Smoke on the Horizon in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Ahumado
As I’m sure many of you faithful readers already know, Buenos Aires has been enshrouded in smoke for the last week making breathing easy over the weekend all but a fantasy. Visibility just yesterday was about 200 meters from my balcony and we did everything we could do to keep the smoke out and avoid going outside. We even avoided doing laundry as long as possible as we knew that hanging the clothes out to dry would only make them absorb more smoke—great if you want some salmon ahumado or panceta ahumada (smoked salmon and smoked bacon), but not if you want to breathe. Yesterday, I was even suffering preliminary respiratory symptoms caused by smoke inhalation and exposure like burning eyes, nose and throat, congestion and coughing.
I had heard a lot on the news about how the farmers to the north of Buenos Aires had decided to burn their fields all at the same time (as opposed to their normal sequential burnings) as a sign of protest to the government’s proposed hike on beef exports. Then I heard the fires were out of control and that the firefighting teams had been prevented from doing their jobs by some sort of government bureaucracy. Then I heard that the government was simply outlawing field burning and that the farmers wanted to get in under the wire so that they could avoid buying expensive (cough, cough) land tillers to keep their soil healthy. Then I heard that the government may turn to criminal prosecution of these farmers. Then I heard some fellow expats talking about their disgust with the BBC’s Argentine correspondent for having gotten the story wrong….
So who knows the reality of the why… All I know is that I have never actually been in a city where I could imagine a scenario for massive rioting in the street. Today looks clear, and I don’t imagine we will get to that point. But only last night, a few blocks from my house, I could see massive explosions and fireworks being launched in protest. I have never looked out the window of my home to see what I had only before ever seen as footage of the abominable pollution of Beijing or some sort of post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. It was disgusting, appalling, stomach-churning. Even INSIDE my own apartment, looking at my fiancée, sitting there at her desk, only about 5 meters from where I was standing, the haze was apparent.
So what are we supposed to make of all this? With no clear sign as to who is taking what action for what reason me pongo nervioso (I get uneasy). And I do not get uneasy very easily. I have been imagining airports overrun with people trying to flee the country. Am I crazy? Quite possibly. In my defense, however, all the bus terminals and most of the major roads in and out of Buenos Aires were shut down because people were dying in traffic accidents due to the low visibility. What is next if this is to continue?