BankBoston branch in a central location of Buenos Aires after an attack by demonstrators in 2002. BankBoston (under its previous names) had a presence in Argentina for most of the 20th century. In 2004, Bank of America purchased the merged bank of BankBoston and Fleet Bank and in 2006 it sold the Argentine BankBoston operations to South Africa's Standard Bank. On the facade of the bank one can see spray-painted the words, 'RATAS' (rats), CHORROS' (thieves in slang) and 'YANKEES', which functions as a derogatory way to refer to people from the USA. During this period, the USA was blamed for the exploitation of Argentina, and US institutions and businesses became objects of contention.
This paper demonstrates how social and political conflict is inscribed in urban space by focusing on the neoliberal political–economic collapse of Argentina, which was a conflict-ridden process with ordinary people protesting against institutions responsible for the neoliberalization of the economy. These protests affected the architecture of banking and government institutions, especially in Buenos Aires, which is the political and financial center of Argentina. Facing popular unrest and continuous political mobilizations, these institutions decided to physically fortify themselves and in the process displayed their vulnerability and illegitimacy. The fact that spatial fortification became a permanent feature of state institutions but only a temporary feature of international banks, raises questions about the way that neoliberalism operates and the way that blame for neoliberal failures is allocated. It also provides hints about the unsatisfactory political–economic outcome that emerged after the collapse, despite the fact that orthodox neoliberalism was at least rhetorically abandoned. The article is available here.