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Posts Tagged ‘buenos aires’

Shrine in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

I love cemeteries. This shrine in Recoleta Cemetery is perfect in it’s haunting simplicity.

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Bottles for sale in a market stall in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

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La Boca, Buenos Aires

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The walls speak to you as you pass by in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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I was in Buenos Aires in 2006. It was 30 years on from the military coup that changed the collective Argentinean consciousness forever and, being a part of it, I felt my own consciousness (and, indeed, conscience) shifting. Looking back this experience was a huge turning point for me, being there has led me to be me.

Never Again: Prohibited books

I was in Buenos Aires for the massive concerts and protest marches that marked the 30 year anniversary of the military coup on March 24, 1976. That coup marked the beginning of 7 years of military dictatorship in which around 30,000 Argentinians were murdered or forcibly disappeared by the Junta for holding dissenting political beliefs. The Dirty War (as it became known) cut deep into the body of Argentina, and the wound is still raw. These demonstrations were Argentina’s way to never forget, to stay passionate, and to inspire the new generation of advocates for freedom.

Standing tens of thousands strong in the Plaza de Mayo amid awed silence broken by valiant cries of “nunca más” (never again) we stood at revered attention as we bore witness to the suffering of a whole generation by watching a half hour documentary on the recent political history of Argentina, jostled periodically in the waves of emotion as the crowd reacted to their story. After the documentary finished to pained applause a frail looking old woman in a white headscarf approached the microphone. What followed was the most rousing and impassioned speech I have ever had the honour to witness. Here she was, one of the “Mothers of the Disappeared”, a group of women who protested weekly during the dictatorship and were integral in the eventual swing back to democracy. The catch cry of her speech, and the protests, “nunca más” resounded not only throughout the night but also appeared on innumerable walls around the city. The city, the country, was so political, the people so impassioned by their beliefs willing to speak out and to act on them. It was profoundly inspiring.

Nunca Mas! (Never Again!)

From Buenos Aires I wrote home to friends:
“I have been in a really introspective space of late, a space that travelling seems to inevitably create. I really feel, already, like my experiences, conversations, and encounters here have changed my world view, and I anticipate that change becoming more and more profound as the months pass. I have always been a very idealistic person, outspokenly so; and yet I have never made the hard calls, never really followed though on my beliefs. I see that now. I was lazy, scared maybe. Being here, in a place that is so abuzz with politics, I realise that I need to take action.

“For now I am trying to learn to experience people more fully, to open my heart more, and to feed my hunger for knowledge with big ideas from profound thinkers (be they famous or hidden, living or passed). I am reading a lot. I am watching a lot: how people interact, how people respond to their circumstances, what people do in (real) hardship, and contemplating the way I have responded in times that I thought were hard. I have been writing a lot, getting inside myself, trying to be truly honest on the page (which is harder than I could have imagined) and in my encounters with people. I have been thinking, theorising, and also feeling. Sometimes I get sad. Like 2 days ago when I met a young boy begging on the street (by pretending to play the accordion), he was so hard for his age, his life had been so hard.

The Accordion Player: a young boy begs on a Buenos Aires street with a musical prop her cannot master

“It can be really hard to take, you know? There are so many people here who cannot look beyond the next meal. Their future and the futures of their children are totally bleak, and they know it. The most disconcerting thing about it is that many of these people were middle class citizens just 5 or 6 years ago. It makes you realise how powerless we really are in the face of the machine of economy, and how fragile our little lives are in the hands of greedy and (oftentimes) ignorant politicians. We choose to live in a way that totally disempowers us, we choose ignorance and dependance. It’s frightening.

I know all that sounds depressing, and sometimes it is, but the truth is that my eyes are opening, and I am grateful for it.”

My eyes continued to open as the months and years of travel wore on, with every new friend I made, with every child I saw begging in the streets. This world is imbalanced, but it doesn’t have to be. I like to think I am much more active in my life these days, I have moved my life to be more in harmony with my values, and I continue to do so. This was a life changing moment for me, one of many.

I would love to hear about your own life changing memories, if you are willing to share.

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