ABSTRACT

Massive lines of people, filling sidewalks and other open spaces, became a facet of daily life across Buenos Aires during the 2001-2002 Argentine economic crisis. ‘Structural adjustment’,1 common throughout the global South, had attempted to prime the national economy for global competition through greater marketization and less state involvement, but these clusters of reform programmes approved by the IMF and World Bank were instead a disaster, yielding new political corruption, fiscal insolvency, skyrocketing unemployment and record poverty. Porteños – or residents of the capital city – formed queues to withdraw pesos before further devaluation, to obtain a work visa for Spain, to secure a shrinking retirement benefit, or to receive one of the new subsidies for parents in those hardest of times. Many other lines existed, and several pre-dated Argentina’s catastrophic neoliberal collapse. But these examples were especially prevalent, and infused with the most palpable sense of cataclysm as well as uncertainty about the future in the onceconfident, cosmopolitan capital. They were the embodiments of the pitifully thirdworld depths to which the high-flying renaissance project of structural adjustment had fallen. And whilst those lines generally signalled a lack of luck for Argentina, there was another queue brimming with lucky Argentines themselves.