Friday, December 24, 2010

Life in Argentina, 9 years after the 2001 Collapse.




This week has been interesting and as I now sit here to write and put things together, it hits me how surreal it all is. You get used to all this, its parts of your daily routine to see this things, avoid roadblocks, avoid the conflict and places where protests and looting are taking place.  It does wear you out though, imagine wanting to go home after a hard day’s work only to find this in your train station, closed until further notice.

Looting and Rioting

This happened in Constitucion train station yesterday after the service was canceled because of another group of protesters blocking the railroad, and therefore forcing the service to be canceled. I used to take this train to work and this happened more often than you’d think. Man, I don’t miss that train.



Squatters

We’ve also been experiencing a squatters boom. All over the country squatters are taking over land for themselves, hurrying in building brick and mortar structures to consolidate their position. The news only reported the most notorious ones that took place in the capital district, but this situation is wide spread and much worse in the suburbs and country.
How does it look when they take over land and start dividing the land among them? It looks like this.
No, not pretty at all. Imagine waking up one day and seeing this in the public park in front of your house. Those orange brick buildings that can be seen in the background, some 3 levels high, they build those in a matter of HOURS. In no time you have a favela or shanty town built in your neighborhood. The price of your nice house plumbs and the neighborhood itself become no man’s land a few days later.

What happens when neighbors are fed up with squatters and take matters into their own hands because the liberal government simply wont stop them from squatting in public and private property? It looks like this:

Blackouts

This last week has been pretty hot as well. The smog and general tropical humidity aren’t helping either.
Blackouts have become widespread all over Buenos Aires. My grandmother and aunt, they both live in different locations along Buenos Aires and they both spent yesterday without power. It went out yesterday around 10Am and came back today at around 12 AM. Power has gone down again now. Its clear that the power infrastructure has collapsed and an interesting summer awaits us. Thank God I haven’t lost power once yet, but everyone I talk to seems to have rolling blackouts this past week.
My cousin just got divorced and arrived here yesterday from Chile. She was there during the earthquake but what she saw when she came here depressed her a lot. As she arrived, she was welcomed by mad traffic because the traffic lights weren’t working because of the blackouts. To make matters worse there’s all sorts of roadblocks and protests, either because of squatters or neighbors demanding a solution to the power problem.
As she arrived to my aunt’s house her little kids asked her to please turn on the lights, and they asked why they were using candles instead. Seems that other than the earthquake, blackouts don’t occur often in Chile.

Empty ATMs and Sudden Bank Holiday

Because of inflation we are experiencing a particular problem as well. There’s just not enough cash to go around. The government doesn’t want to print much needed 500 peso bills because they said it would be admitting an inflation “That doesn’t exist!!” . Add to the rampant inflation the fact that people don’t trust banks much and prefer to use cash instead, this only makes matters worse.
In my case my bank has customer exclusive ATMs along with general public ones. The ATM for general public has a line that went for half a block and was quickly running out of cash, the ones for clients were empty. I tried to avoid the poisonous stares as I quickly went to the client’s ATM, got the cash and left in less than a minute while the other guys waited for hours.
Retired people waited yesterday under the burning sun to get their much needed cash. Banks said they would open today but at 7 PM yesterday they announced they wouldn’t open the following day. Today, banks are closed in spite of having announced the entire week that people could count on them being opened the 24th. Banks lying to people, big news.
It’s a nice warm feeling to know that I have enough cash at hand and I don’t have to go nuts if ATMs go empty, and that the entire country’s banking system can go to hell… again, and my account wont be affected. Have backups to your financial planning guys.
What would you do if they don’t accept plastic any more because of blackouts or some other reason? What would you do if ATMs run empty and banks close? These things happen, its just that people prefer not to think about these things.

Crime

In terms of crime, my wife told me about a new crime she heard while in the beauty salon that I just couldn’t believe. 
Hair Robbery
You are a young woman walking in Buenos Aires. All of a sudden everything turns white, there’s a flash and you go down to the floor. Someone just hit you in the head. As you go down the reaction many women have in Argentina is grabbing their purses, but not this time. This time you feel someone pulling your hair… and scissors cutting it…
Because hair extensions have become popular, there’s a prime price for nice long human hair! These scum bags are cutting off women’s hair, specially if its nice and already arranged in an easy to cut pony tail. A long pony tail sells for 300 pesos. If the pony tail is 12” long, it sells for up to 900 pesos, that’s almost USD 250. As crazy as it sounds this salon alone has heard of such a thing several times, a couple of their clients already becoming victims. Here’s an article explaining this crime,(sorry, its in Spanish) In times of lawlessness and desperation the most absurd incidents take place.

