There is no doubt in my mind that if the government and the people of Argentina had a fb page where they had to set their relationship status, their status would be set to "complicated". It seems as if every single time is ready to throw in the towel and give the "It's not you it's me" speech, the other throws a curve ball to keep them at arms length.
One of the places I hadn't been to on my last few trips was a little park called "Plaza Almagro". Sometimes exploring even the tiniest and most insignificant of places can bring gigantic results and this day was no exception. It somehow worked out that my first visit would happen on the weekend. Unbeknownst to me there is a large open air market that happens in Plaza Almagro only on the weekends. Prices for food are dirt cheap and as a result lineups are long and getting there early is an absolute if you want first dibs.
Most of you out there know that open air markets aren't something foreign to Latin America. But what makes Argentina slightly different is that this is one of those government endorsed public markets. It isn't just a bunch of farmers setting up their stalls. No, this public market has a specific time and weekly schedule. The prices are already pre-approved and fixed beforehand. In fact I saw a sign on one of the carts that said "The city combats inflation".
Now this is where things get tricky because things in the government are also the very cause of inflation. An inflation rate they insist to be 10-12% but private analyst have said that it is as high as 29% and climbing. As innocent as an open out door market may seem, the motivation behind it has lots to do with wanting to remain buddy buddy with the people. Give innocent civilians reason to have their hope restored in the economy and convince them that the government is on their side with ultra low prices.
The day I discovered this feria (fair), the low priced feria fever hit me too. I came away from there clutching 15 farm fresh eggs that I had purchased for 8.75 pesos ($2 USD). When it came to this fair, there is only one resolve.......get there EARLY. I gotta admit that in an inflation-riddled economy, there is something skipping merrily along down the sidewalk knowing that you came away with a steal that somehow makes you magically forget for the moment that lots of things are going on behind the scenes of the government that is bringing up food prices in the first place. There was a similar campaign from the government earlier in their promise to provide "Meat for All" by sending out trucks full of cuts of meat at fixed low prices as part of the battle against inflation.
Where all this is going, nobody really knows. For now, I'm just happy to be skipping merrily along like little red riding hood with a basket full of ultra low priced eggs on my way to grandmas house....