The Power of Paro

Elizabeth Azevedo
April 8, 2017

I had heard about the regularity of strikes and demonstrations in Buenos Aires but it’s something completely different experiencing it. On April 6, there was a general strike (paro general) of many labor unions and businesses who are currently against government policies and practices; there would be no public transportation, no banks open, and many businesses would be closed. Walking down the streets of Buenos Aires that day was odd. There is always some sort of noise in the city, the honking of cars, someone yelling, motorcycles speeding off—Buenos Aires could truly give New York a run for its money with the whole the-city-that-never-sleeps thing. However, the streets were almost deserted this day (in fact, I had made my walk to the IES Abroad building in record time). I found it profoundly awestriking how a movement like this could happen—an entire city banning together and speaking up. It’s an occurrence that happens in Buenos Aires, and Argentina more broadly, very often and as such becomes part of everyday life (for instance, I just received another email about a strike occurring outside the U.S. Embassy tomorrow). Argentines have realized the power of one’s voice and are not afraid to use it.

I think I am in awe of the scale of this civic engagement because it is so rare to see this within the United States. The current political climate is contentious, to say the least, and there is a sense of uncertainty for our future as a nation. My Facebook newsfeed has been filled with political commentary and news stories every day for, what feels like, the past year. However, this seems to be as far as our civic engagement goes. Now, this is not to say that people should be crowding the street and shouting from the rooftops every day though I do believe that we could use our collective voice much better. The sense of community forged by this shared action is palpable, something I believe is lacking in the U.S. We often act independently instead of looking for someone to stand alongside to make our voices louder.


Photo cred: my amazing roommate Hanna

Photo cred: my amazing roommate Hanna

Although the paro essentially shut down the city, it broke the monotony of the week. While studying and living abroad is new and exciting, you eventually do fall into a routine. Deciding to take full advantage of the empty streets and quiet city, some friends and I decided to have an afternoon picnic, settling in this great modern park on top of a hill overlooking the city. We sat and enjoyed mate looking over the sunset (something I may have to start doing weekly), simply enjoying the good weather and each other’s company. With so much to do in the city, I often forget how pleasurable it is to do nothing—not in a rush to be somewhere or get something done. Although we were later eaten alive by mosquitos, it was a great reset for the body and mind in the middle of the week. Maybe I need to start paro por la picnic

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Elizabeth Azevedo

<p>Come one, come all on this adventure of a lifetime! I&#39;m Elizabeth, known to many as Liz and Avocado by some. Originally from Northern California, I am currently studying Communication Studies and American Culture at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. I&#39;ve decided to take my education beyond the bounds of the United States and head to Buenos Aires, Argentina!! Follow me along this journey as I navigate a new country and try to remember Spanish!</p>

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