Politics is the diversion of trivial men who, when they succeed at it, become important in the eyes of more trivial men.”
– George Jean Nathan, Journalist, Essayist
Buenos Aires – I’m not going to get into the whole political mish-mash that surrounds the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas – more than a few local bloggers, from various points of view, have covered the issue in detail. It’s a controversy that has been going on over a desolate grouping of nearly 800 islands by a series of occupiers – Dutch, French, British, Spanish, Argentine, and probably some others who dropped by one island or another and were never really noticed. It’s the cause, at the moment, of much breast-beating here in Argentina, where it is a cause célèbre amongst those who feel that this country has, via past treaties between the UK and Spain, the right to take over the governance of the islands. It is disputed by the UK, despite the existence of valid treaties from years past, mostly it seems, because the vast majority of the islanders (who are mostly descended from British settlers) in essence consider themselves British subjects, with some form of loyalty to the Queen. Whether or not there was ever a small native population prior to European discovery is in dispute, with minimal evidence for some occupation (consisting, basically, of some now extinct dogs and a canoe), but that may have just been drop by visits for hunting and fishing as well.
This year, being the 25th anniversary of the last major physical battle over the islands between the Argentines and British, it has come up in force here – with everything from government proclamations and demands to official websites on “the question” to museum exhibitions to an outdoor photo display. Happening to be in the area of the Malvinas Islands War Memorial yesterday (at the foot of Plaza San Martin), I wandered through the last of those – which consists of 20+ photographs taken a couple of months ago by a staff photographer from Clarin, one of the major local papers, who traveled to the islands to take some quite stark and beautiful photos of the “footprints” left by the battle – everything from a cemetery to shell casings to trenches to bits of rotting clothing. As such, to someone like myself with little vested interest in the issue, it was more an exercise in photography than history or politics – and it’s worth dropping by for a look if you’re in the area – it runs until the end of this week.