Whoever moves around on wheels in Buenos Aires, preferably crossing the avenida 9 de Julio direction Microcentro will, sooner or later (well actually, rather sooner then later), come across them. They are probably one of the most typical features of Buenos Aires : the piqueteros.
Piqueteros are, according to Wikipedia “members of a political faction whose primary modus operandi is based in the piquete. The piquete is an action by which a group of people blocks a road or street with the purpose of demonstrating and calling attention over a particular issue or demand. The trend was initiated in Argentina in the mid-1990s, during the Administration of President Carlos Menem, soon becoming a frequent form of protest that still prevails on the South American socio-political scene”.
They carry banners, they play drums and they sing. It looks like fun. At least, as long as you are not the one sitting in a taxi trying to get to your destination. The taxi drivers are probably the people who hate them most, and if you want to have a lively conversation to practice your lunfardo, well then just mention them to your driver and off you go.
Every day I have class in Microcentro, and when I jump into a taxi and say the address, the driver looks at me in his rearview mirror with a face like : “This is going to be a looooong trip”, as if he wants to say “do you really want to go there?”. And each time he does this, the driver makes me consider skipping class. Each time I answer his look with the same question : “Is the road blocked?”. Although sometimes I get a “thank God not today” as an answer, more often it is a “we’ll see” or “yes! On 3 different places”. And then sometimes he just says “I am sorry but it is impossible, I will get you as close as possible but you should better walk or take the Subte”. On one day I arrive in class in 15 minutes, the next day it takes me 1 hour and a half. Well that would only be because I on that day I am wearing my highest stilettos, as it takes me less then an hour to walk to school.
How many times did I have to hear the taxi drivers say that they are sure this does not happen in my country, that over there certainly the police stops blockades, that this country is F*** Up, that this government is useless and is to blame for everything.
I have stopped asking why they are protesting, because no one really knows. Which makes me really wonder what the use of this piquetes is.
Sometimes it is a just a small road that is blocked. Mostly they take over very strategic places. The 9de Julio, Corrientes, Cordoba, and every important road that leads to the Casa Rosada. Sometimes it seems that they just stop the economy from going. Like today. The evening rush hour of Thursday was exceptionally busy as many people take an extended weekend knowing that today there will be no way to get to work. The busses to my kids school don’t drive so they are having another day off. People avoid going to Microcentro all together. Today Moyano (the head of the Unions, controlling the truckers and thus one of the most powerful men in Argentina) decided it was time to paralyse the city. Today, Friday the 29th of april, they are celebrating the “1st of may”. Which unfortunately, this year falls on a Sunday. 300,000 People are expected to come to town to protest, all come with busses. Chaos will be complete.
This is only possible in Argentina…