So, yesterday was an interesting day in Buenos Aires. By 4pm, it seemed the so-called Mayan apocalpyse predicted for December 21, 2012 had hit us a couple weeks early, featuring:
- a toxic cloud of pesticides covering the city
- ensuing evacuation of downtown schools and offices
- torrential rain that flooded several neighborhoods with one meter of water
- suspended train and subway services
- a mass robbery of a local mall
- a bus drivers’ union strike
- injunction of major pending law to deregulate the national media
- a freakishly beautiful, fiery sunset (hello, pesticides)
Thursday morning I woke up late to a strange smell: something resembling green bean casserole. I remember lifting my head from the pillow thinking, Wha? Is my roommate cooking this morning? I dismissed the smell for a few more minutes of snoozing. Then when I finally decided to start my day, I checked the front page of Argentina’s largest national newspaper, Clarin, and saw that my roommate was not, in fact, cooking anything at all– a container full of pesticides in Puerto Madero was mistakenly assumed to be on fire and released a toxic pesticide cloud over the entire downtown area after firefighters tried to put out the “fire” but instead converted the powdered pesticides into a hazardous, fast-moving gas after drenching it in large amounts of water.
Apparently downtown offices and schools were evacuated and everybody got a free afternoon off (burning lungs included free of charge!). It was the typical story: the government assured the public that the cloud was not toxic while agronomic experts warned that the particular pesticide in question was actually incredibly toxic in gas form. (Yippee!) The smell ended up clearing up by mid- afternoon– just as strangely intense rains overtook the city and started to make it flood. So in less than 5 hours we went from toxic gas to overwhelming rain!
Several neighborhoods got the shit kicked out of them with water overload, and poor people had to be rescued as they tried to navigate the waist-high water. The enormous Pan American highway was entirely shut down. Fortunately I got to spend most of the day inside as Thursday is my day off from teaching, but to additionally attest to the strength of the rain, when I opened my bedroom window for two minutes, rain came in and soaked the floor, no interfering wind necessary.
And apparently shit went down in other parts of BsAs too– a local mall got stormed by 50 people who seemed to be there to rob stores, but it turns out they were protesting unfair water drainage from the mall that had flooded their settlement nearby. Plus there was a temporary strike of bus drivers AND local trains and subways were shut down, so you couldn’t get the hell out of this city even if you wanted to.
To end the day of freakish chaos, we were all rewarded with a beautiful sunset that seemed unusually sweet given the horrors of the day– and then we all remembered that it was probably due to the pesticide cloud we had been gifted earlier.
This was all hilariously and beautifully summed up by a local reporter whose weekly news summary I read every week. Adrian Bono, you make me laugh out loud every Friday, thanks.
Aah, Buenos Aires. I still love you in all your fucked-up glory.