Our local railway station hub is Constitución with 14 tracks above and 2 Subte lines below. It’s the only station for journeys south of BA and surprisingly has one of the largest railway concourses in the world, running the entire length of a city block, and then some. Completed in 1925, but looking very 19thCentury, it’s very grand and very busy, with many hundreds of people milling around all of the time.
Constitución brings Porteños from the outlying suburbs of A. Korn, Bosques, Ezeiza (the International Airport), Berzazategui, and Glew (wonderfully pronounced, hear link beneath – is there a Welsh connection? Ant) and the very-Pommie-named Claypole. Also taking in the beer capital of the region, Quilmes.
We’ve been warned about hanging around here, mostly from taxi drivers who tell us to wind up our windows when we get close to the station. It’s meant to be rough, real rough, and definitely not the place to be at night.
During the day when we walk over to the Subte, we’re often met with streaming crowds out of the station, bearing union banners, drums and whistles, meeting up before marching off and causing major disruption somewhere in the city – every single day. This morning below our window three buses assembled with dozens of male workers piling on – we now realise that the rather grand building opposite us is in fact a union headquarters. The workers were equipped with slogan-bearing vests, banners on poles and were being riled up by officials as they got on the bus. Quite a rowdy scene – I imagine that this is happening all over the city. Teachers across the country go on a two-day strike today whilst there are murmurs in the media about another looming 2-day general strike in November. I can appreciate the hardships that these austerity measures are having on ordinary people, but when a country is getting enormous bailouts from the IMF, there’s no other option than severe belt-tightening. There is no money to hand out, let alone provide wage increases. It’s a sorry affair that’s for sure.
But as reported earlier, the demonstrations are peaceful on the whole if not incredibly disruptive and noisy. Just don’t get stuck in a taxi behind one of these marches – best to get out and walk – though having just read the front page of the BA Times (English language), yesterday’s demonstrations outside of Congress (where I was just the day before in the midst of the crowds) turned ugly and dozens of people were arrested and detained for setting bins alight, knocking down security banners and throwing rocks at the police. Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of things getting a whole lot worse.