city other than the government. And a lot of people are planning on visiting the Plaza de Mayo and other public areas to mourn together and stand together to help strengthen the President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as she tries to handle the passing of her husband.

Nestor Kirchner's passing comes at a strange time because I am working on a presentation for my culture class about how the media portrays the Kirchners (especially Cristina), and right now all the media attention is focusing on what a good man President Kirchner was and how much he did to help the nation in a time of suffering (he served for two terms after the 2001 Financial Crisis, also know as just "the Crisis").
It's said that Cristina is just a "placeholder" for Nestor until he could run again (you can serve two consecutive terms, and then take time off, but run again later), and many, many people thought that Nestor was actually more like the real president and Cristina was just a pawn. Especially with economic issues. Now, I wonder, what will happen in the time that I am here? And the time after I leave? Will the economy go back down, perhaps not quite as low as where it had been, but will it drop without Nestor to help out?

I'm trying to decide if it would be severely inappropriate as a visitor to this country to go to the Plaza de Mayo and see the activity that is going on. I clearly have no idea how important Nestor Kirchner was to the nation because I was not here during the financial crisis and didn't have to learn what it was to live with only $1,000 a month/family, or any of the hardships that the people suffered that time. But at the same time, I'm intrigued.


  1. All questions of efficiency aside, I can think of plenty of Americans who would not appreciate everything shutting down for a day just to take the census; it's important, but some people just think their jobs or errands or whatever are just the most important thing ever. I know I had trouble in France "wasting" a day by not doing anything "productive," which I'm told is a very American mindset. No sé.
    Also, I think if you wanted to go, even as a visitor, it would be okay as long as you went with the idea of "I'm interested in your culture and your country" instead of to gawk, you know?

  2. I worked for the Census Bureau (way back) in 1980, so I can let you know more about how painstaking it was to do then -- but hopefully, has improved greatly for the 2010 version.
    It's morbid of me to say this but experiencing the culture of Argentina in a time of mourning is also interesting. I think that showing the respect that you are in your blog, that it would be appropriate to go to the Plaza. I hope that the government remains stable in light of the situation.
    I will be thinking of you as you finish with this semester and rejoicing for you and your mom when she joins you!
    ----- Ms. Gloria