From my perspective
August 17, 2008
i spent the month of june abroad, living and studying in buenos aires, the capital city of argentina. living in one of the largest cities in the world, i was awed by the diversity and liveliness of the city. during my stay, i studied and learned the spanish language, attending classes and living with a family who made me practice the language until the wee hours of the night. yes, i have fond memories of my time spent in argentina, but what has left the greatest impression on me is the farmers of the country. facing struggling times right now, the farmers and ranchers were protesting the government during my stay in argentina, fighting for fair prices and a decrease in the export tax of their products. the following is a description of an evening i experienced on my journey across argentina.
I’m sitting in a two-decker bus, on the road for my class trip to Mendoza to visit vineyards, see the mountains, and discover the history of one of the largest producers of quality wine in the world. It is going to be a picturesque trip, but there is only one problem… the bus isn´t moving and it has been running idle for nearly an hour. The cause? Rural protesters have made a barricade, eliminating our ability to continue forth on our journey.
As we approached the barricade of parked farm trucks and hanging ropes, a group of bearded men in stocking caps surrounded the bus, lighting up the windows with their flashlights. A few stray dogs barked out our revolving wheels as the bus hissed to a stop. A pile of beef carcasses lay stacked along the side of the road. It’s after midnight, and the only lights I see are of the bonfires lit by the ranchers, seeking justice and fairness.
Around me, everyone in the bus is asleep. My friend Mary and I are plastered to the window, anxious to find out our fate. The men come to the door to speak to our bus driver. In Spanish, their strong accents, muffled voices and rapid conversation make it hard for me to piece together our situation.
As the bus door closes, our driver gets up to tell Mary and I that we would all be safe. We would just need to wait for the barricade to open before we could continue on our voyage. With over 12 hours of driving ahead of us, we know this could be a long night.
For those that may be unaware, farmers and ranchers in Argentina have been on strike for months, refusing to sell their products to stores throughout the country. All in the effort to change government regulations on extremely high export taxes, the ranchers hope to change this policy so food products can be more readily sold around the globe, with increased profits.
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However, the Argentine government sees it differently, refusing to change its policies to end the strike. Their stance on high export taxes is used to keep the domestic prices of food products low for Argentina’s consumers.
So what will become of the ranchers? Will this potential powerhouse in the global agriculture market succeed in their strike? As the bus pulls safely away from the barricade and the protesters, so many questions and thoughts come to mind. Little do I know, we will be stopped three more times throughout the night, extending our long trip to 16 hours. As the lights of the bonfire become a mere glitter in the night, I know that I will never forget the night I saw ranchers standing up for what they believe in. After all, prosperity in agriculture is definitely something worth fighting for.
editor’s note: this is the first in a four-part series from former national beef ambassador amanda nolz and her experiences during her month in argentina. check back next week as she writes about the traditional argentina asado, or barbecue.