The day of the census

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m not sure how countries other than the US conduct the census, but we were surprised by the method employed in Argentina. There is a designated day where everyone stays home and literally waits to be counted. Since it fell on a Wednesday, Joe’s classes were lengthened by one hour all week to account for the lost day. We stocked up on food on a warning that all stores and restaurants would remain closed.

It turned out to be a sunny day and we enjoyed a run through our neighborhood and the “Parks of Palermo”. However, it was no ordinary census day.

We found out from our friend Katie that the sitting president’s husband (also the ex-president) had died that morning. This feels like one of those puzzles where you have to figure out how the president’s husband and the ex-president could both be dead – the trick is the president is a woman. Yes, even as a third world country, Argentina elected a woman president before the US. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s husband, Néstor Kirchner, died suddenly of heart failure at the age of 60.

Katie warned us that we could be in for a weird day. Given Argentina’s turbulent past (see coups, riots), the sudden death of such a prominent politician could ignite both passionate supporters and detractors. That night we watched the television coverage of the public gathering to mourn and demonstrate support for the president. Suddenly we realized…this is all happening just a subway ride away. Why watch virtually when we can observe firsthand?

Many of the chants were actually insults to the Vice President, who has voted against the President on some issues.

Gathered in Plaza de Mayo, hoards of people were waving flags, marching, and chanting. The catchy political songs they sang included the popular “He who doesn’t jump is a traitor!”. Luckily I was able to translate the lyrics to Joe so we blended in better and joined in the jumping. It was somewhat surreal to be surrounded by the masses we had seen less than an hour before on TV.

On the way home we saw city workers rushing to paste up new signs where announcements for weekend festivals and other ads had previously existed. The new posters proclaimed support for Mrs. President. This phenomenon was also observed by a local news website (in English).

The next day, the crowds continued and the subway was free of charge. The ripple effect of delays even reached the professional soccer games, including the date of the Superclasico match. So, even though we found out by chance from a friend, we would have eventually learned the truth. In fact, as we have traveled across the country we have continued to see fresh graffiti in response.

 Memorial Video in Homage to the 54th President of Argentina

See the rest of our photos here.

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