First of all: Argentina does not exist. Argentina is a European invention, installed more than 200 years ago. Before the arrival of Columbus, the continent was called Abya Yala, a name given to it by the Kuna people of Panama and Colombia. And it means: land in full maturity. During the following centuries this land was filled with lead and blood, its inhabitants were killed or enslaved and the continent became a source of resources for another continent with few resources: Europe. Argentina does not represent its peoples but the colonial structures still in force.
Therefore it is not surprising that the president belongs to the upper class. The 32 million voters chose - on November 22, 2015 - between Daniel Scioli, businessman, former competitor of motorboat racing and Mauricio Macri, businessman. A little more than half decided on Mauricio Macri. The second largest country in Latin America is not ready yet for someone to represent Abya Yala.
Despite this, something began to move on the continent a few years ago and also in the Río de la Plata. Young Argentines from the urban middle class are becoming increasingly oriented to the cultures of their ancestors. During the summer vacations thousands and thousands travel to the north of the country, to Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador in search of what their European parents and grandparents had to cut: their roots. Young people know that it can be found in the cultures of Abya Yala, they feel that something is happening that wants to shine a light on the past.
Mud in response to the crisis
A visible expression of change, of the decolonization of thought, are the mud houses. In Argentina, houses of earth sprout like mushrooms, which have always been built in Abya Yala. The municipalities cannot do enough to adjust their construction ordinances, and at the same time the next clay house is ready. Architects offer workshops to build with materials that grow back, universities invite bio-builders to give talks, television programs run reports on the new-old way of building and even in TED-talks they talked about mud. Climate change is producing climate change in the country, literally.
“Building in mud is like a response to the so-called crises,” says Ricardo Tamalet, who has lived in his self-built mud house for three years. Only when he started building with clay, says the 40-year-old photographer, did he recognize how far he had been from nature and that crises, including his own, were made by himself. Ricardo Tamalet is aware that the earth as a construction material goes beyond good insulation, moisture exchange and energy efficiency. It is rather a cultural reconciliation and an acknowledgment that for many years something from Europe has been bought, that it has not much to do with Abya Yala and its inhabitants. But instead of getting mad at politics, economics and digitization try to create something concrete, something that remains. "The difference with our parents' generation is that we don't want any more credits," says Tamalet. "We want to build."
"The candidates don't know me"
In Argentina people began to recognize more and more what has happened during the last 500 years. Young people especially know about the destruction caused by mining, they know about pesticides in monoculture fields, they know about the contamination of the oil industry, the dependence on the financial market, and the oppression of Native Peoples. And they don't want to go on living that way.
One of them is Bruno Crotti. His family emigrated to Spain years ago and when he returned, for a trip through his old land in 2014, he decided to also stay driven by construction in clay. Here, says the 27-year-old musician, there is a need to build houses and for people to come together to build: "Clay is the ideal material that unites the two." If you have a choice between beauty and outrage, choose the former. On the other hand, the elections for president do not matter to him: "Neither I know the candidates nor they know me."
Establish local vegetable production
Germán Garcia sees it a little more pragmatic, like Tamalet and Crotti from Mar del Plata. For the biologist of the Conicet (National Council for Scientific and Technical Research) the elections can have immediate consequences, including losing his job. But about that, the 36-year-old says, he's not thinking seriously. "I would also have enough tools to find my life in another way." He is more concerned about political instability and that ties within society are broken. Obviously, he says, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has her faults but she also created thousands of new jobs and brought many people out of poverty.
Germán Garcia is recently a father and he moved with his family to the outskirts of the city - to a self-built mud house next to his own organic garden. Confidence in politics and the economy at the macro level was lost long ago, his position sees him more and more as a means than an end. "I trust my family and my ability to provide for myself if chaos breaks out." He has long been planning to establish a vegetable production with his neighbors to sell. "Because having your own roof is just as important as eating food without pesticides."
In reality Argentina does not exist. There is only the land of Abya Yala that is inhabited by people who do not let themselves go crazy due to crises. As Ricardo Tamalet says with Gandhi: We have to be the change we want to see in the world.
By Romano Paganini
This article is a translation from the German and was first published in the Swiss newspaper TagesWoche. The author was born there, has lived in Argentina since 2009 and works in construction with clay.