Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro and the History of the Vuelta a Boedo Campaign – Part III

Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro and the History of the Vuelta a Boedo Campaign – Part III

By Matt Hawkins – 

March to the French Embassy 

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This article is the third of a three part series on Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro and the “Vuelta a Boedo” (Return to Boedo) campaign. In 1979, during Argentina’s civic-military dictatorship, San Lorenzo was forced to sell its stadium, the wooden terraced Gasómetro, and club facilities in the southern Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Boedo. A small group of hinchas, as supporters are known in Latin America, began to plot the club’s return to Boedo in the early 2000s. Their efforts inspired tens of thousands to share in their dream and have since achieved legislative backing for the purchase of the property that San Lorenzo lost. On September 10, 2015, the Subcomisión del Hincha (Subcommittee of Supporters) hosted a festival to remind Carrefour, current owners of the club’s tierra santa (holy land) of their legal obligations. This third instalment turns to the Vuelta a Boedo and describes how hinchas of San Lorenzo were inspired by their club’s history and created an unprecedented social movement.

From their balcony above the street, on December 15, 2011, a bemused elderly couple watch as their exclusive and normally quiet neighbourhood near the core of Buenos Aires is turned into a carnivalesque street party. It is a scene that belongs in a football stadium not in the luxurious neighbourhood of Recoleta.

A week before the December 15 march in Recoleta , a group with the name Cuervos de Poe (Crows of Poe) decided to write a letter to the French ambassador. The letter described how Club Atlético San Lorenzo was forced to sell their stadium, El Gasómetro, during Argentina’s civic-military dictatorship. They explained that the property was owned by Carrefour, a French multinational retailer and that San Lorenzo was pursuing legal expropriation of the property through the City of Buenos Aires. Citing human rights abuses of the dictatorship, the letter asked for reassurance that the French government would not intervene politically.

The Subcomisión del Hincha (Subcommittee of the supporter, SCH), the main organization behind the Vuelta a Boedo (Return to Boedo), officially submitted the letter and organized the march.

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Word went out for cuervos to gather around the iconic Obelisco on the Friday after work. As offices downtown began to close, hinchas by the hundreds started to show up waving blue and red flags. Bottles of beer were shared among friends. The big base drums and cymbals, el bombo y platillo, the typical percussion instruments of porteño street culture, appeared. Dozens of posters covered with the face of Brigadier General Osvaldo Cacciatore, the Mayor of Buenos Aires during the dictatorship, were passed around. “Appropriator and thief” they proclaimed. On a small grass knoll a large banner proclaimed “vamos a volver a Boedo” (we will return to Boedo): everything was ready to meet the ambassador.

Buenos Aires is a city familiar with chaotic political actions. When the march grew to several thousand people, it took over the centre lanes of the Avenida 9 de Julio and the rush-hour traffic was sent to the side streets.

In front of the embassy, a short plump man climbed up onto a parked van. He was given a microphone plugged into an amplifier. “Shhhhh,” the crowd demanded, putting a stop to the stadium songs. His voice was barely audible only fifteen metres away but people strained to listen.

Adolfo Res, was an unlikely leader. Although shy away from the microphone, he rose to prominence by talking about the club’s history. His friends joke that he can launch into detailed descriptions of goals scored decades ago and remembers the names of all the players on the field. Res’ passion extends beyond San Lorenzo’s football team: along with his brother Diego, the two began a radio program San Lorenzo Ayer Hoy y Siempre (Yesterday, Today and Always), to recall all facets of San Lorenzo’s sporting and cultural history.

Res told me a year later, “For me, going to the ambassador was the most brilliant thing we did, even though it was the smallest march—seven thousand people. Because, just to show you, someone from Angola emailed me after the action to say that they support the Vuelta a Boedo. The march crossed the ocean, crossed borders, all so that the world would know that Carrefour was with the military dictatorship.”

The march was strategic and drew international attention to the campaign. Over the next year, the Vuelta a Boedo took several big steps forward and reached a significant milestone on November 15, 2012 with the passage of the Law of Historical Restitution that authorized the negotiated expropriation of Carrefour from Avenida La Plata.

