Introduction
On the Intersection of
Individual and Collective
Biographies and Protest
‘‘Thisisforyou,’’Nana,athirty-six-year-oldemployeeatthestatecourt-
house, mother of six, says as she hands me a crystal from a chandelier in
the Government House. ‘‘I took it as a souvenir, when we occupied and
burned down that corrupt house . . . keep it as a memento of my San-
tiago.’’ Caught by surprise, I ask her, ‘‘What does it mean to you?’’ ‘‘It’s
a keepsake,’’ she answers, ‘‘and I’m really happy because you’re inter-
ested in it. That means that it is a valuable keepsake. At least it’s useful,
because you are interested in it. It’s a souvenir. I said to myself, ‘I will
go there [into the burning Government House] again, because I want a
souvenir.’ What does it mean to you?’’
This is our last conversation about her participation in the Santia-
gazo, an uprising that shook the northwest Argentine city of Santiago
del Estero, and the whole country, on December 16, 1993. That day, the
city of Santiago witnessed what the New York Times, 18 December 1993,
called ‘‘the worst social upheaval in years.’’ Three public buildings—the
Government House, the courthouse, and the legislature—and nearly a
dozen local officials’ and politicians’ private residences were invaded,
looted, and burned down by thousands of public workers and city resi-
dents who demanded their unpaid salaries and pensions with arrears of
three months and voiced their discontent with the widespread govern-
mental corruption.
‘‘You can have it, take it with you . . .’’ Laura, a forty-four-year-old
mother of three, currently unemployed, tells me as she hands me her
notebook, and then adds, ‘‘Part of what we, the picketers, did is in this
notebook.’’ Laura carried this notebook with her during la pueblada, a
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