Some Argentinians are not very happy with their new president—I don’t blame them.

Many more are very unhappy with the crazy inflation, the economy, and a litany of issues any Argentinian will be happy to share as soon as you ask “¿Cómo estás?” (unlike in North America, “How are you?” isn’t merely a greeting).

But Argentina has been unhappy with Argentina for a long, long time. In February 2002, we innocently crossed from Santiago to Buenos Aires in the middle of the Great Depression—we had no idea what was going on since we weren’t exactly connected back then. Twenty years later, it feels like nothing has changed. This is as deep as my insights go because I can barely keep up with French and Canadian politics so forgive me for not offering a full (and probably biased) analysis.

I decided to go to Argentina before Milei was elected and I didn’t change my mind after he was. I don’t live in Argentina, I have no right to criticize their vote—it’s a democracy. Besides, I feel France and Canada have their own idiots, it’s a worldwide issue. Why can’t everyone embrace far-left politics, like, come on…

Then I learned that January 24 would be “Día de huelga general,” a national strike day. I wasn’t overly worried—I’m French, tear gas is my fifth language.

I didn’t have anything planned on January 24. I would be in Buenos Aires in my second Airbnb. I briefly considered going to Uruguay for a day, a popular choice among stressed-out American travellers who think they’re going to catch communis, when the words “strike” and “protest” are uttered out loud, but I decided against it because the one-hour ride across Río de la Plata​ is almost $100 and Uruguay is quite expensive.

My first tiny but cozy Airbnb was a block away from the National Congress. I got used to seeing a protest every day—even the “vaccine give you COVID” crazy people showed up last Monday, banging on pots.

“I’ll be in the other Airbnb on National Strike Day,” I told Feng. “Should be away from the action, it’s on Lavalle.”

Except that Lavalle is a few blocks away from Plaza de Mayo and protesters usually walk from Plaza de Mayo to the Congress. Somehow, I forgot about it.

“Are protests usually… peaceful?” I asked my Airbnb host when I moved in.

“When it’s the first of the series,” she replied.

“Do you have enough food and everything?” my Brazilian friend inquired the night before. “It’s probably best to stay home…”

“I don’t and I won’t,” I replied. “It’s just a strike and a protest!”

The protest was scheduled for noon. I didn’t rush out to see what was going on because I had work to do and because I suspected that noon was an optimistic start date (that’s almost breakfast time in the late-night life of Argentinians).

At 1 p.m., protesters were marching from Plaza de Mayo to the Congress. I took a few pictures. It was peaceful and lively, with drummers. “It’s a bloco!” my Brazilian friend ironically commented.

I took side streets to reach the Congress. Again, crowded but peaceful. All the cops in Buenos Aires seem to be about twenty years old and they don’t look very scary. Most were just standing around, smoking and drinking mate.

I found it funny that a big team of street medics was waiting for protesters at the Congress. Plaza de Mayo to the Congress is a 1.9-km walk along the very flat Avenida de Mayo, hardly a long, difficult road. Like, you’re gonna make it, guys.

Then I went to explore a different neighbourhood and I moved on with my day.

Eventually, I walked back to my Airbnb, planning to shop for food and water along the way.

Strangely, all the shops were closed or closing.

“How come everything is closed?” I asked my friendly Colombian cash dealer at the front of my building.

“It’s National Strike Day!”

“But everything was open earlier…?”

“Strike day starts at 4 p.m.”

Right. Totally doesn’t make sense.

National strike day announced, Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National strike day announced, Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National strike day announced, Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National strike day announced, Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires
"They should all go!", graffiti on Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
“They should all go!”, graffiti on Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
"They should all go!", graffiti on Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
“They should all go!”, graffiti on Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida de Mayo, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
More laws, less rights, Buenos Aires
More laws, less rights, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Buenos Aires

Around 6 p.m., I decided to walk from Plaza de Mayo to the Congress to see if Buenos Aires was still protesting.

It was pretty quiet.

I met a couple of twenty-something travellers from Chile at the Avenida 9 de Julio. Like me, they were curious to document the protest and interact with the protesters. We walked together to the Congress, three protest experts.

“Okay, in Chile, things would be burning by now.”

I know! And look at the police, it’s like… they don’t care.”

“OMG, look at that, political pamphlet littering the street. That violent.”

We burst out laughing.

“Is it normal that we can’t smell tear gas?”

“I’m freaking out. This is disturbingly peaceful.”

We finally made it to the Congress where we witnessed the most bizarre scene.

“Now, here’s a picture-worthy moment… but what the hell is going on?”

A long line of police officers, all in black, was protecting… absolutely nothing.

“Nobody is taunting them!”

“That’s crazy.”

We stood there, a big WTF moment. Nothing was going on. Just… you know, police officers trying to look scary, I suppose.

Well, this was a cultural experience.

National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires
National Strike Day, Plaza del Congreso, Buenos Aires

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