April 2nd: remembering Malvinas

In Holland we celebrate the end of the 2nd World War. In Argentina we remember the start of Las Malvinas war – internationally better known as The Falklands – every year on the 2nd of April, which is declared a national holiday.

Protest sign in Ushuaia's harbor referring to English pirate ships and the Malvinas islands
Protest sign in Ushuaia’s harbor referring to English pirate ships and the Malvinas islands

Regarding the subject, the Malvinas war, I don’t remember much even though in those years I was a schooler and it certainly made the Dutch news. I was probably more in to George Michael those years. As in many cases, one’s opinion depends on with which eyes you look at the matter. So without making any political statements nor claiming to know the facts, this is a long story cut short in simple words. Being more Argentinian than British, I will consistently refer to Las Malvinas islands.

Argentina claims Las Malvinas to be Argentine based on historical rights, international traits and geographic territorial agreements. Despite that, the United Kingdom took possession of the islands in 1833 and ever since the dispute between Argentina and the UK lasts. In 1982, just 32 years ago, the ruling Argentine regime decided, as a last resort to their declining power, to invade the islands. In no time they assembled an army – said to be young, unexperienced and with outdated armory – and shipped them to the Malvinas in an almost suicidal attempt to regain property. Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, didn’t think long and send her far better equipped army which swiped off the Argentine army. The war was short and bloody.

Road sign reminding us.... Las Malvinas (UK: Falklands) are Argentine
Road sign reminding us…. Las Malvinas (UK: Falklands) are Argentine

In Ushuaia there’s many signs that reveal Argentina’s claim to Las Malvinas. Commonly known as Tierra del Fuego, the province’s full title is (Province of) Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands (Las Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich islands). Ushuaia is also de capital of the province and therefor the capital of Las Malvinas. The international airport is called Las Malvinas and a sign entering or leaving the city reminds us: Las Malvinas are Argentine.

Monument of original crosses... remembering Las Malvinas war
Monument of original crosses… remembering Las Malvinas war

Every 2nd of April the start of the war is remembered. On the night of April 1st, a ceremony is held on Ushuaia’s Plaza de Las Malvinas, in which the war and its deaths are remembered and a new Argentina flag is raised, followed by the Argentine national hymn at midnight.

Though an outstander, it was a memorable moment to be part of this big crowd of people remembering ‘their’ islands. And even though maybe it is not easy to understand the importance of these faraway, cold, rocky islands inhabited by sheep mainly, the sentiment felt and expressed by the Argentine people is very real.


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