Argentinian Diary – The 1922 Patagonian Rebellion
In the area that is the Estancia La Anita, just a few kilometres from the town of El Calafate, can be found a humble monument to workers who, in the 1920s rose up in opposition to the feudal and almost slave like conditions in which the workers in the countryside had to endure.
As it was Anarchist led, by those who had fled from their governments, principally in Spain and Italy, this peasants revolt ended up in the massacre of hundreds of workers, a mixture of Argentines and Chileans.
They had risen up against the owners of the estancias, taking both hostages and arms in the process. However, due to poor leadership they found themselves isolated when the national government sent in the calvary.
With the end of the 1914-1919 war the price of wool plummeted and the landowners forced the lower costs on the workforce. In August 1920 the rural workers went on strike and this led to an armed confrontation in El Cerrito (on the road between Calafate and Rio Gallegos) in January 1921.
Hostages were taken by the rebels and this was used as an excuse by the landowners to call upon the national government to declare a state of emergency and the Army was sent from Buenos Airies. An agreement was reached between the Army, the landowners and the strikers and the army left the area but the landowners reneged and violence re-erupted. Not surprisingly the English landowners played a major role in pushing for the repression of the strikers. This was when the massacres occurred.
The Army general took a hard line and being outnumbered, outgunned and outmanoeuvred strikers gave up their arms and surrendered. This was a mistake as once unarmed they were summarily executed. Up to 1,500 were eventually shot and buried in unmarked graves.
I have no date for this monument, only really seeing it for a few seconds as the bus to the Perito Moreno stopped and an explanation given. A simple monument (with an obligatory Christian cross) but at least now, almost 100 years later, this rebellion of the workers in the countryside is being remembered on a local basis.
The uprising is known as the Patagonia Rebelde or Patagonia Trágica (Rebel Patagonia or Tragic Patagonia.)
‘Viajero que pasas por este lugar … recuerda que a lo largo y a lo ancho de estos territorios, en tumbas sin nombres, pero no por ello olvidados, yacen aquellos que se alzaron en defensa de sus derechos. En 1922 cayeron fusilados en la Patagonia Argentina cientos de trajabadores laneros y peones rurales de diversas nacionalidades por revalarse contra condiciones de trabajo inhumano y reclamar salarios justos.
Hoy los recordamos …. aqui, en calles y escuelas, por que “La ética siempre vuelve a sugir por más que la degüuellen, la fusilen, la secuestren o la desaparazcan.” (Osvaldo Bayer)’
Traveller, who passes this place ….. remember that throughout the width and breadth of these territories, in unmarked graves, but not for that forgotten, rest those that rose up in defence of their rights. In 1922, in the Argentine Patagonia, hundreds of shepherds and peasant workers from diverse countries were shot for rebelling against inhuman working conditions and for demanding decent wages.
“Ethics always reappear no matter how much they slay it, shoot it, kidnap it or disappear it.” Osvaldo Bayer