On Thursday, September 12, 2015, almost three years later, hinchas of San Lorenzo were once again taking to the streets. This time stepping onto the tierra santa, holy land, on Avenida La Plata outside the Carrefour to remind the company of their legal obligation to return the property.

The Formation of the SCH

The Vuelta a Boedo is a unique campaign in international football. Started at the grassroots by supporters of San Lorenzo de Almagro, it has challenged common assumptions about the relationship between politics and football. The Subcomisión del Hincha has been at the centre of the campaign since its formation in 2005.

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A video of Adolfo Res from 1999 shows how long the campaign has been in motion. “With thirty million I’d buy the Carrefour and rebuild the Gasómetro out of wood and steel, that I can swear to you,” a defiant Res stares at the interviewer.

Back then in the cafes along Avenida Boedo, the commercial street that shares the neighbourhood’s name, an older generation began to reflect on the loss of the Viejo Gasómetro. Adolfo, along with several others began to organize regular presentations on the history of San Lorenzo and talk about the past carnivals, the club’s successes in other sports, and to increase awareness of the vibrant institution that had been on on Avenida La Plata. From these discussions, a small group of friends decided to come together as the SCH and transform their nostalgia into meaningful action.

The Subcomisión’s immediate goal was to recover a portion of the Viejo Gasómetro property that was transferred to the city in 1980. The city had claimed that the land was needed for a school but those plans were never realized. In time the space was neglected.

Taking their case to the City of Buenos Aires, the SCH argued that the property taken under false pretences by the civic-military dictatorship rightfully belonged to the club. San Lorenzo promised to operate the plaza, and to provide security and activities. In 2006, San Lorenzo won back the land and renamed the space the Plaza Lorenzo Massa, after the priest who had helped to found the club. With this first victory in hand, the SCH began to dream of a more complete return to Boedo.

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Other activities were organized: an annual 5-km run named after club legend Delfo Cabrera, parties on the April 1 anniversary, a weekend carnival on Avenida La Plata, and regular barbecues for hundreds of people.

In 2010, the SCH opened the Casa de Cultura. Purchased with donations by hinchas including a large donation by Viggo Mortensen, the house located behind the Carrefour hosts daily courses in history, art, dance, music, English, martial arts, and activities for children. The Casa de Cultura is a microcosm of what the SCH hopes to create within Boedo.

Surrounding the Carrefour with community-based activities, cuervos began to envision rebuilding a stadium where the Viejo Gasómetro had once stood. Within the archives of Buenos Aires, Adolfo and others uncovered documents that brought into question how San Lorenzo had lost the property, including the sale of the property to Banco Mariva and two shadow companies that netted over US$ 7 million for secret investors.

Politics of Memory

The way in which Argentina engaged with its dark history was also changing. Since the election of Néstor Kirchner in 2003, Argentina has promoted a politics of memory to address the social, political, and economic damage done to the country during the civic-military dictatorship. For more than two decades after the end of the dictatorship, human rights groups, including the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, continued their fight for justice. The lost generation of tortured, murdered, and disappeared Argentinians began to find a new place in the country’s consciousness as monuments and public institutions were established in their memory.

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On April 25, 2007 the Supreme Court removed the immunity and pardons given to the military officials who had ruled Argentina during the dictatorship. Jorge Rafael Videla was once again put on trial in July 2010 for the human rights violations that occurred during his rule and was convicted to life in prison in December of that year.

For the Vuelta a Boedo, the changing awareness of the social consequences of the dictatorship provided an opportunity to rethink what San Lorenzo had lost when it was forced to close and sell the Viejo Gasómetro. The claims made by the Subcomisión were directed toward repairing the damaged and severed social relationships that were lost with the stadium.

For an older generation of hinchas who lost their place in the world during the dictatorship, these relationships are personal. A younger generation of hinchas, however, have a different experience. Many imagine the possible realities that were lost when the dictatorship changed the course of their club. Social justice became a meaningful argument for politicians and human rights activists who took up the cause of the Vuelta a Boedo.

