Death and the Census

In Argentina they say almost anything is a good reason for a holiday. These folks are very social and love to have a reason to party with friends and family. Yesterday (Wednesday) was the national census day. This event occurs every four years and it’s a real good reason for a holiday: all stores are closed by order of the government, subways don’t go, and everybody stays home to wait for the census taker to knock on the door and run thru the 30 or so questions on their list. Because of the census our tango intensive week also suffered an interruption. We had class at night, beginning at 5 p.m., instead of during the day. Many of our dance assistants were working as one-day census takers from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The streets of BsAs, normally teaming with cars, buses, people and plenty of noise, were strangely deserted all day long. The eeriness of it was tangible even at 4:30 when I set out on my walk to tango class on Cordoba calle. But the unnatural peace and quiet of yesterday afternoon turned out to be a kind of bizarre “calm before the storm.” The dam began to break thru the late night news, surprising, sad and surreal news: Nestor Kirchner suddenly died. The last president and husband of current president, Christina, died last night of a heart attack. Today the sad news filled the front pages and this afternoon and all thru the evening the people of Buenos Aires gathered at Plaza De Mayo to pay their respects and share their grief. The event went on for hours and people filed into the governor’s casa on the plaza to greet Christina and give her wahtever words of thanks and encouragement they could. For me the scene was reminiscent of Jaqui Kennedy so many years ago, as Christina stood calmly, sad eyes hidden behind dark glasses and surrounded by dignitaries and family, she graciously greeted any and all who came to her. Again and again she placed her right hand over her heart to signal thanks for some greeting of hope or love shouted from across the room. German (say: Herman), one of my tango teachers in the intensivo, had shared with me earlier his intention to attend the event and how deeply saddened he was. Nestor was his hope for a better Argentina, for the progressive spirit in the political process.  On this census day, death did not take a holiday. Sadly, around lunchtime, my friend Brook from the US, got a text bringing news that a dear and beloved friend of over 30 years had also died yesterday, the love of her life, she said.  This death too was completely unexpected and left this lovely woman with a broken and grieving heart, alone and far, far away from home. Everyone in the intensivo tries to comfort her but only Brooke and Christina know how hard it is today to find comfort in Buenos Aires on such a holiday as this.  And yet somehow, in this place where passion and deep connections are cherished, such moments, whether grandly historical or minute and personal, seem profoundly holy.  May God give us grace to live fully into and thru these moments.


About tangobunny

Pastor Bunny went on sabbatical leave to Argentina July 28-November 4, 2010, funded by a pastoral renewal grant from the Lily Foundation. It was her second visit to AR. Since then she's been back three more times and toured the country. She loves the Argentine people as much as the tango and calls Argentina her other home.
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