Two fountains, two hot days South of the Equator (was Re: Prologue to Catholic Worker Pamphlet on East Timor)

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky Gorojovsky at SPAMarnet.com.ar
Sat Aug 12 07:29:38 MDT 2000


Fresh water seems to be forbidden to revolutionaries, or so it seems.
Please read the following:

>  ... in 1975 ... a few hundred of us gathered in King George Square
> on a hot summer day ... We had come with our children that day
> and many of them stripped off and dived into the fountains.

Thirty years before that, on October 17th 1945, the young Argentinian
working class had marched to Plaza de Mayo, in downtown Buenos Aires,
from the faraway outskirts of the large town, with the resolution to
rescue their leader, then Colonel Perón, from military imprisonment.
They thus wrote a full new page in the history of our country.

October is already a hot month here (spring in Buenos Aires is quite
short, and climatic Summer can already be in its full by October
15th). The protesters had arrived to the square after long hours of
walk across the city, mile after dusty mile of street and avenue, or
packed into trucks and tramways (many were derouted by people who
wanted to reach the Plaza de Mayo).

The most fortunate ones got a place nearby the fountains of the
square, and, their feet hot and aching, shook off their shoes and
took relief in the fresh water. Not a day passed before they were
vilified, slandered and debased by the oligarchic press and gossip,
much to the joy of the middle classes who (once in their lifetime)
saw the Great Masters of the country woo them away from the bunch of
stinking dark people that had invaded their city. (Because on that
very day and by that very mass action, Buenos Aires at last ceased to
be the citadel of white, progressive, alienated people that it had
become by the early years of the 20th. Century, and was welded to
Argentina ineluctably).

One of the leit-motifs of the campaign against those who were already
known as "descamisados" (that is, shirtless) was the fact that they
had washed their feet in the fountains, something the delicate ladies
and gentleman in that formal city could not accept at all! They had
sunk "las patas en las fuentes" (meaning "the legs in the fountains",
but with the peculiarity that in Spanish "pata" means "leg of animal"
as opposed to "pierna", human leg). This became one of the most usual
demonstrations, in the years to come, of the clear difference between
this lowly mob and the illustrated well-to-do in Argentina. When,
later on, Peronism began its immense and extraordinary housing
program, the working families were accused of burning the wooden
floor tiles in their "asados" (barbecues)...  But back to water and
fountains.

Twenty five or thirty years after these events took place (that is,
by the time of the events at King George Square that Gary has
commented above), one of the greatest Argentinian poets, Leónidas
Lamborghini, found time in the midst of the grindmill of work that he
had to do as a journalist in a local newspaper, and wrote what is in
my opinion one of the most extraordinary piece of Argentinian
revolutionary art, a poem that he named, precisely, "Las patas en las
fuentes", ("the animal legs in the fountains"). Will post it
sometime, but will not dare translate it into English. Too delicate
for my brutal hands.

Yes, Gary, we are doomed to be slandered by them, whether we wash our
sore feet in fresh water while we struggle in order to bring some
fresh new air into our country, whether we allow our children to
refresh themselves while protesting against massacres of children who
had been refreshed by salutary showers of napalm!

My only criticism, then: you protesters yourselves should have taken
relief in the fountains. It was a serious mistake not to do so.



Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar





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