Desperate for Heroes

6 Jan

On Wednesday this week La Nacion, and other newspapers, reported comments by the President of the Chamber of Deputies in Buenos Aires, Julián Domínguez, praising Antonio Rivero for resisting the British in 1833. As, apparently, Julián Domínguez had done in 1982, from Rio Gallegos.

After 245 years of British dominance over the Falkland Islands, it would seem that Argentina is desperate for a few heroes.

Having founded their first settlement in 1766, the British have only been challenged on three occasions since.

In 1770, overwhelming Spanish forces captured the settlement and caused a major diplomatic incident which nearly brought the two countries to war. Spain was forced to back down, and the status quo returned. The British on West Falkland, and the Spanish on East Falkland.

During September 1832, despite warnings from Britain, Argentina attempted to stake a claim by sending an armed force to take over the Islands. All these troops managed to achieve in their short time there was a quick mutiny, before two British ships under Commander Onslow turned up and suggested that they leave. Their Commander, Pinedo, did so, and was court-martialed for it.

No heroes so far.

Then, on August 26th 1833, a 26-year-old gaucho, Antonio Rivero, employed to herd cattle, led a riot over pay and conditions. Five men died including the man who had been selected by Commander Onslow to raise the Union Jack every Sunday. The gaucho’s complaint was that their employer, a half French, half German entrepreneur called Luis Vernet from Buenos Aires, only paid them in promissory notes, whereas Onslow, finding that they had not been paid in some time, did so in silver. When the British force left, Vernet’s agent promptly returned to the old system resulting in the riot.

Julián Domínguez claims that Rivero was a revolutionary, a freedom fighter and an Argentine hero. This, in spite of the fact that Argentina’s few serious historians long ago debunked this myth.

Rivero was captured and taken to London where he got off on a technicality. The necessary British laws had not been specifically applied to the Falklands by the time of the murders, and the victims were not, technically, under the ‘King’s protection’, so Rivero was returned to the Rio de la Plata, and disappeared from history, for a while at least.

The myth of Rivero the revolutionary was started in the 1930’s, during Argentina’s nationalist movement phase, before being destroyed in the 1960’s. It would seem that some would like to raise him up again, despite the facts of history being so well-known. But then history is so rarely a problem for Argentina.

Inconvenient truths can be ignored when you are desperate for heroes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: