Frequently, relations between the United States and Argentina have been contentious. The 19th-century author, educator and politician Domingo Sarmiento admired the US but, in the 20th century, many public figures have distrusted the “Colossus of the North.” After World War II, US ambassador Spruille Braden accused Juan Domingo Perón’s government of having been pro-Axis, but Perón cleverly turned Braden’s accusations into a winning presidential campaign slogan, “Braden or Perón,” in 1946.
Many Argentines accused the US of complicity or open support of the 1976 coup against Perón’s widow María Estela Martínez (Isabel) and the subsequent 1976-83 Dirty War that resulted in perhaps 30,000 extra-judicial deaths. Still, after 1976, President Jimmy Carter’s representatives, most notably Tex Harris in Buenos Aires and Patricia Derian in Washington, strenuously investigated the dictatorship’s human rights abuses (in 2004, Harris received a decoration from Argentina’s Foreign Ministry for his efforts).
Ronald Reagan’s administration reversed their work, pandering to the Argentine junta early in his presidency and giving mixed signals on the 1982 invasion of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. The Reaganites eventually threw US support to Britain’s counter-invasion of the South Atlantic archipelago, but Henry Kissinger and the vicious Jeane Kirpatrick remained enthusiastic supporters of the bloodthirsty Argentine regime. President Carlos Menem, now widely reviled in Argentina, had warm relations with the US, but subsequent governments, including the current administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, have kept their distance at best.
Given this historical ambivalence, I was surprised to read, in a tweet from the US Embassy, that there were five replicas of New York’s Statue of Liberty in Argentina, most of them in Buenos Aires province. I quickly corrected them as, when I visited my wife’s hometown of Olavarría in 2010, my brother-in-law casually mentioned the presence of such a statue in the riverside Parque Mitre near his house.
Despite the frequent distrust of the US government that I hear in the Argentine press and media, as well as from politicians, I have never personally experienced any anti-American sentiment. Still, I was surprised to learn of the abundance of such a US icon in the country, and wonder whether there might be even more of them. That said, Argentina has a similar icon in La Libertad Argentina, pictured above on the obverse of a 500,000-austral note from the hyperinflationary 1980s.
Moon Handbooks Chile, in Los Altos
In about a month – Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m., to be precise – I will offer a digital slide presentation on travel in Chile at Santa Clara County’s Los Altos Library (13 S. San Antonio Road, tel. 650/948-7683). Coverage will also include the Chilean Pacific Islands of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Juan Fernández (Robinson Crusoe), as well as southernmost Argentina (Tierra del Fuego and the vicinity of El Calafate) that appear in the book. I will also be prepared to answer questions about Argentina and Buenos Aires. The presentation is free of charge, but books will be available for purchase.