Today (Saturday, September 28th) is el Día de Lucha por al Despenalización y Legalización del Aborto en America Latina y el Caribe. (I’m hoping you non-Spanish speakers can figure out the significance of this day, considering the majority of the words are cognates). This Friday, Laura and I headed over to Congreso de la Nación (Congress building) to see the organizations that came together with Un Abrazo Verde al Congreso por el Derecho al Aborto to reclaim the debate of the bill on Termination of Pregnancy submitted by the campaign for the fourth time in 2012. Everyone was wearing green panuelos in support, with huge banners all gathered in front of the Congress building. It was fascinating to watch everyone from young college students to indigenous women to men participate in chants and listen to the speakers. They even opened up the microphone for any and all to say their peace – express their opinions on the need for legal, secure, and free abortion.
This protest gathering occurred from 12pm – 2pm on Friday. After some shopping and café time, Laura and I went our separate ways home for the night around 6pm. Suddenly, I received a text and call from Laura telling me to come back down towards Congreso. Immediately. If I wanted to see a real protest with drums and tons of people, I needed to book it back there. And I did. I rushed the 14ish blocks back towards Laura, though it was getting windier and colder and my sandals couldn’t keep up with my quick pace and the disarray they call a sidewalk here. Just my luck, one of my sandals broke two blocks away from the protesting. But let me tell you, it was so so worth it.
From a block away, I could already hear the chanting and drums. As I made my way to the corner of Callao and Rivadavia, I was in awe by what I saw. It was a HUGE protest. Hundreds and hundreds of people had begun marching in protest for legal and free abortion. They were planning on walking from Congreso all the way down Avenida de Mayo to Plaza de Mayo. It’s a solid 12 blocks, including crossing the seven avenues of 9 de Julio. Although our program prevents us from participating in protests, (no one wants to be liable if we get arrested) Laura and I took tons of photos and videos and followed the protesters all the way to the Plaza. It was incredible. A few college women ran from sidewalk to sidewalk, spray-painting the walls or streets or park benches with phrases like Aborto Legal and Bisexuales Feministas. There were so many different organizations present, and a large amount of men participating as well. Everyone was committed to holding their signs while dancing or shouting or playing drums in protest.
Laura and I were dumbstruck, watching so many people come together to fight for what they believe in. It shows how powerful a group of people can be when we all believe in something so passionately. Not only were they fighting to legalize abortion, but they also believed that their government should allow it to be free.
As the march got closer to the Plaza, it really hit me. Once again, women were utilizing the Plaza de Mayo (as so many have before them) to create a political protest and let their voices be heard. At one point, I was in the middle of videoing some of the protesters, but suddenly when I looked around again Laura was gone. Nowhere to be found. Not in the march, not outside of it. For a solid two minutes, I was afraid she had been taken. (Yes, that’s how quickly my mind wanders to worst-case scenario land). And of course, I didn’t have any minutes on my phone to call her…
Thankfully, I turned around again to see her bolting through the crowd at me. She grabbed my hand, dragged me through the march to the other side, pointed and shouted, “Look!”. Low and behold, behind two long and intimidating rows of policemen and women, were the opposition. There were no more than 30 of them behind one large sign and two Argentine flags. The sign plainly read, “Si A La Vida/No Al Aborto”. What was more fascinating to us was that there was a large line of policemen guarding and protecting these protesters, and four feet in front of them was a large line of policewomen. We still don’t understand the significance of this – perhaps the protesters would be less likely to bombard a line of women over men?
At one point, both protests were mere feet from each other, with only the police separating them. The large group of marchers had no intention of causing a real riot, though we could see police squads in more protective gear quietly and subtlety lining the outside areas of the Plaza on streets from afar, in case anything got violent or too out of hand.
Not to worry, it was very peaceful and Laura and I left completely unscathed. But we were definitely moved by what we had just experienced. As a Women’s Studies major, Laura could completely empathize with my excitement towards the way these women have put their rights and their beliefs into their own hands to create change.
This is what my Lumen research is all about. I’m quickly realizing that organizations here aren’t what create progress in the movement for women’s rights and gender equality. Sure, feminists and other women utilize these organizations and institutions. But it’s how they put these needs out into their community, by protesting and speaking out. As they should.
P.S. Apologies for my lack of blog posts lately. Life here just got super busy, and I owe you some updates! Patience, young grasshopper. In time they will come.