buenos aires

personal: unemployment benefits

Pullmantur sticker

Resigning from a company you’ve spent the past 11 years with can be unsettling… even if the time is right. After a long run with Rick Steves —first as a tour guide, then as a guidebook researcher & writer, & later a return to guiding tours— I recently said goodbye. It was a great company to work for & I’ll miss several people, but I can’t be sad for very long. There are just so many benefits to being unemployed.

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buenos aires: stencil graffiti 2004

In a previous incarnation of this blog, over 500 images of stencil graffiti were posted… most of them found in Buenos Aires. Although the glory days are gone —stencils have since been replaced by other types of street art— many of those images provided a social outlet for fed-up people in the aftermath of the 2001 crisis. Messages ranged from social commentary to advertisements to political activism. Naturally, I don’t necessarily agree with all the opinions of the artists, but disagreement is not a bad thing. A lack of expression for dissent is much worse. Spray on.

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buenos aires: ciae bibliography

CIAE manhole cover, Buenos Aires

Over the last month, I’ve read more about the Argentine electricity sector than I ever thought possible. Two things surprised me most during this investigation: a large amount of misinformation across the board & huge gaps in scholarship. Fact checking does not seem to be very important nor does consulting original sources, so errors propagate throughout books & journals. For example, something as basic as the year a company was purchased or the amount of time a concession was extended should be easy to verify. I’m not writing a thesis, but it’s difficult to form opinions with so much misinformation floating around.

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buenos aires: ciae building list / inventario

CIAE, building map, 1931

A list of all buildings which once belonged to the Compañía Italo-Argentina de Electricidad must exist somewhere in old company archives. But after being absorbed by SEGBA in 1979, it’s anyone’s guess as to where that list may be. And how many of those structures have been demolished since then? Reading & researching the CIAE’s crazy history over the past month, I also noticed that there is no online source dedicated to the CIAE. That needs to change.

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buenos aires: ciae, fade to black

CIAE, manhole

The 1940s presented a series of new problems for the electricity sector. Perón’s dual policy of fixing rates & massive industrialization led to demands the network was unable to meet. To overcome problems & oversee supply, the ministry Agua & Energia de la Nación was created in 1947. Soon followed a 1949 constitution clause to nationalize all public utilities. Perón never followed through with nationalization, but the idea had been planted firmly in everyone’s mind.

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buenos aires: ciae scandal

CIAE advertisement

During the 1920s, the UCR policital party (Unión Cívica Radical) attempted to investigate the pricing structure for electrical companies which serviced Buenos Aires.  While being accused of price gouging, the CIAE & the CHADE attempted to extend their 50-year concessions & renegotiate prices. Both discussions came to a halt in 1930 when General José Félix Uriburu ousted President-elect Hipólito Yrigoyen in the first coup d’etat in Argentine history. Since Yrigoyen represented the UCR, most of the party took the overthrow personally & withdrew from politics. An active UCR splinter faction had little power since Uriburu disbanded the legislative body of Buenos Aires for two years.

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buenos aires: ciae expansion

CIAE, Buenos Aires, Puerto Nuevo, superusina

After service began in 1914, the CIAE continued to grow as demand increased. They invested heavily in infrastructure –approximately 75-85% of profits until 1950. Their main competition, the CATE, had financial difficulties in Europe after World War I, & in 1920 company control passed to the Belgian holding company Société Financière de Transports et d’Entreprises Industrielles (SOFINA). To mark the change, the CATE became the Compañía Hispanoamericana de Electricidad (CHADE) with head offices in Barcelona & Madrid. Large investment kept the CHADE as the largest supplier of electricity in Buenos Aires, especially after the 1929 opening of a super-generator port complex:

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buenos aires: ciae architecture 4

CIAE architecture, Juan Chiogna, Buenos Aires, Puerto Madero, subestación

The smallest scale CIAE structures designed by Juan Chiogna are nothing more than decorative boxes. Transformer substations were needed to distribute electricity throughout the city… in order to overcome cable resistance, transformers are used to ramp up the voltage before sending it to substations where it is then converted back to regular voltage for local consumption.

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buenos aires: ciae architecture 3

CIAE architecture, Chiogna, Buenos Aires, Recoleta, Subusina Montevideo

In 1915, the largest generator complex —Pedro de Mendoza— opened in the barrio of La Boca. But the CIAE began offering service the previous year from a facility in Recoleta. That building belongs to the next set of structures in terms of size:  6 subusinas which housed secondary generators named for the streets on which they are/were located. Besides generating electricity, customer service centers were located in three of the five buildings, marked below with an asterisk.

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