[UPDATE] It appears that Konex is poised to open its doors again for a Luis Salinas concert tomorrow (Saturday, January 17th). While this is great news for the community, the trend to bully cultural centers does not appear to be slowing. Make sure to support these spaces with your patronage, and whatever lowly political support you can muster. Also double check before bringing your friends from out of town to Bomba del Tiempo that the good guys are winning and the show is indeed going on.
Mayor Macri is on the warpath, and his sights are set once again on the rich cultural landscape of Buenos Aires. Ciudad Cultural Konex in Balvanera and Makena Cantina Club in Palermo are two of the latest venues to fall victim to the rapidly increasing closure of cultural establishments throughout the city.
The Governmental Control Agency (AGC), a controversial branch of Macri-ified heavies, has been strong-arming such premises into closure since late last year, despite the passing of the the much lauded Cultural Centres Act (La Ley de Centros Culturals ) by the City Legislature in December 2014. The act, which was passed unanimously, seeks to recognize and protect the many independent cultural centers, artist cooperatives and neighborhood centers operating throughout the city, and also to provide support for the decentralization and continued running of non-profit cultural endeavors offered by these institutes. Sounds dandy, don’t it? Well keep dreaming folks, cultural utopia is still a long way off.
The approach of the AGC seems to be fairly formulaic; Some AGC inspectors and their cronies show up unannounced in the middle of the night, wield numerous vague citations and force the establishment to close its doors until further notice. Usually goes a little something like this…
Salón Pueyrredón, the infamous punk rock venue on Avenida Santa Fe that labels itself as a “counter-culture community”, had it’s doors closed on the 12th of December, with the AGC citing an “invalid rating” as the reason for closure.
Makena today wrote on their Facebook page that they “still don’t know the reason for the closure. They have just told us that this evening we will be told why. They shut us down last Friday when the bar was closed. We have been down at the AGC every day and we’re getting no answers.”
Konex says that “since the 12th of January, our space has been temporarily shut down. We are working to resolve the issues that are preventing us from continuing with our activities and we hope to have some news in the next few hours.”
The biggest kick in the teeth of all this, however, is the murky history shared by the two heads of the AGC. Martin Farrell and Paul Saikauskas were both prosecuted in a case which saw the mezzanine of the Beara bowling alley collapse, killing two girls aged 20 and 21, in September 2010. Pagina 12 reports that “At the Chamber VII of the Criminal Chamber, the accused were said to have taken “kickbacks” to enable the construction of a building that was unable to hold concerts and mass gatherings.” Some might argue that it doesn’t get much dirtier than politicians paying people off to build dodgy and fatal bowling alleys, only to 4 years later start throwing people out of community-friendly cultural center by saying for not meeting safety standards. The hubris.
Depending on the severity of the allegations waged against these venues, the possibility is there for them to re-open, provided they meet the demands of the AGC, but these processes can often prove timely and costly, facts which the AGC are probably all too aware of. Let’s just hope that it’s not too long before we’re back joining the conga line at La Bomba del Tiempo or swapping spit at the meat-market that is Makena.