The Pink House

I think it was Antonio Banderas in the film Evita who trilled about the crowds outside the Casa Rosada 'crying Eva Perón', after her death. She died young at 33 but remains a national heroine for her championing of the working classes. That song 'Oh What A Circus' was written to symbolise the drama of her life and the criticism from some that she served as less of an inspirational leader than was purported.

I headed to Buenos Aires' main Plaza de Mayo to see some of the city's most famous sights. There was so much construction work that crowds would find it hard to gather, cry or chant about anything outside the Casa Rosada. However a group of women called Las Madres (mothers) de Plaza de Mayo maintain the Argentinian tradition of civic action by protesting regularly about the disappearance of their children during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 80s.

By today I was far enough into this holiday to have spent a lot of time alone, reading the news, especially about the latest political disasters in the US. I have been getting increasingly despondent at the left/right political divide that is inescapable on social media.

People are so reductive in their commentary and so susceptible to populist soundbites with little basis in rational thought. I include myself in this at times, although I like to think I also adhere to a mindset of equipping myself with information and I thank my parents for encouraging me to be an avid reader when young.

It's clear that many don't have a similar desire, and I find the number of falsities that have found their way into popular beliefs (e.g. Obama is a Muslim terrorist, Hillary Clinton sold Haitian orphans) utterly, incredibly, depressing.

Speaking Spanish while here (an American in El Salvador ten years ago termed me 'proficient' - interpret that as you wish), I've realised that a compromised vocabulary and incomplete literacy lend themselves very well to poor quality debates and failure to grasp nuances.

When I have tried to discuss political and social issues in Spanish, I can't do it with the complexity needed. This is much the same as native English speakers pitching in on issues that they don't have the words to articulate. This sounds like I am trying to cut the average person out of political discussions, which isn't true, as I'm one of them. I just wish more Average Joes would read more, and absorb information from a variety of sources to be able to exhibit more critical and balanced thinking, and hold off from turning all social media discussions into racist tirades.

Until standards of literacy improve, media outlets revolutionise the way they disseminate information, or demagogues stop wilfully spreading falsities, I needed a break from the news.

In Argentina nights out begin at 1am. This is ludicrous, but I rolled with it and went to drink some beers with a new friend, Erlyn from Colombia. As the metro had long wound up for the night, heading out at 12.30am I could be found talking to Ivan, an Uber driver who'd lived in Manchester, about Argentinian politics and the national culture of protest. He was interested in how African leaders are held to account less than they would be in Latin American societies. I think it's related to lower levels of empowerment and access to information and education. Where there is a strong culture of democracy, an education system that (in theory) supports high levels of literacy and no real barriers to accessing information, such as in the UK and USA, ignorance is pitiful and tragic.

Sign in or get an account to comment.