There is an element to being British in Argentina that other foreigners do not likely experience. Every so often, while chatting in a taxi or buying groceries at the verdulería, the question of where I’m from arises. And, though usually good-humored, the response surprisingly often includes a qualifier that Las Malvinas son Argentinas. I have even been told by a large, burly man at some pre-football match drinks that we could “be friends for today, but the Malvinas are ours.” Suffice to say, I did not disagree with him.
And the more the Malvinas were mentioned to me, the more I noticed that the issue was not just in the minds of porteños but also painted and sprayed across the streets of the city. Murals to fallen soldiers that flash past you on bus journeys, souvenirs sold on Calle Florida, messages left by school children in a museum, and scribbles on bathroom walls… Even alongside the highway into town from Ezeiza there is a large road sign that reads Las Malvinas Son Argentinas, emphasizing to new arrivals the importance of this issue to the city they are about to enter.
While Argentina has long claimed sovereignty over the South Atlantic islands, passions surrounding the issue increased significantly in 1982, when the weakening military dictatorship launched an invasion. With a poor economy and increasing pressure over the whereabouts of the desaparecidos, the armed forces hoped to secure a victory and unite the country around this long-held patriotic issue. However, they were defeated in just 74 days, instead weakening the military’s grip on power. In all, 649 Argentines, 255 Brits, and three residents were killed; the dispute remains unsettled.
Though the war is 37 years in the past, and a referendum held in 2013 indicated that 99.8 percent of inhabitants wished to remain under British control, the issue of the islands still permeates Argentina’s capital city. As recently as this February, the British Ambassador was even fielding tweets calling for them to be returned.
It’s clear that the importance of the Malvinas to Argentines remains an emotive and powerful issue; while out taking some of the below images, a van driver even shouted out the window “Serán Argentinas” to me. So we at The Bubble decided to go around the city to check out some of the ways this issue is present in the everyday lives and routines of porteños.