By Almudena Calatrava and Debora Rey
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Prices are soaring, foreign reserves are falling, and the peso has had its sharpest slide in 12 years. Instead of rioting, however, Argentines are falling back on tried-and-true survival skills learned in earlier, more dire times.
Some are hoarding dollars, while others stockpile goods or plow their savings into real estate.
More people ride bikes now, following recent increases in public transportation fares. They eat out less, and they buy cheap, pirated DVD copies of the latest films instead of going out to the movies.
With inflation running at about 30%, Sofia Basualdo, a 43-year-old geography teacher, has used shopping sprees to beat further price rises.
"I might pay 1 peso for a product today, but next week I'll likely have to pay 2 pesos," Basualdo said, as she pushed a shopping cart filled to the brim out of a Buenos Aires supermarket. "In this country, when you start smelling inflation, it's best to buy and save."
Many Argentines note that the current economic woes are not as bad as the nation's financial collapse in 2001-2002. Unemployment remains relatively low, and many people benefit from government handouts. Yet they worry the country may be at a tipping point.
"People are adopting defensive measures to survive," said Jorge Raventos, a political analyst and former spokesman for Argentina's foreign relations ministry. "People endure this by zigzagging along, but it's hard to know how much they can take before they explode."
The thirst for dollars was fed over the past few days when the peso suddenly slipped 15% against the greenback.