I had agreed to transport half a cow to the butcher, so the meat could be used to make five pots of stew for the celebration today. Fortunately, we left the head and the bucket full of intestines behind.
The hulking, wobbling masses got loaded into the back of the pickup truck. I was mesmerized by the kilograms of flesh that were now starting to attract flies. At the butcher shop, my attention honed in on the heel of the butcher’s hand guiding the impossibly thick bones across the singing blade of the band saw, set into a granite counter.
“If you eat this meat,” V. said, stabbing the cow leg with her knife, “it doesn’t mean you have to vote for him. The politicians do this every year for everyone, for Indigenous People’s Day, but the meat isn’t political.”
In Argentina, voting is compulsory. This may seem like a good idea: what a great way to get everyone involved in democracy! What it actually means, though, is that politicians come to many poor communities to buy votes, by promising new health centers, new social assistance programs, new schools. And sometimes they actually build the health centers, or the schools. But here’s the catch: the pristine-from-the-outside buildings topped with “another job accomplished in Namqom” banners often remain untouched, unopened, and unused, until the next election rolls around.