Feriados… oh feriados. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be another up it pops, announced, of course, by Cristina. Feriados are national holidays where, depending on the nature of the celebration, almost everything shuts down. All workers get the day off and most businesses close. On certain feriados it can be like a ghost town here. There are religious feriados and secular feriados. There are annual feriados and feriados celebrated just once, which are usually announced about 3 or 4 weeks ahead of time. This is a list of the feriados for 2013. And this doesn’t even include all the days that have popped up this year. The 200th anniversary of this battle, the celebration of that persons birthday. It’s gotten to be a bit of a joke here, at least with the people I’ve spoken with. “Ah, otro feriado! Por favor!!”
Now you have to understand, Argentines really value a work-life balance. People may work a little later here, but they also go into work later and they take their hour long lunch break. They savor their time with their family and most are fairly religious. So having almost 20 national holidays, before the add-ons, in and of itself is not so much a big deal. Why wouldn’t they take 5 days, including the weekend, for Easter? There is a lot to do! And some people need to travel to see their family. And to be honest, not every business closes down for every holiday. But where the joke and the frustration lies is in the extra feriados added by the government at the last minute. Most people here see these as excessive and just a political ploy for more votes. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the current Argentine president, represents the Peronist party, or the workers party. Her main voting base is found in the blue collar workers, not the small business owners and certainly not the corporations, although questions could be raised about the nature of her true political allegiances and how she made all her money, but that’s a different story for a different day. With the economy what it is (just look at the black market exchange rate which has gone from 6 pesos per dollar when we arrived to 9.5 pesos per dollar now), people are not happy and Cristina needs all the support she can muster. So she announces feriados for everyone giving workers a surprise day of paid vacation. Technically the days are to remember or commemorate a historical event or to spur domestic tourism, but really, are people going to go anywhere if you just give them a random Thursday off? I don’t think so.
The problem with this is that it hurts the economy that is doing so poorly already. Small business owners, the mom-and-pop stores that make up the city, lose all sorts of business or just have to shut down because they don’t have enough workers or customers to run their shop. And let’s be honest, more importantly, what in the world does one do when the majority of the city is shut down 3-4 days a month, not including the Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday when most stores are closed? Life is more chill here and people aren’t running around like crazy people as they are in NYC, sure, but c’mon! It gets a little frustrating when on the days you have off most things are closed. Jesse’s family came to visit us about a month ago around the Passover-Easter holidays. For 4 of the 6 days they were here, the city was fairly empty. It may have been a good thing because we were a large group and a full and bustling Buenos Aires is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a shame they weren’t really able to see it in all its glory.
SOOOOOOO. If you’re planning on coming to Argentina, make sure you look up the feriados schedule.