BUENOS AIRES — On the evening of Sept. 13, metallic harmony sounded throughout the streets of Buenos Aires. Thousands of Argentinians took to the streets with kitchenware in the protest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Banging pots and pans together is a form of protest used in Argentina that has been used since 2001, when an overwhelming economic crisis mostly hit the lower classes. However, on this particular Thursday the subject of protest was more political than
Kirchner, once a political favorite, quickly lost favor as involvement in corruption and issues with increased crime and inefficient economic restrictions have raised questions of her competence. With swiftly rising inflation rates and purchasing restrictions, the signs of an economic downturn have been unavoidable.
Rumors are circulating that Kirchner has bid to amend the Argentine constitution in order to be able to run for a third term.
Dissent builds daily, and Thursday’s protest was just one of many cries of frustration.
CAS junior Jennifer Bagby, who is studying politics in Buenos Aires this semester, sees the protest as a significant action.
“I think it speaks a lot to the fact that it’s been years since the last protest of this magnitude,” Bagby said. “The patience of people is obviously wearing thin, and they’re not necessarily in another recession, so now it’s more of a political upset. I think it’s just the beginning of something bigger to come.”
The ongoing events have not escaped the attention of NYU students studying in Argentina.
“I think it’s really interesting that in Argentina mass public protest is a normal part of civic engagement,” said Gallatin junior Haley Houseman. “In the U.S., a protest of the same scale, in all of the major cities, would be an extraordinary event but in Argentina, it was just one of many expected responses to the government’s new policies.”
The protest has raised even more of a ruckus because of the way the media portrays it.
Witnessing these protests as an American abroad is a contradictory experience as well. Alexandra Raymond, a CAS junior studying sociology, gives her perspective.
“We’re in Argentina at a very pivotal point in modern history,” Raymond said. “While it’s very interesting, it’s also a little scary.”
“I think it will be very interesting to see things change here in the next few months,” she said.
Because the protests were organized through social media and not backed by any particular political party, support from mainstream media has proved sparse. Another factor in the absence of sufficient news coverage comes from the fact that most newspapers and TV broadcasters are connected to the government. Many officials have purported that the protesters were a minority.
When asked about the protest and its implications, on-site NYU creative writing professor Anna Kazumi Stahl had mixed reactions.
“A pot-banging protest like last Thursday’s that features a symbolic empty pot brandished by the comparatively more well-off class is problematic on multiple levels,” Stahl said. “But even with the paradoxes it reinforces the frank value of living in a society in which the public space continues to be a blank canvas for spontaneous expression across the spectrum of classes. In how many other countries is public space still so heterogeneously voiced?”
The Argentinean masses heard Kirchner’s warning, and they are gathering their weapons in retaliation. The people of Buenos Aires have their pots and pans ready.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 25 print edition. Meghan O’Connor is a foreign correspondent. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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