For three days I was living with actors, jugglers and clowns. I don’t intend to sound mean – they were clowns. Professional clowns who, along with the others, were artists that were protesting the Buenos Aires Mayor’s decision to close down San Martin Cultural Center in downtown Buenos Aires.
The cultural center has for years been a publicly funded venue for the advancement of performing arts. People from the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires as well as the provinces could come on a nightly basis and see good, free entertainment.
That’s the part that got the Mayor’s knickers in a twist. It was free..
The Mayor who is rumored to be eyeing a run for the Argentine Presidency in 20156 thought he found a sure-fire way to raise some capital – he screwed up when he underestimated the willpower of the artists and the public’s desire to have a cultural center.
The San Martin cultural center is a complex that consists of three buildings which house offices, dressing rooms and theaters.
Two years ago the city started shutting down one building a floor at a time under the guides of “renovation”. What the mayor failed to mention to anyone was that when a floor had been “renovated” it was NOT returned to the artists for their use but rather rented out to corporations who were willing to pay top dollar for office space in a less-than-desirable part of the city.
When the artists saw what was going on, they decided to put a stop to it and barricaded themselves into a theater on the sixth floor.
That was two years ago and they’ve been there ever since. With city and federal “policia” occupying the floors above and below the sixth floor, the “occupiers” have not had a choice but to stay put.
With food and water raised to them in a bag on a rope by supporters and bodily waste lowered back to the street, the occupiers are determined to protect the last vestigae of this cultural center.
In the meantime, on January 2nd, about 100 protesters pitched tents and took up living iin the open air walkway on the first floor of the adjacent building.
Showing support fro their friends who are trapped on the sixth floor, the new occupiers take to the streets to raise awareness of what the city is doing and demand a stop to the commercialization and monetizing of what has historically been a free service offered to Buenos Aires residence.
Jerry Nelson is a professional freelance photographer and journalist. Recognized throughout America, he is currently based in South America. Besides contributing regularly to many of the worlds largest media outlets, Nelson also writes and photographs for non-profit agencies wanting to tell their story in words and pictures. To see Nelson’s work or to contract with him, visit his website, JourneyAmerica