Endgame in Buenos Aires

We’ve been in the thick of this fiercely-fought Argentine election, following its soap-opera twists and turns. Now, it was endgame and our Christian Brother school was buzzing with the possibility of a past-pupil president.

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Sunday´s election was a long day in the city; a strange day with many places closed. Lots of staff, parents and students were busy with a massive election-monitoring initiative, determined to ensure a fair vote.

We whiled away our afternoon in the touristic part of the city near Recoleta cemetery; lazy hours sipping café cortados, outside La Biela, in the sunshine. Three of us at a table under those magnificent Recoleta trees, with branches so big, they`re propped up by steel poles. So peaceful. So relaxing.

An arriving coach-load, of wealthy Scandavian tourists, was disappointed there was no beer. During elections, alcohol sales are banned in the city for twenty-four hours. Opting for freshly squeezed orange juice, they soon moved on to their next landmark, oblivious to the on-going vote in nearby schools.

Later I sat in our Recoleta apartment, glued to TV, as numbers were crunched and votes counted. The reaction from party bunkers said it all; sad Peronist faces in Plaza de Mayo contrasted with jubilant dancing at Macri`s Palermo bunker.

As I viewed history unfold, I yearned to be part of the occasion. By eight pm, I couldn`t resist anymore, both party headquarters were within easy reach so I headed out.

The cafe-bars on Avenida Coronel Diaz were unusually quiet except for an odd soul staring at a TV screen. Nothing was happening outside but I knew where to go. I’d seen enough Argentinian football celebrations to know where Porteños go to celebrate. At Santa Fe. I jumped aboard bus 152 and headed downtown to the iconic Obelisco.

The bus zipped along a surprisingly quiet Santa Fe and tore across Av. 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world. There was very little traffic.

It was a beautiful, balmy November night as I walked south on Pellegrini; the obelisco radiated like Borges’ Aleph drawing me to it.

The centre, all roads lead here. All points radiate out.

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I soon saw the colourful celebrations. Cambiemos supporters wildly celebrating their victory, gazed up at big screens where Macri was finally introduced to thousands as the new Presidente.

Welcoming Argentinians beckoned and invited me among their ranks as they cheered, draped in Argentinian flags, and chanted Macri’s name. The huge crowd smiled and danced, moving like a wave of the sea.

Sky blue balloons bobbed about and loud firecrackers exploded as Macri pamphlets fell like confetti from the sky. The papers dropped and dipped in the wind around us, raining like tickertape.

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TV crews and press photographers, caught up in the dancing party jostled to capture the magnificent moment.

Soon car-loads of die-hard Macri supporters arrived from the Palermo bunker. The party was just starting but it was time for me to go and let them celebrate.

Traffic was heavy for the return journey. Drivers happily honked horns as jubilant dancers tangoed between traffic.

Throngs of people gathered at junctions singing and waving flags at our bus as we slowly made our way home through the cacophony of blaring horns, Argentinian anthems and football chants.

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It was a privilege to witness and I hope Argentina and its wonderful people benefit from the change.

It’s endgame for us, we leave BA at Christmas so won’t be present to see how our Irish Christian Brother-educated president performs. We will follow closely from afar.

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