Young Women Speaking the Economy
Remembering the Cacerolazo
In 2001, Argentina went through a national economic meltdown. Rising inflation, decreasing exports, a huge national debt, high unemployment, and corrupt leaders led to an economic crisis that left the middle class facing unemployment and rapidly devaluing assets. The government, fearing a bank run, imposed measures known as the corralito that limited bank withdrawals to small sums only, leaving thousands without access to their money.
As a result, many Argentines took to the street. The popular form of protest known as cacerolazo, or banging pots and pans, was common, but soon evolved to more violent and destructive protests, including riots that left several dead. For more than a year, cacerolazo and other demonstrations were a daily occurrence, as the Argentine middle class were plunged into unemployment and poverty. Eventually new political leadership took over and stabilized the economy, and Argentina has managed to make great strides toward economic recovery since 2001. (To learn more, read our Argentina overview essay.)
However, the middle class has not forgotten.
Argentine artist Gabriela Horvat was inspired by the economic crisis and the ensuing protests to create her "Pans" line of jewelry. Horvat used metals such as silver, copper, bronze, and nickel that would make noise when struck against each other to replicate the ubiquitous sound of members of the middle class banging pots and pans together in protest in the street.
What follows is an interview with Horvat about her work, her experience of the protest, and more.
IMOW: How long have you been a jeweler?
GABRIELA HORVAT: I have been making jewelry for more than nine years. I come from an artistic family, and I've worked in cooking, pottery, and photography, but I discovered jewelry-making while I was studying industrial design in college. Some friends invited me to do a jewelry course. I never thought I could love it; it had never occurred to me before to work as a jeweler.
IMOW: What was your experience of the crisis of the middle class in Argentina?
HORVAT: The so-called corralito affected the entire middle class. It was a strange atmosphere: people afraid, people angry, people trying to survive, everyone feeling that we were in a crisis once again.
I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by sounds of people crying, screaming, and protesting. People yelling, "We've had enough!"
This collection was to represent the clamor of the people, when in 2001 we marched in the streets to take what was ours. In that moment, everything felt energized, hopeful, magical. Our hearts were awakened for a cause, and we all stood up to say "Enough!"
IMOW: Why did you decide to address the middle class crisis in your jewelry work?
HORVAT: The objects I create emerge from playing with different materials, techniques and memories. I think that time was so powerful that it was natural for it to find its way into my work.
IMOW: Women wear your jewelry more than men. Is there a message in creating jewelry for women that is activism oriented?
HORVAT: Not particularly. I want to bring meaning to my work, awaken people's feeling, alert them, and make them smile. I do do some activism work, volunteering with women who don't have jobs. I teach them technical skills. My jewelry also is made with sustainable materials and is fair trade.
IMOW: How has the economic crisis impacted you now?
HORVAT: I am 32 years old now. In a way, this crisis was the first one that impacted me as an adult. People in Argentina, especially Buenos Aires, were always looking outside for influences, copying designs in other countries and such. With this crisis, traveling possibilities declined, so designers, among other fields, started becoming more creative year after year and no longer looked outwards for inspiration.
This crisis, as happens in many crises, ended with opportunities.