Sunday, August 5, 2012

Evita's Millions; Plus, Tango by the River

For a country with Argentina’s polarized politics, it’s surprising that there are so few explicitly political jokes. I’ve often heard people gripe and moan about the state of public life, but only a handful have ever told me political stories that were truly funny. In late 2001, I did hear then president Fernando de la Rúa referred as “Frenando de la Duda,” a pun suggesting his ineffectual hesitancy – a phrase that, roughly translated, means, “Just in case, keep your foot on the brakes.”
Thanks to a comment the other day, by my friend Dan Perlman of Casa Saltshaker, I became aware of another one. One of the catch phrases of Argentine history is Evita Perón’s “Volveré y seré millones” – “I’ll be back, and there will be millions of me.” There’s no proof she ever uttered these words, which are often attributed to her but come from a poem by José María Castiñeira de Dios and have become a stock phrase of Peronist populism. Their implication is that millions of Argentines would follow her ideals even after her death.

In a sense, that’s true – on a global scale, Evita long ago eclipsed her husband and, as pure symbol, she undoutbedly has an even stronger hold on Argentines, even those who profess undying fealty to “Teniente General Juan Domingo Perón” (Perón's loyalists invariably refer to him by his military rank rather than his political office, even though he was elected president three times).

In any event, the joke that Dan left in comments the other day had to do with the new 100-peso banknote that bears Evita’s image. Given the country’s high inflation rate – the government admits about 10 percent, but independent observers calculate that it’s at least twice that – Evita’s ostensible statement that “there will be millions of me” is fodder for critics who suggest that inflation is out of control. At the moment, she’s only hundreds but, if things should get worse, say the jokers, she could indeed be millions.

Tango by the River
And now for something completely different. On Friday August 17, at 6 p.m., I will give a digital slide lecture on Buenos Aires at Tango by the River in Sacramento. Limited to a maximum of 50 people, the event will also include tango performances; admission costs $10, or $8 in advance. I have spoken here several times before, and we always sell out, so plan in advance. Copies of my Moon Handbooks on Argentina, Buenos Aires, Chile and Patagonia will be available at discount prices.

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