Changing of the Guard

2007.Jan.15 Monday · 1 comment

in Life

 MAN can find no new field of activity into which the cold relentless figure of the law does not follow him. Before the discovery of America European nations gave little thought to the international problems of colonies and control of the seas, partly because there was at first little or no competition between them, and partly because the notion of owning colonies was not conceived until the discoveries in Africa a few decades before Columbus’ initial voyage took place. The method by which sovereign rights over the newly discovered regions could be acquired was a matter which concerned the Spanish from the very first, because they had at hand a great maritime rival, and, unless war was to ensue, some peaceful method of settling conflicting claims had to be found. Was it enough that a nation could claim that its navigators had made the first discoveries? Was it enough to plant the royal ensign on territory, and then sail away, leaving the land actually to be occupied at a later date? Was it necessary, to secure sovereignty, at once to plant a colony on the territory claimed? All of these problems were attacked by the Spanish and Portuguese courts immediately upon the return of Columbus. The answer to them worked out in the early days of exploration profoundly affected the subsequent claims of title to the Falklands, and for this reason it is necessary for us to examine in detail the rules governing discovery and occupation.”

– Julius Goebel, The Struggle for the Falkland Islands

Changing of the guard at Malvinas memorialBuenos Aires – I know very little about the Falkland Islands (as I grew up knowing them, and as folks outside of Argentina refer to them – here they’re called the Malvinas). I once dated a guy named Mike Ramkissoon who was from there. We had three dates. I think I had some stamps from there back in the days when I was collecting. It’s approaching the 25th anniversary of the “Malvinas War” here (April 2nd), which is likely to be an interesting time – there’s already a lot of saber rattling going on. And, speaking of saber rattling, I happened to be walking by the memorial in Plaza San Martin to the Argentine fallen from that war at just the moment when they were having the changing of the guard. The “guard” rotates between the various military services here, so at different times of day one will spot guards from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and perhaps others – I don’t know the Argentine military enough to know if they have Marines or Coast Guard or similar services.

Changing of the guard at Malvinas memorialThe changing of the guard was interesting to watch. A very formal parade, with a band, approached the memorial. The parade itself had two contingents, one the outgoing service and one the incoming. The heads of the two squads approached each other in the space between the two groups, made some sort of report, and then the leader of the incoming group and two of his men more or less goose-stepped their way up to the memorial where the individuals formally relieved the outgoing guys. The outgoing guys made a bit of a show of formally leaving – though not much – after a few goose-steps off towards the side, they both simply started walking casually back to their squads and joined the ranks.

Sailors taking a break at the Malvinas memorialThis mixed formality and casualness is common. I’ve seen it here in other places where there’s a changing of the guard. I think after a long shift, especially in the hot sun, the guys leaving are simply so happy to get away from standing stiffly in front of the memorial that they give up any pretense and just get the hell out of there. After all, they’re supposed to be sort of like the guys in front of Buckingham palace, staring straight ahead, not talking, etc. Personally, I think they (and everyone else) would be better served if they showed some friendliness and were able to spend time explaining about the memorial to visitors. And, of course, occasionally, they apparently think so to, as on another particularly hot day, a couple of sailors clearly decided that they just simply needed a “break” under the shade of a nearby tree…


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