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Map courtesy of http://www.europaworld.com/map/ar
Map courtesy of europaworld.com

Blogging From Argentina - Page Two

by Marina Solovyov

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Excerpt on Argentina´s Movement

This week I will be exploring the back streets and boulevards of Argentina's capital city, Buenos Aires. Considering its complex history and economic situation, I want to give some background knowledge information on Argentina to make my series of blogs on the country more meaningful.

The Argentinazo Crisis of 2001: “Twenty years of unrestrained borrowing left the country with the world’s highest per-capita debt by the end of 2001.

When the government defaulted on its $140 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and private banks such as Bank of Boston and Citibank, the peso, pegged one to one with the U.S. dollar by President Carlos Ménem (1989-1999), devalued 70 percent, forcing half of the country’s 37 million residents below the poverty line overnight.

On December 19, 2001, the citizens of Argentina woke up to find their bank accounts frozen. With this, Argentina’s working middle class evaporated.”
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As a result many people are still left without jobs and unable to feed their families; thus began the Recovered Factory Movement (a.k.a occupied or recuperated factories). Below is a description of how the factories are created:

1. The owner, after a period of cutting back on worker wages and benefits in order to cut costs and minimize debt, locks out workers and abandons the property, usually filing bankruptcy.

2. The determined workers, defending their jobs, organize and prepare to occupy the property, opting to get the factory running and profitable, rather than stay unemployed. Working together with other organized sectors of the community, they stage demonstrations and camp out on the property.

3. The space is then recovered and production begins. When state forces attempt to evict the workers, the groups unite and collectively prevent police entry.

4. Perhaps the most crucial issue the movement has brought to light is that of legitimate ownership: What claims do workers have over factories and the machinery within them, and how does this challenge normative notions of private property? Though the government of Argentina gave many recovered businesses temporary two-year permits to function, these have all expired.

Source: Yeidy Rosa warresisters.org

The B.A.U.E.N. Hotel - photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The B.A.U.E.N. Hotel - photo courtesy of
Wikipedia

B.A.U.E.N. Hotel

The B.A.U.E.N Hotel, located on calle Callo in Buenos Aires´ financial district, is not to be confused with the BAUEN hotel, directly around the corner.

Before 2001, both hotels were owned by Marcelo Iurcovich, but then he fraudulently closed B.A.U.E.N. and due to the hotels unprofitability, never paid taxes or debts. As a result, numerous workers lost their jobs and could no longer afford to support themselves and their families. However in 2003, the neglected ex-employees were able to "take it back".

Our class choose to stay at B.A.U.E.N to support the hardworking individuals, who without any education or experience in managing a hotel, have restored the site and opened up 150 jobs.

The four star, twenty-story hotel is no easy building to maintain. Equipped with 200 rooms, a pool, hot tub, fireplace, air conditioning, and television, the bills pile up quickly. Due to limited resources, the owners, (most of them which are the orignal employees), can only invest so much money to keep up the hotel´s maintenance. Still, everyday, my room is cleaned an a satisfactory breakfast and lunch is served.

Although B.A.U.E.N. is not a hotel to stay in if you care for a luxurious experience in Buenos Aires, (it´s got a rustic feel, there is on-going construction in parts of the building, and they speak little english), it is the place to be if you want to help make a positive difference in people´s lives.

A mate or guampa - photo courtesy of Wikipedia
A mate or guampa - photo courtesy
of Wikipedia

Just today I saw how crucial the B.A.U.E.N. is to the people of Buenos Aires. Since the collapse of Argentina´s economy in 2001, when half of the country’s 37 million residents fell below the poverty line overnight, there has been a devastating unemployment rate. Walking through the hotel today, I passed by a long line of people applying for work at B.A.U. E.N.

The B.A.U.E.N. offers hope to the people of Buenos Aires. Without recuperated enterprises like B.A.U.E.N. there would be even less work opportunities for the Argentineans.

Source: Marie Trigona thetake.org

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mate: The energizer bunny of drinks

Mate is the most popular hot drink of Argentina and in particular, Buenos Aires. In this city of people that never sleep, Mate gives the Argentineans extrodinary energy. As one man here told me, “how else do you think people stay out all night dancing and barely sleep. It´s Mate.”

But don´t get the wrong idea, Mate is no drug. Actually it is anything but unhealthy for you. The herb tea is full of vitamins and minerals, a powerful antioxidant, and it lowers cholestoral.

Drinking Mate is a daily part of life for most Argentineans, especially women and young people between the ages 12 to 19. In 2004, research results of a survey showed that 90% of Argentineans consumed Mate everyday.

What is even more interesting is that even during and after the economic crisis of 2001, there was no variation in how much mate was bought. Every year, more than 506 million pounds of mate get drank in Argentina.

“Mate is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd. The straw is called a bombilla, in Spanish or a bomba, in Portuguese and the gourd is known as a mate or a guampa. In the past few years, Mate is available in a "tea-bag" under the name "Cruz de Malta" (Maltese Cross).”

Recently I bought a gourd from a gypsy near Calle Florida for only ten pesos(three dollars). I was a little hesitant to do this at first because I thought my gourd should be of better quality. Coincidentally, the pilot for Pink Floyd was also comparing the crafts to the more expensive gourd he had just aquired and assured me that there was little difference.

I also purchased a big bag of Mate to start using my new cup. Two pounds only cost me four pesos in the supermarket, so it´s not a waste if I don´t like the beverage. I heard the drink is really bitter; make sure to mix in some sugar or honey.

If you are interested in trying some Mate you can order it online at either of these two site: zooscape.com or mercadolibre.com. Read more...

Marina Solovyov

 

Marina Solovyov is a student at the University of Massachusetts and an intern at GoNOMAD.com.







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