Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Malvinas Day

Malvinas memorial in Ushuaia
In Argentina the 2 April is a public holiday called Malvinas Day.  Las Malvinas is the Argentine name for the Falkland Islands which if you've been reading regularly, or just watching the news, you'll know the Argentines believe should be a part of their country.  It is also the anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands back in 1982.
I've talked about the reasons why Argentines feel that the Falklands should be theirs before, but I have not talked to any Argentines about what they really think should happen or how strong the feelings are.  I would like to, but my feeling is that the opinions here are very strong, having been taught from an early age, but also very complicated.

It seems fairly clear that the original conflict in 1982 was a desperate effort by the ruling military junta to deflect public opinion from their failings and stay in power.  Some of the television and news items that we have seen makes it clear that the media at the time actively lied about the progress of the war. I have seen one person write that they were scared that the British would attack Argentina during the conflict. Many Argentines seem to be unhappy with what happened back in 1982, but at the time, it seems there was significant public support for the invasion.

From what I have read and seen, children here are taught that the British stole the islands from Argentina and that they should be given back. They are perceived as the lost little sister. But it is not at all clear to me how how much of what is taught is factual and how much is propaganda. I have no idea how much or how little the average Argentine knows about the islands or the islanders. The story of Las Malvinas is certainly a deep seated one here, and it is a major political issue, but I cannot tell from what I have seen what most people truly believe should happen.

Malvinas protest in Paza de Mayo
We know that there is a swell of opinion that Christina Kirchner is once again using the Falklands to deflect the public from the serious issue of high inflation in Argentina, and the general concerns about her ability to run the country. She started her career in the South of Argentina, which claims to the the province that the Falklands belongs to, so this would always be a political rallying call for her. She certainly seems to have been trying to blame the failure in 1982 on the military junta, possibly in an effort to prevent any efforts by the military to oust her.
On Malvinas Day itself, we were heading home in the early hours and saw that the protest outside the Casa Rosada was gearing up. We didn't stop to say hello. They had also changed the usual pink lighting on the Casa Rosada itself to blue.

There were at least six channels dedicated to the issue for the whole day and we looked at some of it. Sadly our Spanish isn't really up to understanding what was being said, but there were former soldiers, academics and various others being interviewed and opinions seemed to vary. There were some debates, which seemed to have some clear support for backing off the issue. And we read about a group of respected Argentines sending a letter to Christina to say that Argentina should reconsider its claim to own the Falklands in light of the islanders right to self determination.
We also caught the tail end of a film about the Conflict, which showed a soldier dying and then his friend and fellow soldier going back to the Falklands afterwards to visit the sites where they fought. Strangely, although the first part was in Spanish, when they got to the Falklands the speech was in English and there were no Spanish subtitles. Not sure why. From the looks of it, this was not a political film, but the story of people involved in it, but the film made no attempt to hide the very British nature of the place or that the islanders seemed happy as they are.

Casa Rosada in blue
But of course Malvinas Day itself was always going to be the catalyst for any trouble. A left wing group called Quebracha had already been attacking businesses with British interests of the past months, and putting graffiti that the English should leave Las Malvinas, and on 2 April they rioted at the British Embassy. The embassy was empty and the Argentine police were well prepared to defend it, but they threw petrol bombs at the police and what looked like little home made explosives with marbles in them. They burned an effigy of Prince William outside and generally made a lot of noise and a mess. But the police contained it with water cannons and they soon left without anyone being hurt or any major damage. You may well have seen the coverage on the UK news.

We had figured that there might be trouble today, and so although we know that most people are very friendly and wouldn't even consider taking this out on us, we also know that it only takes one idiot to take offence at our accents and there could be a problem. So we decided not to take the chance of meeting that idiot and getting into a scrape; instead we took the easy route and holed up in our flat for the day with some nice Argentine wines. The next day we were back out again with people being friendly as usual.

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