The Vuelta a Boedo moves into the Legislature

The Subcomisión found an ally in Laura Garcia Tuñón, a legislator in the City of Buenos Aires from the small Proyecto Sur party. Tuñón is not a hincha of San Lorenzo. For her, the Vuelta a Boedo presented a political re-imagining of the economically disadvantaged southern neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires that the movement represents. During the neoliberal period of the 1990s, the south suffered from de-industrialization, unemployment, and insecurity. San Lorenzo, Tuñón believed, could provide a social anchor to the neighbourhood.

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For other politicians, simply being a hincha of San Lorenzo was an important motivator. Soon the SCH was in contact with Senator Daniel Filmus, an influential politician within President Cristina Kirchner’s Frente para la Victoria (FpV) and a well-known fan of San Lorenzo. Eduardo Epszteyn from the FpV in the city legislature created his own legislation for the Vuelta. Members of the Legislature of Buenos Aires presented several versions of the Project for Historical Restitution on behalf of the SCH.

The project moved forward through various committees. The largest party in the City of Buenos Aires, the Propuesta Republicana (PRO) of Mayor Mauricio Macri, at times formed the opposition to the Vuelta legislation. An expropriation is ideologically unpalatable for many within the PRO, and in response, the activists within the SCH learned to become skilled lobbyists. Adolfo Res with Daniel Peso among others spent many hours knocking on doors and climbing up and down stairs chasing politicians.

When Tuñón presented the first version of the Law for Historical Restitution on November 25, 2010 the SCH organized a rally attended by several thousand hinchas outside the legislature. The practice became a tradition for cuervos. Each step forward was accompanied by a growing number of supporters. Marches on April 12, 2011 and July 5, 2011 grew from 20,000 to 40,000 people.

By the end of 2011, volunteers in the SCH were managing weekly information tables in the city centre and in Boedo which encouraged support for the Law for Historical Restitution. Hinchas described how the loss of the stadium is connected to social justice in Argentina and advertized the next large demonstration for March 8, 2012.

8 de Marzo – the Day the Hinchas Play

The Plaza de Mayo is an iconic Buenos Aires landmark. The Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential palace, stands at one end; at the other is the Cabildo de Buenos Aires, the old colonial palace of the viceroy, and behind it stands the Legislature of Buenos Aires. Important ministries, the country’s central bank and the Cathedral of Buenos Aires flank the rectangular space.

The Plaza de Mayo has, as a result, also become a location of protest and celebration. From the balcony of the Casa Rosada, presidents have delivered victory speeches to hundreds of thousands of supporters below. During tumultuous political periods, rivals are required to demonstrate their street power by bringing large crowds to the plaza. And during the dictatorship, mothers encircled the central obelisk carrying pictures of their disappeared loved ones. The women risked their lives in the rare demonstration against the dictatorship.

Since Argentina’s financial crisis in 2001, a small police force with riot gear and water cannons has been permanently stationed in the Plaza. The Plaza de Mayo not a common gathering place for football supporters, yet, in the context of San Lorenzo’s demand for justice the Plaza de Mayo is symbolically significant.

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In the early afternoon of March 8, I met with hinchas outside Carrefour. A caravan of over 80 buses was going to take us to the Plaza de Mayo for a demonstration in support of the Vuelta a Boedo. Fresh spray paint along Avenida La Plata proclaimed “retour o la mort” (return or death), in French for Carrefour’s owners.

The march had been advertised in the San Lorenzo press and in posters. A bus company owned by a cuervo had donated space on their buses to advertise the march. Newspapers also covered the campaign. But mostly it was by word of mouth that hinchas convinced one another to be present. Peñas from all over the country organized transportation so that their members could also attend the march.

