Argentina

Teatro Colon - Buenos Aires

Teatro Colon – Buenos Aires

Argentina

Below are a number of posts which document experiences and impressions during a visit to Argentina at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

Arrival and first impressions of Buenos Aires

The Malvinas War

The Malvinas War of 1982 (erroneously called the ‘Falklands War’ by the British and other imperialists) between Argentina and Britain must go down in history as the most shameful military adventure in a litany of shameful wars over the too long existence of the British Empire. Two fascists, struggling to maintain their power due to their respective inabilities to rule the country (even in a capitalist and exploitative manner) chose to put lives at risk in an effort to court popular support.

Only one of them could succeed in such an enterprise and that turned out to be Thatcher in Britain. Whilst Galtieri was booted out in Argentina Thatcher was re-elected until her own party turned against her in 1990. Although her tenure was a disaster for the British working class (the consequences of which are still be felt to this day) her success did contain a certain element of retribution.

The majority of the British working class supported this military adventure, the show of jingoism and racism (an embarrassment to right thinking people) that it released demonstrating that many had not moved on from the ignorant flag waving celebrations surrounding the relief of Mafeking, during the Boer War, in May 1900. Some ‘benefited’ during her just under eleven years in power (especially those who bought council houses as part of her policies of privatisation) but the legacy of the destruction of industry and the attacks upon organised labour in the trade unions is being felt today as the future for the young gets bleaker and more depressing as the years roll on.

Most of those workers who supported the war in those early days in April 21982 did so, initially, on the belief that the Argentinians had invaded the islands off the north-west of Scotland. When they realised the Malvinas were half a world away it was too late to admit their mistake.

On the other hand there was a general ‘patriotic’ relationship to the islands in the minds of most Argentinian workers, even if at the same time they were fighting against the fascism of the military junta in power at the time. However, there has definitely been a rupture when it comes to the public memory of those young men who lost their lives in the cold of a southern winter so many years ago.

There are memorials to the Malvinas War in many cities and towns of Argentina but all of them, including the National Memorial in Buenos Aires are all looking sad and neglected.

Nonetheless, some of those memorials are described below to provide an idea of how (if not now in the recent past) the Argentinian people paid homage to those who fought and died, or were injured, defending what they considered to be part of their homeland.

¡Las Malvinas son argentinas!

Monument to the Fallen in the Malvinas – Buenos Aires

National Malvinas Monument – Ushuaia

Museum of the Malvinas War – Rio Gallegos

Malvinas Monument El Calafate

Las Malvinas and Rio Gallegos

The legacy of fascism

On Thursday 30th April 1977 a group of women congregated in the Plaza de Mayo, right in front of the Casa Rosada – the office residence of the President of Argentina – demanding news of their sons and daughters who had been kidnapped by the Fascist military junta and whose whereabouts was unknown. Many of these people, who became known as ‘los desaparecidos’ (the ‘disappeared’), had been, where still in 1977 and would be up to the fall of the junta in 1983, tortured and then killed and their remains being deposited in unmarked graves – or even being thrown into the Atlantic Ocean (often whilst still alive).

The fascists were unsure how to deal with such a group of people, ‘respectable’ mothers (in a country dominated by Catholicism) whose children might have been involved in anti-fascist activities. Even the fascists were afraid to confront such a group and, although the kidnappings, torture and killings were to continue, tolerated what was to becoem a weekly demonstration against the military.

On 8th April, 2021, the number of Thursdays since that first one in 1977 had reached 2,243 – and not one has been missed without some sort of demonstration in the same location ever since.

One of the symbols adopted by what became known as Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (The Mothers of May Square) was a white head scarf (typically worn by working class women in the 1970s) and travelling around you will see images of this symbol spray painted on pavements, walls and especially in the many small squares that proliferate in Argentinian towns.

At the same time the Las Madres developed a structure the Asociación Civil Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo) was also established. The Association’s aim was to trace the whereabouts of the children of ‘los desaparecidos’ who had also been kidnapped and ‘given’ to childless couples who were members and/or supporters of the military and fascist junta. (The Official Story (La historia oficial) is a 1985 Argentine film, directed by Luis Puenzo, which deals with this issue.

Madres de Plaza de Mayo

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

Riot Police in Argentina

Nature

With a north-south distance of 3,694 km (2,295 miles) Argentina encompasses a huge variety of environments – from the sub-tropics of the border with Brazil at the Iguazu Falls to the close to Antarctic conditions of the most southerly town of Ushuaia. There’s a selection of those environments described below.

Iguazu Falls – from Brazil and Argentina

Beagle Channel, sea lions, cormorants, Arctic terns and giant Southern petrels

Penguin Island (Isla Magdalena)

The Perito Moreno Glacier

Peninsula Valdés, whales and elephant seals

Culture

A coverall heading to various elements of how the Argentinian express themselves and define their identity through cultural activities.

The shrine of La Difunta Correa – the deceased Correa

Indigenous representation in public art – murals and mosaics

Indigenous representation in public art – the monuments and photographs

Indigenous representation in public art – the church

Street art in La Boca

The ‘incidente’ between La Boca players and River Plate fans

History

A dip into Argentina’s labour history.

The massacre of the Magallanes Workers’ Federation

A Miner’s Statue – where there’s no mines

The 1922 Patagonian Rebellion

Contemporary Argentina

There seemed to be (and more than likely still is two years on – even with a change of government) a demonstration or two each day – apart from the weekend – in the centre of Buenos Aires, starting at the Obelisco and normally going to the Plaza de Mayo which is next to the Presidential palace, the Casa Rosada. All the ones I witnessed were also accompanied by a strong (and intimidating) contingent of riot police in full gear. One other interesting aspect of these demonstrations was the overwhelming presence of those who trace their roots back to the pre-Colombian peoples of the area.

Demonstrations in central Buenos Aires

Anti-cuts meeting and demonstration in La Plata

G-20 Meeting – November 2018

By pure chance the end of 2018 G-20 meeting took place at the end of my first week in the country. As previous G-20 meetings went this was a relatively quiet affair. The police and army presence was overwhelming – which probably accounted for the lack of any real conflict. It was a militarily organised response where money was no object.

Apart from the number of paramilitaries on the ground the Argentinian people paid for thousands of ‘vallas’ (removable barricades) which were used to effectively create a huge cordon around the area where the politicos of the capitalist world would be congregating, living and meting. As well as that the Jorge Newbery airport (which is the beside the coast and very close to one of the most prosperous parts of the city) was turned over exclusively for those involved in the meeting for the best part of a week.

The G-20 meeting is really only a get together which lasts no more than a full day and a night but the impact it had on the Porteños (the residents of Buenos Aires) who lived or worked in the area must have been immense.

The G-20 effect on Buenos Aires

Locking Buenos Aires down for the G-20, 2018

Calm before the storm

The Anti G-20 demonstration in Buenos Aires

The Cost of the Buenos Aires G-20