The Problem with Argentina, According to Pablo

19 Jun

It was one of those nights with the cold mist floating by the street lamps in an orange blur, seemingly setting the tone for a night out of the ordinary. Last night I met up with my friend Pablo and we went out for a beer at a bar in Palermo. I wanted to thank him for helping me move some of my things and helping me down at the Registro Civil earlier in the week. We had one round and then went looking for another bar, but unable to find the one he wanted, we went back to his place for a drink.

Along the way we started to talk about Argentine culture, politics, and of course, women. As Pablo put it, it’s impossible for guys and girls to be friends. At least in Argentina, anyway. He said that if nothing happens after the third date then you might as well forget it, because the guy will lose interest and the girl will assume the guy has lost interest. It is possible to be friends with a woman in some cases, but it’s rare. Pablo also went on to describe how Argentine women are crazy in a sort of way, playing games and consumed with materialistic desires.

For me, I find these “revelations” unsettling because I have many friends that are girls. In the United States it’s not uncommon, and though I realize that’s not the case in many Latin American nations, it’s something I try to continue here. Men typically travel less than women, so in my travels I’ve most often gone along with other girls. By now I’m used to the obligatory stop in a market or a shopping afternoon. I just block it out. And here in Buenos Aires my best friend is Vero, who I’ve written about many times.

Next we came to the topic of politics and why Argentina is so messed up. Again, these are not necessarily my opinions or fact, but just an opinion of an Argentine which could be used as a first hand source on the country. Pablo told me that three years ago people in Argentina were happy and content, yet now they are angry and bitter. People are worrying about money but also about the government, which he believes is tied into the 20 most powerful families in the country who control agriculture, and have since the founding of the nation.

Price have skyrocketed in the last few years, which he says is because they are using inflation as a way to oust the president. People won’t care about education or infrastructure, but when prices go up they will start to blame the government. Argentina is a nation built off of agriculture, namely soy, and doesn’t have much of an industrial base. A couple of years back President Kirchner tried to introduce a serious tax on exports of soy (to ease the economy’s dependence on this crop), and the provinces went into an uproar. Since then the government has faced nothing but opposition, even though they were elected in with something like 60%. Thus, these 20 agricultural families who essentially run the country are reducing supplies on sugar and raising the price of milk and meat to anger people so that they won’t re-elect the president.

I recently finished reading “A Short History of the Argentinians” by Felix Luna, and though the book itself was confusing and without much explanation, it really did reveal a lot about this country and culture. Part of what Pablo was telling me was exactly what this history of Argentina was saying. I started to feel uneasy to realize that a lot of what he said made sense. Argentinians love to complain about everything but rarely do anything. This reminds me of an article written by David Miller, titled “Notes on Buenos Aires: A City de Mierda y Capos“, in which he describes a friend in Buenos Aires complaining about how the city is shit. That conversation is so real and typical here that is a let down in many ways.

Thinking about it now that Pablo told me how he felt, I can see how many people are disgruntled and angry. They tell me it’s better this year than last year, what with the crisis and swine flu dominating life. Yet it’s undeniable to step back and see that there is a sort of negative energy hovering in this city. “Es un bajón.” There is no faith in the government, nor in the culture or society. Just look at the reactions of people when I tell them what it’s like trying to get the DNI. They are amazed at how difficult it is, but only say, “That’s Argentina for you.” Apathy can often be more dangerous than ambition. And now I have a long weekend to sit and think about these things, to try and see where I fit in to all of it.

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