Ituzaingo is a quiet, shady street just beyond the southern edge of San Telmo. Nothing suggest this street as the source for a social movement in 1907 that mobilized 10% of the population of Buenos Aires.

The strike started in September 1907 in one building where the rent increased by 47% in a single month. The strike then surged through San Telmo, including more than 750 buildings within a month. Working class tenants throughout the city joined the strike and more than 2,000 buildings – representing more than 120,000 people – had joined the movement by the end of 1907.

Wages keeping track with inflation is always a problem in a growing economy, a topic familiar to anyone living in Buenos Aires today. By 1907 rents had been rising steadily for two years, yet wages were not increasing for many workers.

A side note to this story: the two hundred block of Ituzaingo where the strike started no longer exits. Ituzaingo street now starts at the 500 block, the earlier parts of it were cut off by Parque Lezama and construction in La Boca.

There are a number of fascinating studies about working class activism during this period of Buenos Aires history. A particularly detailed article is by James Baer, “Tenant Mobilizatin and the 1907 Rent Strike in Buenos Aires”, The Americas, Vol 49, Issue 3, January 1993, pp 343-368.

The development of organized labor in Argentina, based on an immigrant workforce that brought both socialist and anarchist tendencies from Europe, is one of the primary forces that shaped the country during the 20th century. Much of the middle class in Buenos Aires today sigh in frustration over the antics of the labor unions and worker movements. But the historical origins of that populism is largely responsible for the eventual formation of the modern middle class in Argentina, a reminder that forces today are shaping the Argentina of tomorrow.