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From anarchist bakers and friar balls

We go back to the past, to find out where the curious names of the national bakery come from. On this historic walk we know why culinary delights bear such funny names.

 Did you know it was the anarchists who named the Argentine bills?  In this note we tell you why  the names of the pieces of the bakery are so curious.  In general,   “vigilante”, “ball of fraire”, “sacraments”, “nun's sigh”, are names that aim to  mock different levels of the state.   These labels give an indication of  the importance and historical weight that the anarchist movement  had  in our country.  .


A dozen sacraments

Today, if we go to the bakery and order a “sacramento”  in any province of Argentina, they will understand us.   However, this meaning comes from a good distance and  dates back to 1800.  It was in 1880 that  Ettore Mattei arrived in Argentina. Europe had become a dangerous place for anarchist militants and Buenos Aires  seemed a safer place  to continue  fighting for workers' rights.  Five years later he also arrived in the city of Plata  Enrico Malatesta.  


The first union

 Mattei and Malatesta were the great leaders of the movement that led anarchism to cross the puddle and flow into our country ; they formed, separately, two groups that acted independently. However, in 1887, both came together to  found the Cosmopolitan Society of Resistance and Placement of Bakers.    This was the first bakers' union  in Argentina, whose ideology was based  on direct action and revolutionary strike.  

Malatesta was responsible for  the drafting of the statutes,  the first article of which was  “Achieving the intellectual, moral and physical improvement of the worker and his emancipation from the clutches of capitalism.”   On the other hand ,  Mattei served as  managing secretary of the guild.  He also served as  editor-in-chief of El Obrero Panadero   , a  dissemination tool  for the union, which was published from 1894 to 1930.


The Eternal Strike

One year after the union was founded, bakers decided to  organize a strike to demand improvements in their working conditions.  Rents and food had risen and wages were not reaching. Among its requirements were a  30 per cent increase in wages, a kilo of bread per day, weekly pay of wages and the elimination of night days.  

The strike lasted ten days and not only managed to  meet the demands  of the workers, but it helped to promote  the creation of other anarchist workers' organizations.  In addition, to record their triumph and their ideology, the bakers decided to bake sweets whose forms and names mocked different social estates . These denominations referred to  the police, church or army.  


Linguistic resistance

In this way, some elongated sweets were called  vigilantes, referring to the sticks with which the policemen were armed.  Others, stuffed with cream or dulce de leche were called  bombs and cannons, as a mockery of army weaponry .   And the Church wasn't left out of this mockery either. They also called  some pieces  as  “sacraments” and “nun's sighs.”  The latter were synonymous with the “friar balls”, generating a cross mockery.


Definitive names

What began as a symbol of resistance and  an internal code of militancy became definitive and iconic bakery titles.   Finally, these labels fell deep, and when the time came,  even the oligarchs classes used these terms.  At present, these names  are still being used . However,  the revolutionary origin of such names  is not so well known to the population.

 More than a century after the emergence of the anarchist movement , the vestiges of that struggle  remain part  of our daily vocabulary.   It should be noted that different Argentine governments did their utmost to eradicate the country's movement, including repression and murders during the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century. However,  anarchist names in the Argentine gastronomic world continue to originate in revolutionary ideals.  

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