Burning candles and white roses symbolize the requiem with which Argentina today pays tribute to those who are no longer, victims of the coronavirus pandemic. The image is expanded in the Kirchner Cultural Center (CCK), where this sunday at noon the commemorative ceremony was held, led by President Alberto Fernández.

With the presence of governors, representatives of different faiths, essential workers, security and health personnel, scientists, teachers, representatives of indigenous peoples and the Afro-Argentine community, among a few other guests, the event began after the arrival of the President with the first lady Fabiola Yáñez. It is worth highlighting the presence of the Buenos Aires head of government, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, with whom the President usually has differences.

A few minutes later “The passion according to San Mateo” by Johann Sebastian Bach, interpreted by Susana Moncayo, allowed to perceive the strong emotional mark of the act that summoned, through music and poetry, to transform this “deep shock” into “learning and wisdom to build a better world ”, summarized Fernández in his words, in the Hall of Shields of the CCK.

Shortly before noon, under cloudy skies and with the city of Buenos Aires semi-desert in the background, Alicia Márquez, nurse at El Cruce Hospital, by Florencio Varela, explained while waiting to enter the historic Buenos Aires building: “I am proud, I am excited to represent the essential staff”. Alicia also works in a private health center, in CABA, and represents “nursing”. At his side is Constanza, a CONICET fellow. At the other end of the entrance steps is Paola Quaranta, medical director of the Milstein Hospital, with her husband and two children. They come to participate in “this tribute, as pertinent as it is necessary,” he says. Nearby, there are representatives of teachers, security forces, the Red Cross, garbage collectors. It’s cold, but there is excitement in the welcoming conversations.

Photo: Enrique García Medina

“I come to pay tribute to the health teams, to my dear colleagues who are no longer here,” adds Alicia, before entering. It refers to more than two hundred people in the nursing sector who died from covid. “That is why this is exciting for me – he adds – because nursing is a pride, I always liked to help, give a hand, help my people so that everyone can get ahead, and that is what we are doing, that’s why I value this act ”, he commented to this newspaper. Soon after, she would be seated in one of the guest seats on the second floor of the building.

The sectoral representatives begin to enter, by groups. Among them, the provincial leaders are added: the San Luis governor Alberto Rodríguez Saá arrives among the first guests. Then Gerardo Morales (Jujuy), Sergio Uñac (San Juan), Gerardo Zamora (Santiago del Estero), Omar Gutiérrez (Neuquén), among others. When 11:30 am, representatives of different religious creeds and indigenous peoples arrive.

Paola Quaranta assures that the act “is necessary because the loss of loved ones is one of the things that the pandemic leaves us, one of the unrecoverable things. –He emphasizes–, that is the very high cost that it leaves us ”, he reflects. “Y as a society it predisposes us to take into account everything we have learned in this year and a half, because we learned a lotholds, while looking attentively at his two children, Juan, seven years old, and Camilo, five. The oldest, Francisco Néstor, 10 years old, sent a letter to the President: “Because it is a job of great responsibility to be President,” his son told him, he says. She brings that letter. Also the conviction for the work carried out by the health teams. And he underlines: “The tribute is pertinent because now we have the vaccination that is giving results. We are leaving the second wave and it is a good time to come together to reflect, it is a sign of health, as a society, and of recognition for what we have done so far ”.

“From the health sector there is a certainty: we were able to give an answer,” says Quaranta. The sector is now more relieved because with the vaccination, a huge difference is seen with the first wave. Having undergone vaccination, the picture is different: there are far fewer internees and, above all, fewer deaths among the elderly ”. At the hospital he runs and its two annexes, 400 people are vaccinated per day – in each of the three centers – from 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Saturday. “It is an example,” he emphasizes.

It is 11:48 when the presidential helicopter lands, near the Casa Rosada. The President arrives who, ten minutes before, has taken off from Quinta de Olivos. At that precise moment, the head of the Buenos Aires government, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, entered the CCK. The movements intensify on the second floor. It is 12.05 when a second helicopter arrives, from which the governor descends for Buenos Aires. Axel Kicillof walks up to the CCK, and enters quickly. The act is about to begin. A screen broadcasts on the outskirts of the building, the television by national chain. Music invades the scene. At times, outside, they forget the cold, the swirling wind in the corners and the three degrees of wind chill.

Indoors, a girl and a boy are in charge of lighting twenty-four white candles. For each of the Argentine provinces, and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. “Argentina pays tribute to the fatal victims of the pandemic,” says Laura Novoa. The actress is the presenter. He speaks of the tribute that includes “the victims of the whole world”, before announcing a minute of silence in his memory. The one that culminates in thanks to the essential workers. In the intention of “hugging Argentina and feeling that Argentina embraces us”, the value for the encounter of the human condition is expressed, says Novoa. To later recite, in the verses of “La meta” by Hamlet Lima Quintana, the decision to “announce each day with a hymn”, and then presents a heartfelt version of “Zamba para no muerte” interpreted by Nadia Szachniuk with Juan Falú in Guitar.

The artistic tour offered for an official act is unusual. It thrills. Between poems by Diana Bellessi and Juan Gelman, the voice of Patricia Sosa arrives and the chords of Serú Girán on the piano of Lito Vitale: “We will see each other again” is the theme that closes and gives rise to the president’s words. Fernández refers to “the cataclysm that plagues humanity”, and in the name of the “almost one hundred thousand deceased people” in Argentina he expresses the need not to forget that each one of them “had a name, had a life.”

“We have been affected in different ways,” he later affirmed about the unease generated by these losses. “The world has darkened,” he describes. “The virus is aggressive, the pandemic opens a void, builds walls, opens wounds that we have to heal.” There, the president locates the root of his message, in the need to rescue solidarity as a restorative value. After thanking essential workers, scientists, those who bring vaccines, and the whole of society “for maintaining care”, he called for “being able to build a path towards an intensely caring society.”

It is 12:40 when Piazzolla begins to play. Under this melodious litany, each of those present places a white rose as an offering, before the twenty-four lit candles.


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