The Argentina Autonomista Tour visited Edinburgh on the 2nd and 3rd of July, arriving from Glasgow before moving on to Ulverston.
Graciela (pictured) from the Argentina Autonomista Project had a full timetable with interviews with the BBC and the Big Issue, showing slides in the Forest Cafe linked to a Q & A session, and presenting a puppet show in the evenings.
Neka, from the Unemployed Workers Movement in Argentina, gave her talks in Spanish, and they were translated into English in the Q & A session.
The event in the local Muirhouse Millennium Centre was excellent, and many locals helped to make it happen in a collaborative effort.
The Pilton Partnership lent their film projector, so the audience was able to, not only imagine but also see the images of events, groups, campaigns and places in Argentina.
The local Muirhouse Millennium Centre staff encouraged and participated in the set-up of the event and left no wish unfulfilled.
Some videos were shown to give an impression of the situation in Argentina, and then the highlight of the night started: Graciela’s puppet show!
In simple words, with songs and puppets, Graciela told the story of modern Argentina.
Everything in Argentina’s recent history was covered; from the dictatorship and the resisting ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’, to the factory occupations, financial collapse with the people losing all their savings and sliding into unemployment, poverty and road protests. The audience clapped and sang throughout her performance, learning about these complex issues through the eyes of Evida, the homeless woman picking cardboard on the streets of Buenes Aires.
After the adults’ inner child was stirred by the puppet show, Neka talked about her own experiences and her take on history. She discussed the options and praxis of her group and the movement.
The audience was enthusiastic about the puppet show as a means of education and amazed about the astonishing things, Neka had to tell. It was important to get a visual impression from the slides and the videos shown. Over £100 was donated to Neka’s Unemployed Workers Group, which aim is to start a collective food kitchen.
The financial collapse of Argentina saw many people lose all their money when the currency collapsed, and the majority of the population found themselves without work or food. The state did not pay any benefits and people did not know how to survive. Factories were closed as the owners couldn’t pay wages or obtain raw materials.
Out of this situation, people came together, unsure and not knowing how to cope with the future. They started discussing and finding solutions, running collaborative volunteer projects, organised by everyone in a non-hierarchical way.
We invited the Autonomista Tour to North Edinburgh, to inform people about Argentina’s history, but also to show how poor people in the hardest of situations can help themselves by sticking together as friends and neighbours in their community, and by founding groups, initiatives and councils to overcome hardship.
The tour, in itself, was a success, with over £1000 being raised for Neka to take back to Argentina. This money will be used to fund a neighbourhood health centre.