Monday, August 15, 2011

Las Malvinas son Argentinas--a little background on the sign

I first heard about the Las Malvinas son Argentinas signs, the "The Malvinas (Falklands) are Argentine" signs that are posted on every major highway leading into Argentina, by a British traveler at a hostel who had just gotten back from a tour of South America. He was beside himself about going into Argentina from a remote outpost in what I think was Bolivia and running into these signs.
The Malvinas/Falklands were the site of the Falkland war between Argentina and Great Britain, a war that was looked at as a kind of farce by much of the world, as a way for Thatcher to get her war jollies on, much in the same way that Reagan got his war erection satiated with his invasion of Grenada. But be that as it may it certainly seems to have had importance to the Argentines themselves. The resentment of the British by the Argentines, and of their claim on the Falklands appears to have more to it than just vague territorial concerns. Islands? I mean, they're there, but it's not like Britain has any influence over Argentina itself. But wait, actually, it seems that in the 19th century, up through the first part of the 20th century, Argentina had gradually become more and more economically tied to the UK in trade relationship that grew to resemble a soft colonialism. The UK was Argentina's major export destination, and the things that it exported were raw materials and food. Beef became a big commodity with the advent of refrigerated shipping. Loss of economic independence is often a prelude to loss of political independence, and Argentina was reportedly referred to occasionally as "British Argentina". What does a small community of English speaking folks on a series of islands off the coast of South America, thousands of miles from the UK, have to do with perceptions about subjugation and control? Maybe a lot, if only as a potent symbol.

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