Lock down extended again :(
So, I am starting to really feel locked-up now, despite the big house and garden (in which I ran 5k last Tuesday, i.e. 45 circles!).
On Saturday evening, our president Alberto Fernandez, announced that the lock down would be extended again, until June 7th, with especially strict controls in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. In the rest of the country, activity has resumed and reached 80%. But here, the virus has infiltrated the poorer neighborhoods/slums (in the early stages, it had been named the "virus of the rich" because only people who traveled caught it), so a massive testing campaign has started to catch it before it spreads out of control. Practically for us, this means that it is difficult to get around by car or public transportation (you need a special permit and a special App on your phone and there are a lot of police-checkpoints), and that many shops are somewhere between open and closed: the door is closed but you can call and order. Restaurants remain closed of course (except for delivery), as do parks and other public places as well as hairdressers who have not worked since March 19th (as my gray hair roots clearly indicate... it's the new lock-down look!).
While the initial, very early, lock-down was probably a good idea (look at Ecuador, Brazil and Peru now...), many people are starting to wonder if it will ever end since it seems to be only beginning. Look at the the statistics: total population: 45 million; number of cases since the beginning : 13,993; deaths 501; number of days in lock-down so far: 70 (going on 80). Poverty up from around 30 to over 40%. There must be other ways than to maintain one of the longest lock-downs in the world? But the public debate has reached new heights which are not very favorable towards change. Basically there are two camps: either you are for the lock-down (and the government) or you are for death. This is an evolution from the previous debate where you were either for the People or for oligarchic neo-liberal and imperialist interests. Moderation and balance are not the most common traits in Argentina. And while those traits seem to be increasingly present in the world, the Argentine mix of populations gives it a unique flavor.
The history of this particular melting pot is quite amazing: 100 years ago half of Buenos Aires’ population was made up of immigrants arrived by sea, mostly from Spain, Italy, France, England and Ireland.
In the Argentinian capital, half of the population had been born abroad. When walking on the streets you could see a French foreman on the horse-drawn tram, an Italian street vendor, an Asturian salesman, a Napolitan organ player, a Galician maid, and Turkish women wearing strange babucha-slippers on their feet […] Eating in a restaurant reminded you of the biblical Babel, clients and waiters came from all nations and the menu was written in barely decipherable gibberish. (La Argentina: historia del país y de su gente, María Sáenz Quesada)
Yet, the Argentine character exists and is unique, at least according to the I people interviewed for my book. They are neither Italian, nor Spanish (the two main immigration origins), nor Latin American.
“They are very Italian, the first big mistake a Spaniard makes is believing they are like us… ” (man from Spain, 2 years in Argentina)
“Argentines are quite similar to the Spanish, but they are more dramatic. Either they are the champions of the world or they are the worst people on Earth: there is never a happy medium.” (woman, Spain, 13 years)
“The Argentine is livelier than the Spaniard, much more alert”. (man, Spain, 15 months)
“The Italians are more formal: they dress before they go out. Here, people go out the way they are, they care less about what others think”. (woman, Italy, 3 years)
“Argentines are a lot messier, and more chaotic, than the Italians. They are warmer. They are more melancholic: everything is a problem, they always need to find something to cry about.” (man, Italy, 2 years)
“Argentines are more Latin than we are.” (man, France, 1 year)
“Their mentality is closer to the European one if you compare them with other Latin-American countries” (woman, Venezuela, 20 months)
“They are very open people, much more than the Chileans” (woman, Chile, 6 years)
I found a great description in the book Culture-shock Argentina: A Survival Guide to Customs & Etiquette: "The country is a nation of immigrants who have generated a fiery blend of European sophistication and Latin passion in the heart of South America”.
But when you are locked-up, it's hard to enjoy them. It's high time for some virtual travel again! In my next post, I am planning to take you to Chile and the South of Argentina.