The Latin American Diaries |

Argentina


Daughter of the ‘Pampa Gringa’ and the Andes: an obituary for Ana María Lorandi, 1936-2017

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by Mercedes Del Río

Ana María Lorandi died in Congreso, a district of Buenos Aires, on January 31st 2017 at the age of 80. First archaeologist, later historian, she pioneered the study of Andean Ethnohistory in the University of Buenos Aires following the radical renewal of Inca history developed by John V Murra. During her life, she worked and lived in several cities which left a defining imprint on her character and career: Cañada de Gómez, Rosario, La Plata, Paris and Buenos Aires.

She was born in 1936 in Cañada de Gomez, a small immigrant town in the Province of Santa Fe, Argentina. A descendant of Lombard ancestors, her paternal grandfather settled there to work on the construction of the railway line between the cities of Rosario and Cordoba (1863-1870). A progressive town at the time, Cañada de Gómez was one of several agricultural colonies of mainly Italian immigrants. Together they formed part of the burgeoning ‘pampa gringa’, where large-scale agricultural production was part of an agro-export model of development. Railways, crops and immigrants combined to create a world of hard work, progressive ideals and incipient modernity which in turn generated a social imaginary laden with expectations and aspirations that could not always be fulfilled.

Ana María grew up in the heart of a working-class family that valued sacrifice, thriftiness and austerity but also, particularly, the love of reading transmitted by her father. Her mother’s early death forced her to mature suddenly, and she had to take care of her younger brother and do the domestic chores, as was customary at the time. This forged a sense of duty and discipline toward both family and work that would continue throughout her life. Lorandi moved between literature and history. Initially inspired by her public school teachers, she was also stimulated by the town’s intellectual circles and gatherings. Transgressive, rebellious, and bold, she broke down the barriers of the prudish, traditional society of the time, embracing an early stage of women’s liberation, and constantly seeking new horizons that would allow her to develop further.

She left her hometown to study history at the National University of the Litoral in Rosario and to pursue a research career with the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (Conicet, 1964), gaining her doctorate in 1967. In Rosario, she met the renowned archaeologist Alberto Rex Gonzalez and began the archaeological work that would occupy her for over twenty years. Later, she managed to repeat this experience in Buenos Aires, where she formed her own research team.

Her working life in Rosario was violently interrupted when Argentina succumbed to General Juan Carlos Ongania’s military dictatorship (1966-1973). In particular, the ‘night of the long police batons‘ (1966) in the University of Buenos Aires had a devastating impact on the academic life of the whole country, causing the resignation and emigration of countless eminent intellectuals and a long period of obscurantism.

When the research teams in Rosario were dismantled, Lorandi was appointed Chair of American Archaeology at the National University of La Plata (1969-1983), but she was frustrated by the university’s approach to the discipline, and felt isolated and lonely. Nevertheless, her academic production was fruitful, while her area of study shifted from the plains of Tucuman and Santiago del Estero to the archaeology of the valleys of North-West Argentina (NOA). This was the result of her academic experience in Paris.

Between 1976 and 1980, Ana María frequently traveled to France where she completed her postdoctoral studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the Sorbonne. Paris was very important to her. It was where her daughter, Valentina, grew up, where she ended her marriage to the musician Enzo Gieco, and where, later, her beloved grandchildren were born. Academically, Paris introduced her to Andean Ethnohistory. Lorandi was fascinated by the epistemological revolution implicit in Murra’s new interpretation of the Andes, and the enormous impact it had on Nathan Wachtel’s history team and on the Andeanist historian Pierre Duviols. She was particularly fascinated by the demolition of the old interpretative models of the Inca state, and by new approaches to problems arising from the social ruptures and reconfigurations during the European invasion of the Andes. The debates and discussions in this academic environment encouraged her to abandon archaeology, and begin ethnohistorical studies of Colonial Tucumán, while introducing these new currents to Argentina. The intellectual marriage between archaeology and history led Ana María to refocus the archaeological concept of long-scale time in historical terms: actors, events and historical conjunctures, the longue durée.

