Yesterday, while walking in a barrio near the centre of the city, off the tourist track altogether, we came upon a Socialist Party campaign office. It reminded me of a similar store-front office not far from where we stayed in Paris a few years ago. The rose in hand is a symbol commonly used by Socialist Parties around the world.
The office was on the opposite side of the street and there were several men standing outside. They appeared friendly, if not comrade-like and when they saw my apparent interest one of them waved us over. At least that's what I thought he was doing. "Fellow comrades in the struggle" I said to myself. So across the street we went. We were greeted warmly. As I looked inside the office, however briefly, I was struck by the general calamity of the place; boxes everywhere, dust and disarray: a disaster. The election had come and gone long ago and I imagined some sort of relocation might be taking place.
We engaged our comrades in friendly banter, and some political discussion. At times discussion was difficult due to the language problem, but I recognized various words such as "politicos" and "movimiento." Sherry, naturally thinking the local Socialist office would be in touch with various groups around the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, asked about the office for the Abuelas (the Grandmothers), telling our new friends she was doing research on the subject for a play she was writing. "Ah, si senora. Si." They were an attentive group indeed, and willing to help a comrade from Canada. At one time we had four comrades gathered round us, all assisting as best they could with Sherry's questions, and my continuing ramblings in Spanglish about nationalizing the giant media company: Clarin. Again the words, "politicos" and "movimiento" came up and I knew we were having a political discussion, albeit with some minor restrictions on my part. Still, I wondered, why did several of these men appear on the sidewalk without shirts, and in one case without teeth, and wearing big boots? Aren't the new socialists better dressed than that?
Our friends were especially willing to help, though they didn't have a clue about the Abuelas, which seemed strange for fellow travellers. Before long the younger comrade in the Che t-shirt decided to call the Socialist Party HQ. And yes, now answers would be provided. Sherry and I continued to ask questions about life in Argentina and if our friends appreciated the work of Presidente Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Again, there was talk of "politicos" and "movimiento".
Only this time I heard, for the first time, "no politicos" and "camion en movimiento." I remembered something about "camion" being a truck. Hmmm.... Looking around I noticed a large, run-down truck on the street just ahead of the Party office. The smiling face of one of my comrades met mine. "Si senor, el camion en movimiento!"
As it turned out, these nice fellows were renting the space vacated by the Socialist Party candidate. When they were saying "politico" they were actually saying they were not political, but operating a moving company for the father of the young man in the Che t-shirt. And he wasn't on the phone to Socialist Party Headquarters, but to his dad. The name of the moving company is, of all things, presented in English, not Spanish, as "The Wolf Moving Company." A capitalist enterprise to be sure.
We didn't get any answers to our questions. We did learn some Spanish. And I'd like to think we made some friends. And if you ever need a moving company...
Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.