By Olivia Puddicombe and Tiffany Grabski.
Yesterday afternoon was an afternoon that we will never forget. Being fortunate enough to be living in Buenos Aires at such an important time for the country, we went down to Plaza de Mayo to spend the afternoon with the people of Argentina witnessing and sharing their grief at the death of a dearly beloved ex-president. Nestor Kirchner’s untimely death has been a sad shock and has affected millions of people. Yesterday however it became clear that the Argentines are not ones to dwell in sadness and grief. While there was an obvious sense of general upset, we were overwhelmed by the feeling of celebration, their joy for the life of a great man. The closest either of us had experienced was the death of Princess Diana. While both of our experiences of this event were very different, based on where we were, and how young we were, we remember it being a far sadder occasion. Yesterday instead of people crying in the streets we saw people dancing and singing. There were tears streaming down their faces, but the overall atmosphere was something much more positive. Their message was clear – it was aimed at Cristina, to tell her ‘you are not alone, we are here, you have our support, we mourn with you.’ It was one of the most powerful and moving afternoons of our lives.
From speaking to various people, we were surprised by their willingness to help us understand their culture and their interest in how our cultures differ so greatly. We were initially quite confused as to whether everyone was there to show support, as some seemed to be there in protest. However a gentleman named Lucas explained to us that the protests were not anti-Kirchner, but against the vice president, who has angered many people by being rather rude and abrupt since the ex-president's death, and failing to follow through with his promises to Argentina. Lucas told us that he was there to express his sadness and to be with the people of his country in such a difficult time. He had arrived the night before at midnight, and remained there to support his government, and show his love for his country. This cleared up a lot for us, giving us a new perspective to the protesting we often see against the government and a completely different view from those expressed from the middle and upper class families we both live with.
Elida, a teacher in La Boca further explained that the people in and around the plaza were feeling a lot of pain for Nestor and for their president. They were sad and worried about the future of their country. Nestor did many things for both his country and for Latin America, and this became clear by the amount of supporters that have turned up to pay their respects. Elida helped us understand the method by which they show their support. She explained that it was normal to unite, and be together in times of pain, and their way of expressing their support is through music, chants, and being together: Something I think countries like ours could learn a lot from. This wasn’t a funeral, or a wake, it was a celebration of all Nestor had accomplished, a thank you for his help and support within Argentina and throughout Latin America, and an offer of support for their country and their leader Cristina, who no doubt is having the hardest time of them all.