The 1980s brought democracy back to Argentina, and with it academic life was renewed. In 1984, she was appointed professor at the University of Buenos Aires, and built her own team of scholars and young researchers, building on her earlier experience in Rosario. She had learned the importance of knowledge exchanges, of methodological discussions, bibliographical searches and professional competence within a team. But above all, she understood that a successful research team requires a large dose of intellectual generosity and the constant encouragement of a good team leader.

Ana María was an extraordinary research team builder, and knew how to encourage and inspire confidence in newcomers. She listened to new ideas with enthusiasm and knew exactly when to ask a timely question. She was particularly skilled at magically reconfiguring the often disjointed ideas of inexperienced disciples, giving them a broader interpretative framework. Her extensive experience in the archaeology of the Santiago del Estero plains allowed her quickly to interpret the movements of the Chaco population, as well as of the Amazonian piedmont people along the borders of the Tawantinsuyu, following the colonial sources. That was how two different research groups emerged: one orientated to Colonial Charcas and the other to Colonial Tucumán. With time, each took on a life of its own. What she often called “the presentation in international society” of the ethnohistorical research developed under her direction, came to fruition with the organization of the First International Congress of Ethnohistory (1989), which had an excellent reception and continues to thrive in Latin America today. A testimony of this time was a compilation on “Colonial Tucumán and Charcas” (1997) which contains the results of the research carried out by the members of her team over ten years.

In this fruitful phase of her life she was able to consolidate a new line of research as a CONICET scientific researcher, where she collaborated passionately in different management positions (1984-1986). She was appointed Dean of the Institute of Anthropology (1984-1991), organized the Ethnohistory section at the University of Buenos Aires (1992-2014), restructured her classes there (1984-2002), and incorporated new researchers dedicated to the study of the societies of Pampa-Patagonia, Litoral and Paraguay.

Rational, passionate, freed from theoretical inhibitions or ties, she managed to open up the debate on Andean topics, despite the academic indifference prevailing in Buenos Aires. She frequently said she was frustrated by the lack of recognition, and the lack of fruitful dialogue with her fellow historians or anthropologists at the University of Buenos Aires, with the exception of the colonialist Enrique Tandeter and the art historian José Emilio Burucúa. However, Lorandi taught as a visiting professor, shared research and participated in colloquiums with scholars from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Finland and, especially, with Latin American colleagues from Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Mexico. The impact of her ethnohistorical approach and the sincerity of her academic exchanges extended to teams outside Buenos Aires, especially in Cordoba, Salta, Jujuy, Tucumán and Catamarca. Lorandi’s active presence and exchange of divergent approaches undoubtedly enriched the debate on the whole South Andean area. In this context, Lorandi was awarded a doctorate honoris causa from the National University of Salta (2013) and from the National University of Santiago del Estero (2015), in recognition of her valuable contributions.

A tireless worker, she had a prolific career, publishing three single-authored books and nine in collaboration, as well as writing over one hundred articles published in national and foreign journals. Certain themes accompanied her throughout her life, such as the analysis of the southern Inca frontier and the displacement of human resources (mitmaqkuna and yanas) using archaeological or ethnohistorical sources. She worked towards unravelling the ethnic mosaic of the Calchaqui valleys at the time of the Spanish invasion, and interpreted what she found as local “destructuring”. Later, with an anthropological gaze, she dedicated herself to the study of the conformation of Hispanic-Creole society in colonial Tucumán. There, she adapted the analytical categories of the central Andes and probed the silences in the sources to interpret and reconstruct the socio-cultural processes of a marginal area for both Incas and Spaniards, with a small population and based on personal services rather than taxation. But she was also attracted by the utopian or adventurous dimension of certain historical figures who radiated stimulating images, such as the chimera of the false Inca don Pedro Bohorques or the avatars of the Bourbon official of Tucumán, Manuel Fernández Campero y Hesles.

