Early in January, when increasing financial tensions and the prospect of privatization were threatening the integrity of the Centro Cultural General San Martín (CCGSM) in Buenos Aires, artists, students and friends put down more then just their feet- they laid down a fully equipped encampment and vowed to occupy the open space called Plaza Seca indefinitely.
Sala Alberdi was opened in 2006 by BA’s Arts & Education Department and has continued to operate out of the CCGSM. In its inception, Sala Alberdi provided theatre studies to some 43,000 people across the city and free children’s plays to thousands of public urban and rural schools.
In 2010, after a number of cuts by the city government and many job losses, the Sala Alberdi artists decided to take over the space for themselves. Early this year, the city put up fences and locked out students and teachers of the organization. In the absence of answers, and in protest, on Jan. 5th of this year, a group of active members entered the space and have been squatting since.
Their numbers have grown and they continue to hold regular free workshops for the public on a daily basis. In exchange, they accept personal contributions and basic necessities for the camp. The court ruled they leave as of May 4th, 2012, but well…they’re still there. As a result, tensions have been mounting between squatters and the metro police, who have been accused of using unnecessary force.
The government has upheld their position, but occupants insist it’s a violation of their rights. For now, they prefer to dance to the beat of the ‘Occupy’ drum being heard around the world. This weekend, I visited for a second time and spoke with Francisco- a musician who has just returned from a tour and is living in the camp indefinitely. He told me that about 4 of his friends (and members) have been locked in a room on the 6th floor without a washroom, food or facilities for 63 days. Their friends use a pulley system to send them food on the regular. They could leave, but their presence maintains the legitimacy of their strike, so they’re taking one (long one) for the team. In the coming months, temperatures could drop as low as -5 C, making the future of the settlement uncertain.