I write this post to the sounds of drums just outside my apartment building on Av Caseros. (It’s not the first time that I’ve been awaken to the sound of drums in the morning). The residents and friends of the building right next door are protesting the high rents and eviction from their homes.
The protest was organized by the Asamblea de San Telmo (part of the larger Asambleas del Pueblo), an organization that often puts up signs around San Telmo describing the living conditions of the neighborhood’s working class residents and the harsh treatment by some landlords.
According to a piece of paper posted to the front of this building, residents were paying $900 pesos a month rent for a 12 square meter apartment. That’s a lot of money for such a small space. Also, the landlords of the various hotels in San Telmo and Barracas that cater to immigrants are referred to as a mafia, even threatening violence against some residents.
These types of practices are really deplorable. For the past couple of years I’ve seen the people who live in this building. They’re obviously not the typical residents of Av Caseros, (journalist Luis Majul lives on this block) and apartments in neighboring buildings are selling for a lot of money. But I’ve never experienced any problems from the people who live in this building.
Are they treated fairly? Their rent ($900 pesos) is the same as what one would pay for a nice apartment in the neighborhood but, I assume, that residents of these hotels do not have the garantías needed to rent a real apartment. Where is affordable rental housing for the working class residents of Buenos Aires? Where is the current housing for the masses? Those are not rhetorical questions. I really don’t know but seemingly there must be housing problems for this class of city residents or otherwise they would not be living in these hotels. And who is behind this mafia controlling the immigrant hotels and taken buildings?
Despite my concerns for the plight of the working class, I certainly understand why the owner of this building wants the residents to leave. It could be a really nice building and is sandwiched between two very nice apartment buildings. With renovation the owner stands to make a lot of money from the apartments. While I’ve not been on the interior, the building actually seems to be in better shape than a lot of similar buildings.
And I assume that the building is historically protected and cannot be demolished for a modern tower. (But, I’m not sure since this side of Av Caseros is actually Barracas and not San Telmo). I don’t want to enter this building in my city that fades away series.
So, I hope that these people can find a decent place to live and that this historic building will be saved, renovated, and find a new set of tenants.
Cutting the street
The protesters decided to move from the front of the building and block the intersection of Bolivar and Caseros, a fairly busy corner. The buses had to turn around but otherwise no one really seemed to have noticed this morning’s demonstration on Caseros. The police arrived, stood by quietly, and redirected traffic….just another Thursday morning in Buenos Aires.
Update, January 2008: Nothing has changed. The tenants are still living in this house. No more protesting but the banners still hang wearily from the windows.