See Ya Later Argentina

Esteban Diaz

In 2001, having finished my high school and before receiving a scholarship to study at the Latin American Medical School (ELAM) in Cuba, I managed to enroll at a music conservatory. That year admission was based on ranking. I remember guys coming out crying about not achieving better scores and wondering how they could have been rejected after taking the entrance exam.

Without abandoning music, I also enrolled at a medical school in Buenos Aires. That year I was running back and forth trying to advance in both disciplines without losing sight of the scholarship to study medicine in Cuba.

By mid-year it was clear that I would not be able to keep up with it all. I barely had enough money to pay for the photocopies of one school and both were demanding full-time dedication, so I had to decide between them.

I decided to dedicate myself to music while sporadically reading medical texts for the time being. However, at the end of 2001 I received the scholarship for Cuba through the Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina (CTA) union. At that time my country was experiencing a brutal economic crisis after long years in which our government sold, or I should say gave away, most of our country.

On December 19 and 20 of 2001, a revolution erupted in Argentina. It was called the Argentinazo. People of the poor neighborhoods took to the streets in a rage looting supermarkets.

In the capitals of various provinces the middle class came out to demand that the banks return their life savings to them. The protests grew throughout the country and the people became increasingly united in the face of strong police repression, which claimed many lives. On every street corner you could hear shouts of: “All of you out. Every last one of you!”

In less than a week our president fled the Casa Rosada government house in a helicopter, as is the custom of thieving presidents. Four more presidents passed through that building before things began to calm down a little.

Havana’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM)
Havana’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM)

That year I hadn’t been paying too much attention to politics. Everything I knew about what was happening came from the news. I tried to go to the government building to protest, but the chaos was such that it was impossible. Moreover, I didn’t belong to any group and the streets were filled with police making it too dangerous to go alone.

My political conscience was awakened by those events. I had already decided to go to Cuba to study medicine, but that has in no way erased the lessons I learned from the Argentinazo. I knew then that I would return from Cuba much more prepared to help my country.