This morning Maxi and I are walking through the barrio. When I go, she goes. A man is sitting on the steps of a bakery eating his pastries. First I watch him throw the papers from the bag on the sidewalk, then the bag. Pig. Cerdo.
I am sick and tired of people complaining but not doing anything about it. Argentines are good about this. They complain but don't do anything about the situation. I have started to speak up.
All of my life people have told me one day my "mouth" was going to get me in trouble. Well maybe so. I guess I will deal with it when that time comes. So far people are pretty shocked to have me talk back to them, or stand up for myself.
I don't want my barrio to look like a garbage can. Things have gotten much better since the City of Buenos Aires started putting HUGE containers for garbage and recycling on every block around the city. Those little mini-baskets on the light poles just weren't cutting it with all the trash this city generates.
What is even more surprising is that most people are actually using them. My barrio is looking pretty clean these days. Before it was like walking in a dump. It was embarassing to have guests ask me if Palermo was a "safe barrio." The combination of the tagging, grafitti, and garbage made it look more like a barrio from hell than a barrio that is considered one of the best in Buenos Aires. All we were missing was the bars on the windows and you might think you were in South L.A... without palm trees.
Since the containers made their way onto the street, people have actually started using them. That was almost as shocking as people not smoking in public places. Argentines are not known for their devout observance of laws. Sometimes I feel like I live in the wild west..or maybe even South LA (without palm trees.)
Now that we have recycling containers the cartoneros are limited. They can't go through the garbage and throw it all over the place. In fact the city hired bunches of them to collect the garbage in the recycling bins and bring it back to be processed. Sometimes smart things actually happen here. The city makes the money on the recycling and the cartoneros get a salary.
Many of the buildings in my barrio have started to paint over the grafitti. A sign of pride maybe? Even though things are bad here, we can still live better. I remember an ex-mother-in-law once saying "Just because you are poor you don't have to be dirty." Damn, and Palermo is not even a poor barrio. We just look like one some days.
I stare at the man throwing his garbage on the sidewalk. "Why are you throwing your trash on the sidewalk?" I ask him. I am furious. I hate these kind of people. They just throw their trash wherever they feel like. They have no regard for anyone else but themselves. Egoistas.
He was shocked. It was completely unexpected. "Andate de tu pais." he screams at me. (Go back to your country.) Unfortunately I am getting this screamed at me quite a bit these days. Politics. Sigh.
"Pick up your garbage." I say to him. Maxi goes on alert. Nothing worse than to have her go into raving dog routine. He screams at me "Where bitch? There is no where to put it." He might have to lift his fat self up and walk a few steps in either direction. The exercise might kill him. I point to the containers at either end of the street. "There." I want to add something like "boludo" but under the circumstances I am not sure this is a good idea.
Now Mr. Porky Butt is really angry. "Los Argentinos no usan los tachos." He screams at me. (Argentines don't use garbage cans) "We throw our garbage wherever we want." As I am walking away I say to him, "Learn to use the containers, I don't want your garbage making a mess of my barrio." Actually I was not quite that polite.
As Maxi and I continue down the street he continues to yell "Andate de tu pais, Inglesa." Well at least he didn't scream "Yanqui go home."