As the crowd grew on Aveninda La Plata, rusted former school buses, some with broken windows, began to line up along the street. Over several blocks, a semi-orchestrated effort got underway to put thousands of people into the buses. Inside each one there was standing room only. The caravan began to resemble a hinchada on an away match. Flags and bodies were sticking out of the windows. A young woman beside me squeezed through the window to wave at people below. And the buses themselves became percussive instruments. Ratta-da-da-da. Songs travelled up and down the line. Motorcycles and cars covered in blue and red pulled up alongside. It was a scene from Mad Max: Return to Boedo.

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The excitement grew as we lurched forward, barely above a walking pace, toward the commercial heart of Boedo. “… a Boedo vamo’a volver! Por la vuelta, todo delira delira ciclón! … ” Songs from the front and the back of the caravan echoed off the buildings. Crossing into the next neighbourhood of Parque Patricios, home to San Lorenzo’s rivals Huracan, I almost expected a fight. But the neighbours were out on the street waving and smiling, celebrating the largest football party of the year.

We were dropped off on the Avenida 9 de Julio, a short march to the Plaza de Mayo. Others were arriving from Buenos Aires’ suburbs. Concussive fireworks were exploding and red smoke waffled in the air. We were part of a total sensorial invasion.

I soon realized that the caravan had brought only a fraction of the crowd. As our march neared the Plaza de Mayo, the street became more congested untill we reached the edge of the plaza. Bodies pressed together; there was no space to move forward. The air filled with the smell of barbecues and flares. To the front of the crowd a large stage was set up and presentations were already underway. Laser lights projected the image of Father Lorenzo Massa onto a ministry building. Few people prepare for a political rally as well as Argentinians.

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“Adolfo, querido, Boedo está contigo,” the crowd extolled as the historian took the microphone, followed by requests for quiet. Again I was struck by the effort of the crowd to listen. The campaign had become increasingly focused on the French company: “This embarrassing company Carrefour sped up [its reconstruction] when we came to legislators with an idea for the property … We ask everyone to help San Lorenzo because the dictatorship screwed us and because its an act of justice!”

After a series of speeches, the crowd was thanked, and people slowly began to disperse. While getting onto the subway, it all felt anti-climactic; the march had no immediate impact. When I returned home and turned on the television, I realized my mistake: every news program was talking about the Vuelta a Boedo and the celebration that a reported 100,000 hinchas had created on the Plaza de Mayo. In a country used to talking about football violence, March 8 was something completely different. No match was played, no championship was celebrated; the biggest football event in 2012 was the day the hinchas decided to play.

The Most Creative Supporters in Argentina

Demonstrations for the Vuelta a Boedo reveal how supporters have mixed politics with football culture. In the realmof demonstrations, hinchas of San Lorenzo win the prize for being the most creative. The hinchada of San Lorenzo has a library of lyrics for 1000 songs and chants. Many are recognizable melodies from the terraces of Argentina; often, familiar pop-songs were first brought to the stadium by hinchas of San Lorenzo. Their performances during a 90-minute match are a source of great pride.

The Cuervos de Poe were inspired by this legacy. In one of their projects, the Cuervos de Poe paired with local musicians to create a series of music videos based on stadium songs.

Each video carries the message: “culture is returning to Boedo” challenging the stereotype of violence and football—one of the arguments made against the Vuelta a Boedo. Hinchas like those who make up the Cuervos de Poe are not ignorant of how violent Argentina’s stadiums have become. , The media attention is often myopic, however, and misses the many ways in which football creates possibilities for self-expression, community, and passion. Most hinchas take an anti-violence stance within their fanaticism, and look for alternative ways to show their support—but the relationships are complex. The Vuelta a Boedo campaign has been a valuable medium for hinchas to participate in a creative social community.

Vision of a transformed neighbourhood

At its core, the Vuelta a Boedo envisions San Lorenzo as a sports and social club at the heart of Boedo. SCH argues that the neighbourhood was negatively affected by the loss of the Gasómetro. Compared to the old club facilities, hinchas argue, the Carrefour does not generate the same sense of community. People drive into its gated parking lot to purchase clothing, plastic toys, and processed food. And, in the early evening the Carrefour is closed, and the surrounding streets are abandoned.

