On the subte D line toward Catedral, the train cars were packed with women.
They donned green pro-abortion pañuelos and glittery purple and green face paint, making evident where they were headed. The vast majority of passengers were female, and an unspoken camaraderie filled the air, united in one mission: standing up for their rights on International Women’s Day, known in the Spanish-speaking world as 8M.
Emerging above ground, I was amazed by the sheer size of the crowd. The entire area between Plaza de Mayo and Plaza de Congreso was filled to the brim with protestors. La Nación estimates that there were more than 350,000 people in attendance.
The most prominent message was the push for free, legal, and safe abortions. With a bill in Congress now, this fight is both timely emotional for activists.
Signs read “clandestine abortions are femicidios del estado,” insinuating that Argentina has blood on its hands from the overwhelming number of women who die obtaining illegal abortions.
Women also protested street harassment, sexual assault, femicidio, the gender binary, and heteronormativity, among other causes. Workers’ unions had a larger presence as well, signifying the important intersection between feminism and class in Argentina.
Diputada and union secretary general Vanesa Siley said this collaboration between unions and feminist groups did not occur last year, and that 2018’s collaboration was both intentional and significant.
“We want to continue maintaining the unity of activism, not just for this march,” Siley said a few days ago at the conference held at the Labor Monument; she believes that “it is in the hands of women to save the organized labor movement, due to the need to rebuild its legitimacy and the changes that have mainly affected women.”
Women were everywhere, and they were loud. They chanted, “¡Aborto legal, en el hospital!” as they marched to the beat of their own giant plastic drums.
Songs and chants were central to the march, from singing MMLPQTP to an performing elaborate song and dance routines with original feminist chants:
The emphasis on music and dance made clear that while the strike was a political movement in which women voiced serious demands, such as reproductive justice and equal pay, it was also a celebration of womanhood. Participants dressed freely (which sometimes meant donning nothing more than electrical tape over their breasts), and decorated themselves with glitter and body paint.
They danced in drum circles and sat in the grass smoking porro; opportunistic vendors sold choripán and ice cream. While many protestors were young activists, several were older, others brought their babies and young children to participate.
While the march was filled with women from all walks of life, the overarching message was clear: unity, equality, and justice.