Buenos Aires: PressWatch/Theresa #6 & #7, to Aug 2
Winter weather finally arrived in time for the elections. (Macri won the mayoral race in Buenos Aires, which is supposed to mean that people approve of his replacement of Federal cops with municipal ones...I think.) They shut down a lot of government functions during an election here, and I first discovered that it was election day, when I asked for a Quilmes beer at the hotel front desk, and was refused one. No beer, gotta elect a mayor, serious business here now (actually I could have gotten one at a restaurant). I'd wax poetic about respect for democracy, especially given that the TV ads are given free, but actually Big Money dominates as it must, same as in the US. Want a TV ad produced well enough to get attention? Big money.
That sounds like I've given up on popular participation, but no--it's just that I want far more radical measures to exclude Capital, including absolute limits on relative wealth. But I digress--
I woke up today with my face in pain, swelling enough to partly deafen me, by squashing my earholes. So I went to the clinic thinking I had an infection, and it turned out to be no big deal, just swelling basically, so they took out more 'puntos' (stitches) and shot me up with cortisol. Then they gave me a pain pill that actually works. Dang.
The nurse-assistant who removes the stitches (and stuff) doesn't speak English, but we manage. ("Sin mis puntos, mi cara no era (meant sera) familiar," I told her, and she got the joke even past my Texiz Spanglish pronunciation.) She is absolutely awesome, I love her, she can reach into my nose and ear and delicately pull those nylon stitches out without a miss.The clinic would be a lot more hellish without her. I dreaded getting those stitches out of my swollen face, but I need not have worried, because La Experta was there. Bless her. May her tweezers never rust.
I have a different gender here. I'm not sure exactly how it works out, but I've heard myself referred to as 'el hombre,' so I'm not viewed as a variety of female. I am vastly larger than most Argentinian women, so there's little room for passing; I attract attention from the start. Plenty of people give me the hairy eyeball, and I've overheard references to 'la SIDA' (AIDS), but others (mostly younger) seem open and friendly, and there have been no loud confrontations, as sometimes happens when I'm on the job in Portland. It could just be a matter of time, but really, I think Portenos (Buenos Aires residents) aren't as ideologically worked up about gender as, say, fundamentalist Christians in Oregon City might be. Riding the subway with Ani, I saw various reactions to my gender and her beard, but no boiling animosity--a confused resentment, at the worst.
I look at my new face with satisfaction, thinking, 'trans hermaphrodite living as woman,' or some construction close to that. That's my gender; my orientation is a different thing, and as I have come to realize, it is truly neither hetero- nor homo- nor bi-, but hermaphro--sexual. It is a sexuality that comes out of a known difference, and a distance. I'll expand on that later.
But in public, the idea is femininity. Portlanders get it better than do Portenos, but not by much, I think. And among my friends there is a far better and subtler understanding, and I'm grateful for that, and happily anticipating my return. Sort of.
Speaking of life in the USA: How exactly did I go my entire life without a bidet? Why is the US the land of Dirty Asses? It doesn't make a bit of sense. Mind you, it took some getting used to: turn on the left spigot (whoops that's C for Caliente, don't burn your bum), mix with the right spigot, adjust fountain height/washout with middle spigot, and enter Civilization. Come on, you always hated that first shit after a shower, now you don't have to. 'Cause there's the bidet. The Ass Shower. The Fountain Of --um, Not Worrying About Your Asshole Or Abrading It Either (Note to self: slogan needs work). I mean, to think(!) of the forests that have gone to the axe so that I could falsely convince myself that I was all clean. (Oh yeah, sure--just wipe some more, and it'll be fine. Fine.) On the agenda when I get back: a trip to the hardware store. I mean. Damn.
Getting dark here, therefore colder. No snow so far.
Black pressed suit, shiny shoes, a big expensive camera held in my face, a sneer. Click. Sneer. It's good to know that the world's secret police keep their traditions alive.
I was entering the Plaza Mayo to join the protest after watching wave after wave of people pass, waving giant banners against police repression and identifying their respective groups--Students Against Repression, Workers United, Maoists of some stripe, various organizations of leftists and human rights activists from local and nearby communities--bigger than anything I've ever seen in Portland, almost as big as a national march on Washington DC, thousands, people pounding drums, with sound trucks, distributing newspapers, singing, dancing, and as they entered the square, setting off loud fireworks rockets that just about had me shitting my pants.
No one was running, though, so I stayed put for a bit. Ani got some great photos of the whole affair. At some point we were both weeping with joy and sorrow, an overwhelming emotion, in response to observing the honest and fearless expression of solidarity and democracy, so unlike anything we have here. So different. The cops are not nearly as present as at a relatively tiny US or Portland protest, though they have made their presence known with their obnoxious water cannon truck and, of course, with Mister SneerCam.
What's more, the local television station is covering the protest live, even now as I return to my hotel room. Apparently the cops in Jujuy province decided they would please the bankster class by shooting up a crowd of squatters, a few days ago, and I've been wondering how Argentines would respond. Well, they have acquitted themselves well. I thought of the damned police snipers that show up on top of the Nordstrom building now and then, when we have some harmless tiny protest against a cop shooting, and how they would have responded to that BOOM BOOM of the fireworks announcing the triumphant return to the Casa Rosada Square of the throngs of marching indignant Argentinos. They would have shot a hundred dead, I'll bet.
You should have seen the kids passing spray paint cans to each other has they decorated the march route. You should have seen the determination and bravery on those thousands of faces. The street vendors who set up smoking and steaming tables of roasted meats and vegetables. The next person who tries to tell me we have democracy in the United States is going to have to put up with some deafening screaming.
Oh yeah, and we went to an ethnographic museum. And I'm infected again. And it's cold.