While we walk on the streets around the Carrefour, Poli, a hincha in his sixties, tells me how he imagines the neighbourhood will be changed by San Lorenzo. “Now you can see it’s getting dark and people feel scared walking around at night. With club here there will be lights and people will be coming and going; not just shopping during the day but also coming to the club in the evening. Just like the Casa de Cultura. The movement of people will be impressive!”

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In an important way, hinchas have been using the walls of Boedo to make aesthetic changes. The Grupo Artístico de Boedo, founded in 2012, has painted sixty-nine murals in Boedo: tributes to players, famous hinchas like guitarist Pappo and writer Osvaldo Soriano, to neighbourhood traditions like tango. The work has been voluntary, supported by donations of paint, and at the request of neighbours. The work represents the effort of campaigners to inspire community and instilling the pride that comes with being both a hincha of San Lorenzo and neighbour in Boedo.

Political Changes in San Lorenzo

Efforts to achieve sense of community within San Lorenzo has not always had the support of the club’s politicians. The administration of President Rafael Savino (2003-2010) had taken a position of indifference to the Vuelta a Boedo. His club secretary, Juan Carlos Temez, had been active in redeveloping the Plaza Lorenzo Massa but, in general, the board saw Vuelta as a distraction from the main focus—winning tournaments.

The football-first emphasis inspired a transfer strategy that left the club deep in debt. Carlos Abdo replaced Savino in 2010, at which point, none of the major candidates opposed the Vuelta a Boedo because of its strong grassroots following. Abdo, however, proved unprepared for the difficulties involved in leading a large football club.

In July 2012, San Lorenzo hit a turning point. Recently saved from relegation in the last few matches of the championship, hinchas had a chance to re-evaluate the state of their club. At an emergency meeting of the board of directors, hinchas confronted the club’s leadership. When the board attempted to explain the shape the club was in, a well-known hincha went up to the table, knocked over a water pitcher, and called vice-president Jorge Aldrey a traitor and a thief, and demanded his resignation.

The incident ended Carlos Abdo’s presidency. It was the subject of all the major news outlets; it was impossible for him to save face. The board stepped down and an interim presidency led by Matias Lammens and Vice-President Marcelo Hugo Tinelli was put in place with elections to be held in September. Behind the scenes, Tinelli, one of Argentina’s most influential media personalities, had become increasingly involved in the club. In Lammens, he found a young, capable and unreservedly passionate leader to handle the day-to-day operations.

In the elections, the SCH presented a list of candidates under the name Cruzada por San Lorenzo. A large majority (60%) of San Lorenzo’s voting members backed Lammens and Tinelli. Cruzada and another grassroots list Más San Lorenzo, formed the opposition. While strong disagreements have existed between the lists, for the first time in recent years, San Lorenzo began to function with professional leadership with informed and passionate debate.

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Membership in the club has grown to over 60,000 members, in part thanks to the media influence of Tinelli and the election of Pope Francis, a well known hincha of San Lorenzo. The Vuelta a Boedo, however, had already precipitated much of the cultural transformation within San Lorenzo’s grassroots, forcing club politicians to engage with members as participants in their own club.

The re-invigorated San Lorenzo won the championship in 2013 and the Copa Libertadores in 2014, and has made important investments into the youth academy and ciudad deportiva in Bajo Flores. Also, other sports have regained prominence in the daily media of the club; stories about the basketball team, women’s football, volleyball, hockey, and other disciplines appear regularly on the club’s front page.

The Historical Restitution reaches the Legislature

Tinelli’s position on San Lorenzo’s board was a strategic asset for the Vuelta; because millions regularly view his programs, his willingness to promote the Vuelta a Boedo on his show has been a powerful political tool. Politicians were unable to ignore the issue and the groundwork that was carefully planned and implemented by the SCH within the Legislature of Buenos Aires began to move at an accelerated pace.

