BAUEN Hotel

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The BAUEN Hotel is a nineteen-storey, 180-room hotel in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was seized by its workers and has been run by them as a cooperative since 2003. The hotel was built in 1978 for Marcelo Iurcovich, who received loans of 5 million from the National Development Bank (BANADE) of the then ruling military junta for the purpose. The hotel was a "symbol of the dictatorship",[1] and an "emblematic symbol of neoliberalism"[2] which served as the election bunker for former Argentinian president Carlos Menem (1989-99). The hotel was sold to Grupos Solari in 1997. Under their management, the hotel deteriorated, and layoffs of workers took place. Grupo Solari filed for bankruptcy in 2001; and closed the hotel and fired the remaining workers in December that year. The spectre of this boarded-up hotel "reminded the city of the impending financial crisis and widespread unemployment" in Argentina that year.[3]

In 2003, some of the BAUEN's former workers held an assembly at Chilavert (a printing press which had become worker-run the year before) at which they voted to occupy the hotel. Thirty BAUEN workers, along with supporters from other occupied factories and workers' movements, entered through a tunnel connecting to another hotel on the block. A gate with a small lock barred passage between the hotels but the workers cut the lock. The workers went to the reception area of their former workplace and "huddled together in tears when they realized what they had accomplished".[4]

In 2012, journalist Marie Triguna reports that the cooperative now consists of 150 workers.[5] The operation is successful although the 2008 economic crisis "has brought negative consequences for business at the hotel as tourism continues to drop".

Since the takeover, the hotel has also become an important location for the worker self-management movement in Argentina. Many workers from new take-overs have come to the BAUEN for advice and support, and the hotel provides space to cultural and social movements in the city as well as human rights and environmental organisations.

Despite an attempt in 2008 by national parliament deputy Victoria Donda to put through a bill that would have placed the hotel under government ownership and allowed the workers to legally manage it, the workers' legal position remains tenuous. They have received eviction papers many times. However, "state representatives have been reluctant to put into motion an eviction attempt, sensing that because of the BAUEN Hotel's strategic location and ability to rally support, efforts at eviction would result in a costly bloodbath".[6] Nora Cortinas, president of Mothers of Playa de Mayo's founding chapter, has sworn to defend the BUAEN cooperative. Subway workers who use the hotel for union meetings have threatened to shut down public transit if the BAUEN cooperative is attacked. Many collectives have performad fundraisers for themselves or the hotel. Rock star Leon Grieco performed at a street festival at which thousands attended in support of Donda's 2008 parliamentary bill.

Trigona concludes that "Since the workers broke the chains protecting private property, their lives and the workplace have transformed into a liberatory space. Whereas the hotel had been a dark symbol of the nation's state repression and neoliberal policies, today it symbolizes working-class resistance and culture".

Notes

  1. according to Raul Godoy of the FASINPAT ceramics cooperative, quoted in Marie Trigona, p 243.
  2. Marie Trigona, p 243.
  3. Marie Trigona, p 242
  4. Marie Trigona, p 242.
  5. P 243.
  6. Marie Trigona, p 244.

Source

Marie Trigona, 2012. "Occupy, Resist, Produce! Lessons from Latin America's Occupied Factories", in Deric Shannon, Anthony Novella II, and John Asimakopoulos, The Accumulation of Freedom: Writings on Anarchist Economics. Oakland, California, USA: A K Press, 2012.