Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The unrest in Argentina unsettles this Minnesota mom October 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 4:43 PM
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TYPICALLY, MASS PROTESTS and violence in another country would not overly concern me.

But when your daughter is in that nation’s capital, where left-wing party members have overtaken the streets in massive protests, and where a 23-year-old has been shot and killed during the demonstrations, you pay attention.

Thankfully, I knew none of this until my 22-year-old was safely out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and back in the U.S. My first hint of the political unrest came in an e-mail I opened just hours before her arrival at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport late Thursday morning. She was already in Houston, waiting for her connecting flight to Minnesota, when she e-mailed me.

She wrote of demonstrators blocking traffic on Buenos Aires streets and of a temporary subway system shut-down, resulting in difficulty securing a cab to reach her airport shuttle bus Wednesday evening.

Only later did I learn of the death of Mariano Ferreyra, identified as a Partido Obrero militant. According to the Buenos Aires Herald, Ferreyra was “shot in the chest and killed during a violent confrontation between railroad workers and members of the leftist Worker’s Party (Partido Obrero)” on Wednesday.

Even after reading numerous online newspaper articles about the shooting, the demonstrations, and a blockage of a portion of the Panamericana highway by Kraft Foods Inc. workers, I still don’t understand the situation. And, yes, that would be Illinois-based Kraft which has a plant in suburban Buenos Aires that produces cookies and other food. The Argentine factory was involved in a labor dispute more than a year ago that led to a larger dispute between leftists and the government.

Although my daughter was never in any danger, just the fact that she watched angry protestors march along the street past her apartment toward their gathering spot at the Obelisk 10 blocks away is enough to unsettle me.

The shooting occurred in another area of the city, not anywhere near her home along Avenida Corrientes in the Once/Balvanera neighborhood.

The bottom line in all of this, for me, comes down to my relief that my daughter is back in the United States, far, far away from Argentina’s current discord.

She told me, too, of a two-day strike by garbage collectors that left stinky trash piled high along streets and sidewalks. As in the past, even before the shut-down, she’s seen the cartoneros (which means “cardboard”) collect and dig through garbage.

My daughter likely would have photos to show me of the demonstrators and the garbage, except that she was mugged in a northern Argentina city several weeks before the mess in Buenos Aires. That crime left her without her camera, with only her passport and the emergency funds I wired to her.

Yet, despite all of this, I’m certain, that my daughter would return, in a heartbeat, to Buenos Aires, where on two visits, she’s lived for nearly a year. She loves the culture, the language, the people.

Yet, I hope, that for awhile anyway, she will reside in North, not South, America, where today, for this hour, this minute, life seems calmer to me than on the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


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