Hinchas of San Lorenzo had already made the politically expedient decision to fund the expropriation. The SCH began to collect names of people to purchase the 35,667 m2, individually priced at $2880 (Argentinian pesos). On September 15, 2012 the City of Buenos Aires unanimously approved the Banco Ciudad to organize a blind-trust on behalf of San Lorenzo and to begin collecting the money.

Another vote at the National Congress in October increased the pressure on the City of Buenos Aires to act before the end of the year. The vote in the congress, while carrying little practical influence, demonstrated the backing of President Cristina Kirchner’s Frente para la Victoria (FpV), the country’s largest political party.

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Horacio Pietragalla Corti, congress member for FpV, gave an emotionally powerful endorsement. Touching the San Lorenzo banner hanging from his desk he commented on the vote, “Now you understand why I brought this, so please, please vote in favour.” Pietragalla Corti continued, “As someone who knows what it’s like to lose one’s identity, paradoxically, the only thing that remains of my identity—I didn’t keep my birthday, my sign, my name—the only thing I kept of my identity is my football team.” Pietragalla Corti is one of an estimated three hundred children of the disappeared who were clandestinely kidnapped and placed into military families, often with no knowledge of their biological parents. Pietragalla Corti recovered his name and identity in 2003 when he learned that both his biological parents had been assassinated.

“I want, like all hinchas of San Lorenzo, to be able to recover this identity that was appropriated and stolen during the dictatorship. It is our beloved Gasómetro, which at the point of the pistol of Brigadier Cacciatore, our [club] President… was forced to sell. The only thing we want the Argentine public to recognize, on behalf of the community azulgrana, like our human rights organizations, like the Madres, the dictatorship committed a crime against the club … that everyone understands what this Viejo Gasómetro means to us. I don’t only maintain this identity of San Lorenzo because it is something you do not renounce, but because my father “Cacho” Pietragalla was also a hincha of San Lorenzo.”

#22N becomes #15N: the day San Lorenzo returned

The SCH targeted an upcoming day of voting on November 22, advertised as #22N on social media. Peñas organized transportation to the capital and posters were plastered throughout Boedo urging residents to appear outside the legislature. Then on November 15 a moment of politically created panic.

Behind the scenes, it is rumoured that Macri was annoyed with the influence of the Vuelta a Boedo. While a vote against the campaign had become politically untenable, his PRO were unsettled that the #22N campaign was dictating the business of the legislature.

Not for the first time, there was a back-room confrontation as politicians manoeuvred themselves in the petty politics of control. Threats to delay the vote were met by another threat: the patience of the crowd was wearing thin.

The SCH made an impromptu campaign headquarters in the Homero Manzi cafe on the corner of Av. San Juan and Av. Boedo. Campaigners struggled to decipher the rumours: was the legislature moving the vote forward? Were they attempting to delay untill the new year? Did they want to vote no? Text messages, Twitter, Facebook: San Lorenzo’s social media became a flurry of activity. The situation was tense as years of organizing and planning was coming to a head.

With no knowledge of what was happening in the legislature, the SCH decided to make a strategic move. In the late afternoon, the call went out: everyone to the legislature. Taking to the street is the most powerful tool of the majority of political movements in Argentina. Within minutes, lap tops were closed and transportation to the city centre was planned. Allied legislators were no doubt told: San Lorenzo is coming.

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Within an hour, a thousand people were on the door step of the Buenos Aires Legislature. Within two, banners were being strung up as the peñas from the suburbs began to arrive, some travelled more than an hour against rush hour traffic. An employee of the Legislature had changed the building’s accent lights to red and blue.

While waiting for clarity from the Legislature, hinchas turned to what they know best in moments of anxiety:

“A ver si me escuchan (Let’s see if you hear me),

A ver si me entienden (Let’s see if you get me),

La vuelta a Boedo (The Return to Boedo),

La banca la gente (Is supported by the people).

Pedimos al gobierno (We ask the government),

Que nos restituya (To return to us),

Lo que nos robaron (What they stole from us),

En la dictadura (In the dictatorship).