In recent years, she had moved away from the problems of Amerindian-Hispanic contact, and turned to the construction of ambiguous identities in the colonial and republican societies of the Central Andes. One of her last books, published in 2013, consists of a reflection on the construction and reconstruction of diffuse identities, both Creole and Peninsular, and the struggles for local and centralized power in the Cusco region after the great Andean Rebellions of the late eighteenth century. Although she had progressive principles and values, political militancy was not one of her interests, and she never sought to link narrative history with the indigenous struggles of today.

With her open door policy, her Buenos Aires home become a centre for gatherings of colleagues. Her family, and her social and intellectual lives, were intertwined, thanks to her sympathy, enormous intellectual generosity and her capacity to welcome new visitors.

The Return of the Right in Latin America

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by Christopher Wylde, Associate Professor of International Relations at Richmond University and Visiting Fellow at ILAS

The so-called ‘Pink Tide’ that swept Latin America from 1998 onwards has recently experienced a number of electoral challenges, which complement previous mobilisational and extra-constitutional challenges. In the hubris of the mid-2000s, the Left looked unassailable across large swathes of Latin America. Hugo Chávez was re-elected for a third time in 2006; Chile was under the administrations of Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet, who had run proceedings throughout the long decade, with only a brief interregnum from the centre-right in the form of Sebastiá Piñera. Brazil had elected Lula for a second time in 2007; Argentina was dominated by the Kirchners; Evo Morales and the MAS were triumphant in Bolivia; Correa in Ecuador, Vásquez in Uruguay, Colom in Guatemala, Funes in El Salvador, even Paraguay under Lugo (albeit briefly) – the list is long.

Mauricio Macri y Evo Morales, by Gastón Cuello, CC BY 2.5 AR

Mauricio Macri y Evo Morales, by Gastón Cuello, CC BY 2.5 AR

Fast-forward to 2016 and the situation is not so rosy for the Latin American Left. The election (by a wafer-thin margin) of the right-wing, market-friendly Mauricio Macri in Argentina has heralded an end to Kirchnerismo and its neo-developmentalism and the attendant rise of a distinctly more neoliberal flavour to Argentine governance. Significant changes have already occurred in Argentina’s political economy of development, manifested in policy changes ranging from a sharp depreciation of the peso, capitulation to global capital markets in the form of paying the fondos buitres (vulture funds), an immediate reduction of retenciones (export taxes) for large agricultural Trans-National Corporations (TNCs), and a ‘sudden-stop’ to domestic energy subsidies.

Meanwhile, in Latin America’s largest and most populous economy, the hydra-headed Petrobras scandal has engulfed even Lula himself, with former President Dilma Rouseff being removed from office through impeachment proceedings in Congress – what Barry Cannon of NUI Maynooth has termed a ‘smart coup’. Nicolás Maduro – Chávez’s successor in Venezuela – has undoubtedly been hurt by a slump in oil prices, with an alliance of centre-left, centrist, and right-wing opposition parties scoring a resounding victory in parliamentary elections in December 2015.

Understanding the Right (in Latin America)

In order to get to grips with what these shifts mean for Latin America and its contemporary development trajectory we first need to understand and map the contours of the left/right divide (in Latin America). Impressive and detailed primary research on this topic by Dr. Barry Cannon from NUI Maynooth provides valuable insight. In his newly published book The Right in Latin America (Routledge, 2016) he proposes that an analysis of inequality generates a powerful ontology of Right/Left politics in Latin America. Policy solutions may change, but this central concern is constant. For the Left, this translates into greater state involvement in the market in order to ensure more substantive equality through welfarism; for the Right this means greater state involvement in the market to enforce pro-market regulations designed to enhance equality of opportunity.

These public-policy profiles have implicit and explicit outcomes favouring some class fractions over others, meaning that class and the role of elites should be central to any discussion of the Right. Historically, political parties of the Right in Twentieth Century Latin America were not prominent in its political expressions. Domination of the state through personal, bureaucratic, and clientelistic ties obviated the need for direct control of the main organs of government (executive, legislature, federal governors where relevant). Betrayal of these elite interests in the form of Import Substituting Industrialisation (ISI) led them to turn to the military in the 1970s and early 1980s – ushering in what Guillermo O’Donnell termed Latin America’s ‘bureaucratic-authoritarian’ period. The lack of economic success of these regimes, combined with the decline of the militant left across the region, ushered in democratic transitions, so as the 1980s progressed the Right embraced democratic politics and a renewed emphasis on parties, legislatures, and elections.

