Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
by Geoffrey Clarfield (April 2010)
This river of silver, Rio Plata, was discovered in 1516, by Juan de Solis, a Spanish explorer. He was the first founder of Santa Maria de Los Buenos Aires. While exploring its shores he was killed by local Indians, who then ate him while his crew watched from their boats.
I am taken by the way Argentines live their daily lives and I have a growing affection for them and their way of life. On the other hand, whether you can run a country on the same informal principles is an entirely different question.
While Europeans of Spanish descent established their authority here, Europeans of French and British descent did the same in Canada. In the eighteen hundreds, Argentina broke away from Spanish control and became an independent republic. In the mid 1800s Canada likewise achieved Dominion status. In the late eighteen hundreds both countries encouraged massive immigration from southern and eastern Europe and which profoundly changed the fabric of society.
I wanted to find out, all other things being equal, whether my prospects or the prospects of my second cousins and their children were any better, given the differences between the two countries. It is and was as close to a social experiment as you can get.
In 1959 when Fidel Castro rid Cuba of what all agree was a corrupt dictatorship my relatives told me that in Argentina he was compared to General San Martin, who along with Simon Bolivar liberated South America from the Spanish yoke in the early 1800s and established republics based on secular liberal principles. Like George Washington before them, both were Masons and opposed the ancient regime with its Zorro like connection between the church and the landowners.
Geoffrey Clarfield is an Anthropologist at large.
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