A volver, a volver, (Will return, will return),

San Lorenzo va a volver (San Lorenzo will return).”

Voices were cracking under the strain of over an hour of singing. A young boy stood at the centre of a circle of drums, his own drum almost equal in height, and was soon relieved as a core of the banda arrived.

Cell phones interspersed in the crowd transmitted the voting inside the Legislature. No one really knew what was going on, but the anticipation was palpable. Word spread that Adolfo and the SCH were inside the chamber with Lammens and Tinelli—everyone was sure the vote was imminent. Voices picked up again.

“A volver, a volver, San Lorenzo va a volver!” the song rolled when someone shouted out, “HEEYYY!!!” And then again, silencing the crowd. There was a pause, such as when the striker stands over the ball, facing down the keeper eleven metres out. Without need for words or explanation, everyone realized that years of marches, of organizing and meetings, of simple hard work had come to this one moment. And then came the eruption. No one saw the ball go into the net but we all knew.

Friends were crying and embracing strangers. The first song that came to the collective mind was nothing more than, “San Lore, San Lore, San Lorenzo, San Lore … ”. Then people began to recover and the reality quickly sank in. Almost universally and with one mind, the crowd picked a classic song:

“Los de boedo somos campeones (Those from Boedo are champions)

Fumada esta tu hinchada! (Your hinchada is high)

y delira en el tablon! (and crazy on the board[terrace])

entonando esta cancion…! (singing this song!)

Soy de boedo! (I’m from Boedo)

Soy de boedo! (I’m from Boedo)

Soy de boedo! (I’m From Boedo)

De boedo yo soy…! (From Boedo I am!)

Adolfo wasedcarried out of the legislature and through the crowd on the shoulders of members of the SCH. The crowd of several thousand heads to Avenida La Plata, joined by even more people who couldn’t make it to the legislature. Impromptu fireworks continued the celebration until midnight.

Getting Carrefour to comply

In that moment, everyone imagined that San Lorenzo “had returned.” Since then, almost three years of fundraising and negotiations have followed. The blind-trust has raised more than $50 million pesos in committed donations, with more than 22,000 people purchasing at least one symbolic m2. Viggo Mortesen has purchased 168 m2, Marcelo Tinelli 370 m2 but even more impressive is the number of contributions made by students, pensioners, and members of the club who have purchased one m2, the equivalent of a month’s minimum wage in 2013. Others have formed groups to purchase their m2.

On April 4, 2014 San Lorenzo and Carrefour signed an agreement of understanding. The club agreed to transfer the money already collected. In return Carrefour was to begin plans to move their store to a new location built on a 10,000 m2 corner of the property. On that day, Carrefour Argentina CEO Daniel Fernández said “We know we are on your land.” Since then Carrefour has received $30 million pesos and has not moved, prompting another hashtag: #movetecarrefour.

SCH has proposed a plan that incorporates space for businesses, a school, and club facilities into the stadium. San Lorenzo has courted the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to finance the construction once the property is transferred to the club. Not waiting for Carrefour, a gymnasium with seating for 1000 is being built on the Plaza Lorenzo Massa to host the club’s recently promoted basketball team.

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The day Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro returns to Boedo to celebrate a championship on Avenida La Plata remains illusive but is several steps closer to realization. David, the young hincha of San Lorenzo from the Peña del Oeste, told me he dreams of “the day when I can go together with my daughter, she’s one year old now, to the stadium on Avenida La Plata. That’s what I’m fighting for.”

In the month after the November 15 vote in the Legislature of Buenos Aires, hinchas of San Lorenzo circulated the claim that “in San Lorenzo utopias do not exist.” It was not a statement against dreaming, it was rather a declaration that the ambitions of the club’s hinchas cannot be denied forever.

Matt Hawkins is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Carleton University, Ottawa. His research covers the intersections of football and politics in Argentina. His dissertation focuses on the Return to Boedo campaign by supporters of Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro. He writes infrequently on supporter culture for stonymondayriot.com and can be followed on twitter @mhawkin2.

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