Short-lived Venezuelan president Pedro Carmona with backers, 2002

Coup leader Pedro Carmona and various supporters, Palacio Miraflores, Caracas, 2002

This analysis reveals that the Latin American Right goes far beyond political parties. Institutions like the Church and the Media, as well as socio-economic elites in large firms or think-tanks, must all be considered as part of the nexus of Right power. In summary, all those class fractions, institutions, and actors of society that support the free market and a lessening of state power over market relations (in order to fulfil its desire for equality of opportunity – read: equality to engage in market based relations) come under the aegis of the Right.

This means that an understanding of the contemporary Right in Latin America must incorporate analysis of not only political parties, but also the way in which power is exercised beyond this arena. With this in mind, the rise of the Right and the ways in which they have resisted the Pink Tide must be understood not only in terms of electoral politics, but also mobilisational and extra-constitutional tactics as well. Therefore, the election of right-wing government (in particular Argentina) must be understood alongside mass demonstrations in Brazil, for example, as well as extra-constitutional practices such as the attempted coup d’état in Venezuela in 2002.

The influence of the Right in Contemporary Latin America

With this in mind, the return of the Right to Latin American politics is a somewhat misleading starting point as the Right never really went away. This is especially true in the broader context of Latin America’s insertion into the global division of labour. Given that the structures of international political economy distinctly favour pro-market regulation and its associated suite of policy prescriptions (privatisation, liberalisation, and de-regulation), the contours of the Pink Tide itself were fundamentally shaped by this dynamic. As a result of what José Santiso termed the ‘limits of the possible’ the post-neoliberal modality of governance emphasised by Pink Tide states had a strong neoliberal flavour: private property was not systematically attacked – there was no significant land redistribution; free trade was largely maintained – albeit with certain protections for strategic sectors; macroeconomic frameworks remained largely in line with servicing international debt obligations; and poverty-reduction programmes were firmly embedded in a neoliberal discourse of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) principles (Bolsa Familia, AUH, Bono Solidario etc.). This was tempered with a more active industrial policy, a refreshed neo-corporatism, a moratorium on privatisations (with some re-nationalisations), and the construction of counter-hegemonic regionalism (ALBA, UNASUR, and CELAC), combined with an attempt to forge a new social contract between the state and the people through a reconceptualization of citizenship.

In its totality this post-neoliberal governance represented a crystallisation of previous forms of political economy – including the neoliberalism of the 1990s and the ISI period of the mid-twentieth century. As a result, the ‘return of the right’ – to electoral politics at least – should not be overemphasised, as the Right’s power in Latin American political economy beyond the state has always shaped political discourse, even at the apex of Pink Tide power.

Yet, the case of Mauricio Macri in Argentina clearly demonstrates that the return of the Right to electoral politics has had an important impact on Argentina’s development trajectory. His early policies represent an attempt to re-orientate Argentine political economy towards a full-blooded neoliberalism, thus conforming to a pro-market ideology that emphasises equality of opportunity. However, equally interesting are those aspects of the post-neoliberal Argentine state that Macri is not changing: the state oil company YPF remains nationalised and the core poverty alleviation programme (AUH) remains in place. This acceptance of the need to provide for the poor goes beyond the elites of Argentina and represents an important shift in the thinking of the Right in Latin America in general.

In an interview before her death Margaret Thatcher said that her greatest legacy to UK politics was Tony Blair, the implication being that her administrations had shifted British politics fundamentally to the right, so that even a left wing Labour Prime Minister now pursues essentially Right-wing policies (understood in terms of equality of opportunity). In this vein, and given Argentina’s current commitment to the anti-poverty rhetoric and policies of the post-neoliberal regime of the Kirchner’s, perhaps Cristina’s (and Néstor’s) greatest legacy will be Mauricio Macri.

