Pot Banging and a Smoke Storm: 2008 in Buenos Aires

Part One of a Two-Part Series

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As we jump headlong into 2009, I want tell you (belatedly, thanks to my editor) about five events that took place in Buenos Aires in the past year that shaped the city's face, hearts, minds and cultural landscape. One way or another, these events went deep into its subconcious and helped make the year what it was.

No. 1: The pot-banging protests.

It happened as the federal government was in conflict with the farmers unions over a taxation law. The country was nearly paralyzed, political differences were turning into incendiary speeches and demonstrations, and social unrest was growing. In the night of March 25, the city's inhabitants took the protest to the streets in one of the shapes that has been mostly used in the past years: the "cacerolazo," or pot-banging protest. All you have to do to participate in one is get to the street or your balcony with a pot and a spoon and shake them until the noise spreads to your neighbors, down the next street, and from there to the entire town. In this case, the March cacerolazos were a turning point in the conflict, which ended with the government losing its political battle in the National Congress and the law not being passed. Here's a brief look at what a cacerolazo looks like, if you've never been into one:

No. 2: The Storm of Smoke.

The Storm of Smoke also happened in the midst of the conflict between the farmers and the government. Nobody knows how it started or who started it. And only the rain was able to finally stop it (despite the army's and firemen's efforts). But when the farmlands surrounding the city were put afire like never before in its 200-plus-year history, Buenos Aires was totally engulfed in smoke. Masks and chinstraps were quickly exhausted from retailers shelves, and the hospitals were flooded with people with allergies and respiratory problems. Below is a brief video I found that describes the situation pretty well. Luckily, the smoke is gone for good now, and we are free to breathe the mix of smog and pure air that you would enjoy in any major city around the world.

Check in later this week for the rest of my top five.

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