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BAUEN, day 41

Chapter 6

Holding on

Taking over the hotel was simple compared with the long period of resistance immediately afterwards, which the workers usually call el aguante, “the holding on.” They found themselves inside an immense building, in a state of total abandonment, in no condition to work. The door on Callao Avenue was boarded up, the furniture had disappeared, and every part of the hotel needed to be repaired and cleaned before they could even start to think about recovering the hotel as such.

“At that point, we started to ask for money on the street with a can, and to go around with our little basket to all the universities and all the high schools, and marches, and so we survived,” says Gladys about that time. Far from discouraging them, their circumstances pushed them to immediately begin fixing up the place to be able to work, and to prepare a place where they could stay, more or less comfortably, in the difficult months that awaited them. That was the beginning of what Gladys considered the most difficult stage they went through. Sometimes they did not even have decent meals, with all there was to do and without knowing very well how to do it.

The first legal action was to create a worker cooperative with the former hotel workers who had met and carried out the takeover, of whom there were seventeen, for the moment. The cooperative was called Callao, taking the name of the avenue the BAUEN is on, which is common in recovered businesses (for example, the Chilavert cooperative, formerly Gaglianone; the Vieytes cooperative, formerly Ghelco, etc.). Gustavo Alaluf was chosen as president. However, this structure did not last long. Once the occupation of the hotel was over, and the effort to put it to work began, other former workers started to approach, until their numbers reached around 30, most of whom were still owed money by the old enterprise, whether under the registered name of Solari or Bauen SACIC. A difference emerged among them, because Alaluf intended for the founders of the cooperative to become employers of the rest, which created arguments both among the workers and in the MNER. This controversy did not last long, and finally the majority decided to adopt the egalitarian criterion that prevailed in the other recovered businesses, dissolve the Callao cooperative and form a new one, called Buenos Aires, Una Empresa Nacional [Buenos Aires, A National Business], because its initials were a play on the name of the hotel. In the new co-op, no distinction was made between those who first joined the cooperative and those who came later, whether or not they were former workers at the Bauen.1 Marcelo Ruarte was elected president of the new cooperative by acclamation.

Meanwhile, the first days in the hotel were used to clean the building and start to bring it up to minimum standards, if only to have a bit of comfort for the occupation. These were hard times, in which the occupiers went out on the street with a box to ask for collaboration from passers-by to sustain the takeover and their own subsistence. While some had jobs they had to keep to guarantee some income for their families, like Gladys, who was working nights in a remissions, other compañeros had no choice but to get the necessary resources by means of creativity and imagination, including appealing to people’s solidarity.

  1. On March 14th, 2017, the publisher of the newspaper La Nación accused the cooperative members of “violating patent laws” by using the initials “BAUEN.” In its corporate defense of the former owners, the newspaper did not know before that workers used the initials, the Iurcoviches themselves changed the registered name on several occasions.

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