Thinking Inside the Boxes: The Latin American Political Pamphlets Collection at Senate House Library

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by Christine Anderson (Latin America Research Librarian) and Julio Cazzasa (Special Collections Cataloguer), Senate House Library

arg_polpamOn 23 February 2016, Senate House Library will be hosting “Thinking Inside the Boxes“, a series of talks about its extensive Latin American Political Pamphlets Collection, which documents some of the most troubled years of twentieth-century Latin America.   The event, featuring Anthony Pereira (KCL), Guillermo Mira (Salamanca), Vinicius Mariano de Carvalho (KCL), Thomas Rath (UCL), Anna Grimaldi (KCL), Thomas Rath (UCL) and Aquiles Alencar (British Library), hopes to demonstrate the relevance of these documents across a number of research topics and contexts.  But we invite all researchers and postgraduate students to consider consulting the archive in their own research.

The majority of the collection consists of the former holdings of the Contemporary Archive on Latin America (CALA), which from its inception in 1976 sought to build up a combination of academic and ‘alternative’ sources of information for the use of students, teachers, researchers, solidarity and human rights committees, journalist, development and volunteer agencies, television programme producers, trade unionists and the like.  It maintained contact with documentation and educational centres in Latin America and beyond, housing of rare materials jeopardised by political developments in the region.  This ensured that its collections were uniquely rich in their depth of coverage.

guate_polpamBy 1981 however, the archive faced an irretrievable funding situation and was forced to close.  Originally its collections had been destined to be divided between Latin America Bureau, the Institute for Race Relations, the CARILA Latin America Resource Centre, and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Planning, but these organisations were unable to organise the retrieval of the material before CALA’s closure.  The Institute of Latin American Studies stepped in as “the only institution involved which had the will and the means to save this material in time and to house it.”

Since then the original collections have been augmented by fresh donations and the re-classifying of political ephemera within the main library stock, but with the amalgamation of new material the Institute has sought to maintain the onus of the original CALA collection.

In 2003 the University of London Vice Chancellor’s fund agreed to provide the money for a joint project between ILAS and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICOMM) aiming to improve access to and use of their collections of political ephemera.  This has involved the creation of item-level catalogue records on the School of Advanced Study Library Catalogue (SASCAT) and the uploading of collection-level archival descriptions to both the Archives Hub and AIM25 databases.

chile_polpamAlthough the collection (which consists mainly of items in Spanish, Portuguese and English) covers every country in Latin America, it is particularly strong in certain areas.  There are currently around 140 boxes of materials. The Chilean boxes, for example, are mostly concerned with the build-up to and the aftermath of the 1973 coup, including election posters for Salvador Allende and pamphlets written by apologists for the Pinochet regime.  In addition, there are many contemporary and obscure items produced by leftist opposition groups in the 1970s.

Another strength of the collection is its coverage of human rights bodies in Central America in the late 1970s and 1980s.  Much of this material came as a result of the links between the Latin American organisations and solidarity and support groups in this country. A similar situation pertains for countries like Argentina and Brazil.

The Latin American political ephemera collections have an impressive variety and depth, and they hold a great deal of material that is either difficult or impossible to obtain elsewhere.  They are open for reference purposes to all researchers and postgraduate students, and anyone wishing to consult them or just to get further information should feel free to contact us here at Senate House Library.

Christine Anderson (Latin America Research Librarian): Christine.Anderson@london.ac.uk
Julio Cazzasa (Special Collections Cataloguer): Julio.Cazzasa@london.ac.uk

Reconsidering Tristán Bauer’s “Iluminados por el fuego” (2005)

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by Dr Niall Geraghty, ILAS Stipendiary Fellow 2015

Iluminados_por_el_fuego-314900268-largeOn the 4th of November 2015, the Argentine Embassy in London organised a screening of Tristán Bauer’s semi-fictional film of the Falklands-Malvinas conflict, Iluminados por el fuego [Enlightened by Fire] (2005). Present was Edgardo Esteban, author of the memoir on which the film is based, who introduced the film and took part in a discussion panel following the screening.[1] Also in attendance were several ex-servicemen from the UK who had served during the Falklands-Malvinas conflict and who participated throughout the discussion. Having had the opportunity to listen to the unique responses of those who participated in the conflict itself, I felt that perhaps now was an appropriate time to reconsider the film’s significance for those who, like myself, have no direct experience or memory of the conflict whatsoever.

