Link to bilingual booklet: Horizontalidad en Argentina
From the chapter Context and Rupture in Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina
December 19th and 20th of 2001
Pablo, Asamblea Colegiales (neighborhood assembly)
“It was the night of the 19th. The middle class sat at home watching the news on television – seeing poor people crying, women crying in front of supermarkets, begging for or taking food — and the State of Siege was declared. That’s when the sound of the cacerola (the banging of pots and pans) began. In one window, and then another window, in one house and then another, and soon, there was the noise of the cacerola. Television newscasters informed people that there were cacerolas in such and such a neighborhood, and then another, and another and suddenly people had the experience that their individual reaction was forming part of a collective reaction. The mass media functioned as a kind of mirror, multiplying the protest, involuntarily I suppose, but it functioned like that.
The first person began to bang a pot and saw her neighbor across the street banging a pot, and the one downstairs too, and soon there were four, five, fifteen, twenty, and people moved to their doorways and saw other people banging pots in their doorways and saw on television that this was happening in another neighborhood, and another neighborhood, and soon they went to the main corner of their neighborhood, for example in this neighborhood it’s this one (pointing outside to an intersection), this is a very important corner, and hundreds of people gathered banging pots until at a certain moment the people banging pots began to walk. At the same time television newscasters reported that groups of cacerolas were marching to the house of the Minister of the Economy, because Cavallo had resigned. Then others began walking to the Plaza de Mayo, in the center of the city, and other people began to go there, without really understanding why, but going anyway. And finally people arrived at the Plaza de Mayo. They were seen arriving on television and calling “come, come, everyone come.” The minister of the economy had resigned, he resigned but they began to say this wasn’t enough, the rest of them must go, they must all go, we want them all to go. “Que se vayan todos.” And it was born there — that was the first time the words were spoken and it’s important to know that, until that moment, they’d never been spoken before.
That’s how it was. The movement of the 19th and 20th began with a sound, the sound of someone banging on a pot, and that sound grew to many, and then bodies began to move, moving out of their houses to the corner, and then to the center, and finally to the Plaza de Mayo. Bodies moved and pots banged and finally that first phrase was spoken — not speeches, not explanations, not political party placards. No one knew exactly who was there, whether people were from the left, right or center. There were housewives, young people, everyone was there and they said with a common voice “they all must go.” “Que se vayan Todos!”