Buenos Aires capital district is a fervent, beautiful city. Even with the crime, protests, marches and blocked streets you sort of expect that if you come visit here. You still have the architecture left behind by our past glorious times, some of the nice new skyscrapers in Madero thanks to the drug laundry money and sprinkled all over you have Argentine women that, the more I travel, the more I am convinced that, in average, are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Then there’s other times you just feel as if you’ve fallen through the nine circles of hell. driving around last night, I felt that way. The southern suburbs where I live are bad in general, with only pockets of “nice” places. The western suburbs don’t even have those. The weather was polar cold and it had been raining for three days already. As I occasionally mention, the gird in Buenos Aires is patched all over and any surge in the demand of electric power or natural gas causes problems. With the unusually cold weather, you could expect this to happen. I had to go to the capital last night and went across several poor southern districts, most of them without power, the streets lined with dirt and garbage that no one would ever collect.
The traffic quickly slowed down and came to a halt, and I noticed an orange glow ahead. Fire and slow traffic means roadblocks and trouble. Imagine darkness because of the blackout, and what you can see around you thanks to the other car’s headlights are shacks or low constructions that look more like rubble, with several junkyards to be found all around you. The visibility is limited, storm clouds keep the moonlight at bay, rain makes things even worse, and then you have to add to that the smoke of burning rubber, the orange glow of fire ahead making you reconsider the wisdom of continuing in that direction.
I took a side street and soon missed the light from the other cars, pitch black as the blackout spread like a blanket, I now had to worry about the thick mud (only the main road is paved) and even more shacks all around. Block after block of shanty town shacks, that’s what you find on the sides of “Camino Negro”. I had my iphone and used the map to know where I was, pushing a button on the touch screen quickly pinpoints your location in the map, and a few seeps of the thumb showed what I would find if I continue in that direction. There was another main road a few miles ahead. Good. At times like that you wish for two things: a) Not to experience any car troubles, either mechanical or induced by carjackers putting traps on the road which given the circumstances would be almost impossible to detect, and b) Not to find another bunch of shacks or houses built where the older satellite map previously showed a road. This happens often as people just build anywhere they want, either because no one cared because it’s a very poor place or the spot was promised in return of political support in pro-government marches, you can expect anything.
I was lucky. A few minutes later, some lights, cars, even people hurrying back home escaping from the rain and cold. There were still sectors without power and many traffic lights didn’t work, but you feel a bit more secure because of the light and people. Maybe it’s a false sense of security, you may be carjacked right there and no one would care or move a thumb to help you.
Seems that the roadblock was because some shantytown people that had illegally hooked themselves to the electric grid where now experiencing problems. A few hundred cables hooked and stealing power from the grid isn’t exactly something that will hold well, so what do you do in Argentina when you can’t steal power any more and the illegal connection you made blew up because of the rain and intense use? You protest by committing more crimes, blocking a highway and damaging it by burning tires on it. You take away the right of the people to move freely, you ruin the asphalt that will need to be repaired (with the money from taxes which these people of course don’t pay)
Meanwhile the millions of other people in their homes without power in spite of paying their bills, they don’t protest, but of course the government (now the power company is state owned) will help the ones stealing power first. They are the ones that go support them in the rallies and marches, they are the kind of population they are interest in.