Happy Day of National Sovereignty! Today we slack off to mark the Battle of Vuelta de Obligado between the Argentine Confederation and a combined Anglo-French fleet attempting to force its way up the Paraná River on November 20, 1845.
This signal moment in Argentina’s history is immortalized in thrilling detail on the reverse of our 20 peso bill:
In terms of Argentine military defeats suffered at British hands that have been commemorated on currency, the Battle of Vuelta de Obligado ranks second only to the Islas Malvinas debacle and the sinking of the General Belgrano, which are depicted on the new 50 peso bills.
For it was a defeat. But it was a turning point as well.
Juan Manuel de Rosas and the Argentine Confederation
In those days, Argentina was not the federal republic we know today. From 1831 to 1852, the provinces were bound together in the Argentine Confederation, which lacked a true head of state — officially. In reality, the Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, Juan Manuel de Rosas, called the shots on matters of foreign policy and trade and did his best to bend the other provinces to his will.
*Ordinarily this feriado is observed on November 20, but the 2015 Argentine ballotage bumped it to the 27th. Nobody — not even an Argentine — wants to spend their holiday standing in line.
**If you feel I have overlooked or oversimplified any aspect of this story, please don’t hesitate to eviscerate me in the comments section. That’s what it’s for.