Take care folks, have a Merry Christmas!

FerFAL

PS- Please say Merry Christmas to everyone today, specially if they work at places that have Happy X-Mas signs ;-)   




8 comments:

Joseph said...

Hmmm...maybe I WILL visit that Gunshow next weekend...scary stuff, FerFAL. Any progress on the immigration front?

Don Williams said...

Merry Christmas, Ferfal.

Anonymous said...

I think that USA has a ways to go before we become like Argentina, simply because we started from a different place. Argentina has been declining for 50 years at least, and as recently as 2000 USA was a first world country, world's biggest economy, people in Silicon Valley buying Lamborghinis and etc.

In 50 years, sure that will be USA. Or it could happen within 10-20 years, after people realize that the government has no intention of paying its debts. It will though, and that's what our future will be like.

Oh, and Merry Christmas Ferfal, may your god Jesus watch over you.

Kentucky Packrat said...

Milady got a pistol for Christmas for just this reason.

I am a long-haired freaky people guy, so if I could be sure of $300, I'd sell. That's half of a Sig P238... :)

Kurt said...

Me thinks this will be very close to home here in the US, very soon. Any one of a number of things could set things off, and all the rest of them would then go off on us as well. I'm figuring no more than a couple of years, perhaps as little as months. Hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.

And thanks for sharing with us your experiences/observations. One never knows when some of it will be helpful. I know I don't comment often, but I, and I'm sure others, really appreciate your pulling back the curtain on what things are probably going to get like.

Merry Christmas to all.

Anonymous said...

Three generations live together in Southern California, from the LA Times:

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-crowded-house-20101225,0,1851236,full.story

Expect a LOT more of this. Willowalk, the "gated community" mentioned in the article, has had so many foreclosures and so many homes becoming rentals that it's now a slum, despite being only 7 years old or so. Look up older articles on the area on the Times site. So basically you have three generations living in a drug and gang infested rathole of an area in the far distant suburbs of Los Angeles. And there's a lot more-many of the huge houses there are now occupied by huge illegal immigrant families. I think that the large number of slum rentals and abandoned homes available for squatting will tamp down any problems with shantytowns for a while.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas FerFal.
Thanks for regularly posting on your blog. Your insights are all very helpful, interesting and enjoyable to read. We Americans are receiving first hand knowledge of what it will eventually be like here in America. You should come to America. The lights don't go out too often over here. At least not in our neck of the woods. :)
America is still sitting pretty and prosperous at this point in time. But all the new rules and regs are being put in place now so we are ripe for destruction. Personally, I don't see that the TSHTF in 2011. I don't see it happening in 2012. I could be totally wrong. Could happen suddenly. What I see is serious problems starting in 2012. I think Americans will revolt and go to war before they give in to all of this. But one day, eventually--we will be overcome. I'm guessing America will look much like Argentina in the next 5-10 years. In the next 20-40years, we'll be in the midst of the "Abomination of Desolation" spoken of by Jesus Christ and the prophets. My mother disagrees. She thinks the millenium will be here within 10 years. I just don't see that happening so fast. THe Lord said do not be deceived, first famine & pestilence, then persecution, beheadings, war, anti christ. THen many will be offended. And finally the abomination of desolation. When we see that then we know his coming is nigh. Right now there are so many great people around the world and much freedom safety and prosperity (at least here). Then Christ says after the abomination of desolation, people will profess to be Christ(can you imagine people doing that now? Seems so unreal). But we will all know when and who the Lord is because he'll come with all power and glory. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess. But all of this will take time.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous (December 25, 2010 5:07 PM)who said " I think that the large number of slum rentals and abandoned homes available for squatting will tamp down any problems with shantytowns for a while."

You may want to read this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/05/tent-cities-national-coal_n_487908.html