Saturday, May 24, 2008

How To Celebrate 25 de Mayo

Tomorrow is “25 de Mayo” here, the commemoration of Argentina’s “Revolution Day,” to label it as simply as possible. Why and how should we celebrate? Given the current political climate, the prediction is that tomorrow could be a very memorable day here.

First, the holiday itself does provide sufficient motive to celebrate. Tomorrow will mark the 198th anniversary of the end of Spanish rule and the beginning of local rule. That earliest government turned out to be the first of several juntas in Argentine history. However, it was a civilian one elected by and composed of Buenos Aires “criollos,” i.e., the Spanish-heritage upper class. Taking advantage of the power vacuum that had recently been created by Napoleon's defeat of Spanish King Ferdinand, these civic-minded citizens were installed without the usual military coup.

So how should we observe this date? Roberto tells me that during his childhood, the day was marked by military parades, but after the horrors of later military juntas, the soldiers and tanks gave way to marching school children. And now even that has pretty much withered away.

Stymied, I did a quick web search which landed me on Ehow (where you check out its hysterical 7-step guide to becoming a gaucho as well). I reviewed the few suggestions for "How to Celebrate Argentina’s Revolution Day in Los Angeles," most of which centered around talking, tango and eating. Find your local Argentine restaurant or make the famous colonial stew. Chat with some Argentinians. Food, fun, fellowship are all very Argentinian, so go for it, I say.

And in fact, few years ago on this date, I enjoyed just that with a local family that thoughtfully invited me over to taste the traditional dish, called “locro.” I scarfed down two servings of this amazingly chunky stew with corn (still on the cob!), white beans, beef, intestine, pork, squash, onions, fat, and seasonings. I have yet to make it but now have a good recipe.

Instead of slurping stews or savoring grilled gaucho beef, tomorrow we will brown bag it with ham and cheese sandwiches in order to attend a huge pro-farm rally at the Flag Monument in Rosario, the nearby big city, second in importance only to Buenos Aires (okay, maybe tied with Cordoba). Rosario, natives told me, was once known as the Argentine Chicago. I innocently assumed the nickname stemmed from its dominance as the grain-shipping capital, but no, no, no! Eighty years ago Rosario teemed with immigrants, mafias, corrupt police, and bordellos, the latter luminously, colorfully captured in the paintings of a local artist Pat Vidour.

So tomorrow, in what is now arguably the most livable city in Argentina (thriving under 22 continuous years of progressive Socialist management), perhaps 500,000 persons will enjoy a sun-filled rally and the biggest headache for the viciously anti-farm Peronist President. Cristina, much to her dismay, is stuck with her prior arrangements to celebrate in Salta, leaving her beleagued staff scurrying to attract folks to the government rally by adding a top-notch free music show.

Fearing the likely attendance comparisons which will follow, government ministers pressured farm leaders to quash the farm rally by refusing to negotiate over the soy blockade. No way, they said, and besides, how can you stop a half a million people who've already figured out that hanging out by the Flag Monument on the shores of the Parana is a very patriotic and pleasant way to spend a national holiday?

[A writer smarter than me will figure out how to get more miles--oops, kilometers--out of the 1810-2008 parallel of grass-roots activism against a perceived tyrant obviously out of touch with the people. Please send me a copy.]

Then after we get home from Rosario, just to meet the Peronist ante and raise it, we’ll get out the malbec, put on some traditional Argentine music followed by some tangos, and then call it a day. A really good day!

[Note: Independence Day is celebrated on July 9, for on that date in 1816 all of the existing provinces issued a declaration separating them permanently from Spain. Let's hope Argentina will be able to celebrate town-country unity then!]


Barullo said...

Maybe tied with Cordoba?????
Argumento de perdedores. Sigan participando.
Es sólo una cargada. Muy lindo tu blog.

Agustín said...

I wouldn't call it "Revolution Day". Up to that day, there hadn't been argentine governments around here. They were all Spanish. May 25th is the day we celebrate our first argentine government.

Gayle said...

Thanks, Agustin,
I love the positive way you put it!
From now on I'll call it "Celebration-of-First-Argentine Government Day" (got something simpler to share) your blog photo!