Last week I did a blogpost around the theme of the spanish word "Solidaridad" meaning "kinship" or "fellowship" Solidaridad is something that can happen to you spontaneously but when you are abroad there are little things you can do to create a sense of community and rapport. A few things happened in Buenos Aires that increased the tension of living in the city. The government began putting restrictions on the influx of foreign cash particularly american dollars.
To make a long story short, you can change your foreign cash into pesos but you cannot change your pesos into foreign cash. A desperation for USD began to develop. And it was in that moment that I found out what a "Cacerolazo" was. A "Cacerolazo" is when Argentines take pots and pans from their home and take to the streets banging them in a peaceful protest. Understand that Argentines aren't the stereotype of what you imagine Latin American countries where they get violent. No, they don't get violent..........they get NOISY.
There were several reasons for the non violent protest.........the restrictions on USD being one of them. But even outside of a protest, tension could be felt in daily life. I began noticing signs on stores letting people know that they accept USD, even in little family owned supermarkets. On t.v on Florida Ave where many foreign tourist could be found, Argentines were seen begging on the streets for USD. The trading rate is $1 USD to 4.5 ARS. But on Florida ave people would trade as much as 6 pesos for $1 USD. I joked with my friends saying I should take some of my $USD and got start a riot on Florida ave. My friends and church group can visit me in prison and bring me cake and cookies :P
But this whole situation was another great way to create rapport with local business. The grocery store run by a chinese couple also posted signs saying they accept USD. Their rate was $1 USD to 4.8 ARS, slightly higher than the standard rate. I felt blessed finding someone who was willing to trade at a rate that would end up with me getting extra cash. Although they were paying me more than the standard rate, it ended up being them that felt indebted to me for choosing to do business with them.
The first time I took USD and traded with them it was business as usual. The 2nd time they noticed I was the same girl who traded as before and were really delighted. The third time I traded they began conversing with me and telling me that they send the USD to their daughter in Chile. The USD I was trading with them meant everything to them and they showed their gratitude to me by giving me a little gift of Chinese crackers.
Solidaridad happens in many different ways here in Argentina. It can be in the from of spending a day with friends exploring La Boca. It can be in the form of getting together to bang pots and pans to protest injustice. Or it can come in the form of developing rapport with local business owners. Community happens spontaneously but there are plenty of opportunities to create it.
***at the time this blog was written $1 USD to 4.5 ARS. As of current (march 2013) the value of the USD to the peso is $1 USD to 7.84 ARS
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