Too often we hear the narrative that technology has ruined our ability to socialize and that millennials are destined to become Twitter-driven, tech-savvy cyborgs. This stereotype, although backed by observation and audible “LOLs” in public spaces, is not true of Agostina Gonzalez and Damien Segovia, who have created a Facebook event page that has gained serious momentum in the past few weeks, about their citywide effort taking place this Friday, February 19th, at 8PM. These mid 20 Porteños are determined to preserve the traditions of those that came before them, and literally, take back the streets of Buenos Aires.
Starting off as a small, locally-driven Facebook event, Volvamos a la Calle, “Let’s return to the Streets,” has now circulated to include 22,000 confirmed attendees, and 261,000 invited guests. The idea, according to the Facebook mission statement and La Nacion’s interview with its event organizers, is to return to the golden age of Argentine summer, where neighbors relaxed in the streets amongst peers, drinking mate, riding bikes, etc — TV and Facebook still a distant and unknown distraction.
The impressive traction of the event comes as no surprise, as Argentina’s youth population is no stranger to heavy social media use. A previous Bubble article discovered that most kids have between six and 10 social media profiles, and are the most avid Twitter users in a study involving six Latin American countries, and Spain. Posting, sourcing, and sharing, come second nature to Argentines.
According to La Nacion’s interview, this desire for the old ways came about when Agostina was getting ice cream with her sister. They began discussing how much they missed chatting with neighbors, as a result of spending so much time indoors. Originally thought to be a small, informal, effort with friends, the event now has people from all barrios commenting on the Facebook page, either confirming their attendance or expressing their admiration.
“I just finished reading La Nation article,” one commenter wrote, “Hopefully this spreads to various provinces and the country as a whole… What I see is that this custom is not only lost through technology… An important factor is insecurity…I hope this cause is successful.” The insecurity spoken of is likely a result of an increase in actual or perceived crime. While rates of crime and the true impact gentrification and urbanization are still topics of debate, it is clear that technology might not be the only barrier preventing Argentines from enjoying their neighborhoods like they used to.
Roberto Arlt, Argentine novelist, playwright, and journalist, was among those who were able to capture the cultural significance of el ritual de la silla en a vereda, “the ritual of the chair on the sidewalk.” In Aquafuertes, a series of short observational pieces about Argentine culture, he writes that the chair on the sidewalk is a symbol that barrios were inherently and profoundly belonging to their inhabitants. Que no morirá jamás, he writes, “may it never die.”
“Volvamos a La Calle” appears to be doing just that, disallowing an old and friendly tradition, to die. To participate in the sidewalk takeover, join the Facebook page, which ironically, is a product of the 21st century world that has been both the inspiration to bring back these old traditions, and a catalyst in popularizing the cause so successfully.