As I will discuss in the following paragraph, the period in which these texts were set was a time in which Argentina was attempting to modernise itself but in doing so it was also bringing about social unrest because not enough attention was being paid to it’s citizens. Going on from this, the Obelisco is a prominent figure in ‘Pizza, Birra, Faso’, it represents centrality and power and the boys’ relationship to the socioeconomic politics of Buenos Aires. The boys’ forced entry into the Obelisco uncovers the secrets of its interior: it is dark, damp, there is graffiti and pornography on the walls; a complete contradiction to the power and control it conveys looking at it from the outside.
This scene represents the marginalised community fighting against urbanisation and the dominance of state architecture. Before they break into the Obelisco, Pablo and Cordobés are talking about it’s phallic semblance: ‘decía que era como una especie de pene que captaba todas las ondas porongóticas de la ciudad’. Scorer suggests that ‘the structure is blind to its own overt masculinity’, which is also emphasised when we see the pregnant Sandra being arrested at the bottom. This scene is particularly powerful because while the boys are assuming the visual power of the birds-eye-view, it becomes apparent that their needs rest on the ground on the streets, even when they are looking down on the city from an authoritarian gaze, Cordobés is still unable to do anything to stop Sandra getting arrested, ‘the boys become helpless if their vision gains the authority of distance; their minimal power can only be assumed—again, at a minimal level – on the street’. The scene represents how powerless the marginalised communities are, even when physically in a position of power they still remain helpless.
Beatriz Sarlo critiques the Obelisco saying that in contrast with the Eiffel Tower it has no aerial view: “El Obelisco no mira a Buenos Aires, por el contrario, es la ciudad la que mira el Obelisco.” It ignores what is down below, and at all of the problems going on at its feet; the same can be said for the state, it is looking up and focussing on the future and modernity rather than the troubles going on below with it’s citizens. So, we could say that the characters in the film are attempting to immunise themselves against modernity and the government’s attempt at urbanisation as well as being immunised against by other communities like the characters in ‘Las Viudas de los Jueves’. While I have already touched on the volatile economic state of Argentina at the time these texts were published, it is important to go into more in detail in order to understand the origins of the desire for immunity. With Alfonsín’s administration being unable to curb hyper-inflation and social unrest, his government gave way to that of Carlos Menem who ushered a period of neoliberal reform. It is suggested early on in Piñeiro’s novel that the reason Virginia and Ronie moved to La Cascada was due to the country’s unstable economic situation: ‘Teníamos nuevo presidente. Tendríamos que haberlo tenido a partir de diciembre pero la hiperinflación y los saqueos a los supermercados hicieron que el anterior dejara el sillón antes de terminar el mandato’. One of the first acts Menem undertook was pegging the unstable Argentine peso against the US dollar at 1:1 which encouraged even more people to leave the city and move to gated communities, ‘La ley de convertibilidad facilitó el éxodo a lugares como La Cascada’.
Furthermore, he reduced public spending and privatised public utilities. This wave of privatisation threw a lot of people out of work and also led to higher prices for basic services like electricity. The rates of unemployment hovered around 15% in the late nineties. One scene in the film where dozens of people wait in line outside a job centre highlights the severity of the problem, and even in ‘Las Viudas de los Jueves’ the characters are affected by unemployment: ‘Ronie se había quedado sin trabajo seis años atrás, y no había vuelto a tener otra ocupación’.
The consequences of the lack of job opportunities are extremely evident in ‘Pizza, Birra, Faso’, because many people have to find other ways to obtain money if they cannot find a job, and one of the few alternative routes to go down is that of crime. Violence and crime significantly increased during this period of urban disenfranchisement, especially drug trafficking, car robberies, frequent protests and gun crime. The first speech in the film is a police radio reporting a crime, and the following scene is of a robbery taking place inside a taxi with the taxi driver also involved (00:03:39). Alongside all of these problems, corruption from above potentially due to low wages especially in the police force was leading to the breakdown of social order. ‘There was the creation of a sweeping system of police self financing based on money generated by criminal activity tolerated, controlled or directly organised’.
There are plenty of examples of police corruption in ‘Pizza, Birra, Faso’, for example where the boys give the police officer money so as to avoid getting into trouble. Furthermore, in ‘Las Viudas de los Jueves’ the level of corruption from above is also indicated numerous times: ‘El año 98 fue el año de los suicidios sospechosos. El del que había parado las coimas del Banco Nación, el del capitán de navío que había intermediado en las ventas de armas al Ecuador…’ In a city with all of this going on, it seems the only way to escape it is by physically removing yourself from the situation. This is what the characters in the novel did, they immunised themselves from the disease (the city and its inhabitants), but in doing so they also accelerated the breakdown of society and the community as a whole. This was a time in which urban life was inscribed by fear and uncertainty, where people had no choice but to escape or fend for themselves.