Dying for the Malvinas

Isabel Hilton

There was a junior minister in General Galtieri’s government who, in April 1982, made one of the few perceptive remarks to be made by government ministers on either side of the strange little war that was then being fought. After a brief visit to the newly recovered Malvinas, he said: ‘Every Argentine seems prepared to die for the Malvinas, but none would wish to live there.’ It did little for his political career, but he summed up the difference between the attachment of the Kelpers to those boggy, windswept islands, a place of hard living and stubborn attitudes, and the Argentine image of the place as the final jewel in the state regalia, a powerful symbol for a nation that relies the more heavily on symbols for its identity because of the lack of substance and cohesion in its national life. Argentina in 1982 was a nation that had failed to find itself, its national myths usurped by the military and, as Jimmy Burns points out, swept up into Juan Peron’s vision of ‘a country which is formed by generals, liberated by generals, led by generals and today claimed by generals’.

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