Iluminados por el fuego follows the character Esteban Leguizamón in the days following his friend Alberto Vargas’s attempted (and ultimately successful) suicide attempt. Both men had served together during the Falklands-Malvinas war and the re-emergence of Alberto in Esteban’s life brings back powerful memories of the conflict. Indeed, the film’s narrative is largely composed of flashbacks which recount Esteban and Alberto’s experiences during the war, interspersed with scenes from the present where Esteban and Alberto’s partner, Marta, accompany Alberto until his eventual death. The film concludes with Esteban’s return to the islands.

The film features the popular actor Gastón Pauls in the starring role and proved particularly successful, garnering many awards on the international festival circuit. However, in its narrative and its style, the film can seem a little too familiar. The problem is perhaps that, for an audience with no direct experience of the Falklands-Malvinas conflict, Iluminados por el fuego exists in a rather saturated field and consistently draws upon the familiar motifs of the war film genre. It would appear that, as Bernard McGuirk laments in his analysis, the film demonstrates that the ‘tropes of the war film are, in the end, but few. As are the modes of depicting the plight of returned veterans on the street’ (2007: 271).

Indeed, even the film’s inclusion of the ‘notorious practice of the estaqueo, a horrific brand of punishment in which soldiers were staked to the wet ground for hours at a time, very often in sub-zero temperatures’ (Maguire, Forthcoming), all too readily creates a link to José Hernández’s El gaucho Martín Fierro (1872). The central character in Hernández’s poem is, like the characters in Bauer’s film, a conscript abused by his military superiors and estaquiado while fighting for the patria on a contested frontier. The danger that emerges from this type of overfamiliarity is twofold: first, it may appear that the portrayal of the conflict relies on cliché; and second, that the ‘deployment of cliché […] widespread in war writing’ frequently obscures ‘its subject, concealing it from view rather than illuminating it’ (2011: 140), as Catherine McLoughlin argues in her comprehensive study of the literature of war.

It is inescapable, however, that the veterans present at the screening in the Argentine Embassy praised the verisimilitude of both the film’s battle scenes and its depiction of the suffering of those ex-combatants returned to civilian life. It would appear that for this audience, Iluminados por el fuego was all too familiar for a rather different reason. With this in mind, one is perhaps reminded of the words of Keith Douglas who, considering the poetry of the First World War as he participated in the fighting of the Second and sought to record his experiences in verse, would contend that:

“there is nothing new, from a soldier’s point of view, […] hell cannot be let loose twice: it was let loose once in the Great War and it is the same old hell now. The hardships, the pain and boredom; the behaviour of the living and the appearance of the dead, were so accurately described by the poets of the Great War that every day on the battlefields of the western desert – and no doubt on the Russian battlefields as well – their poems are illustrated.” (Cit. Piette 2007: 122)

Watching Iluminados por el fuego with this particular audience certainly led me to reconsider one important sequence of shots contained in the film as an attempt to reconcile these two interpretations of the film’s overly familiar feel: that the film runs the risk of becoming generic and clichéd, and that the film is genuinely reminiscent of a soldier’s lived experience.

Early in the film, following Esteban’s initial flashbacks to his departure from continental Argentina on his way to fight in the Falklands-Malvinas, the film’s linear narrative is interrupted by a sequence of shots drawn from contemporary news bulletins.

The sequence opens with General Galtieri addressing a vast crowd in the Plaza de Mayo at the outbreak of hostilities with his famous words ‘Si quieren venir, ¡que vengan!’ [‘If they want to come, let them come!’]. The sequence then moves through an unsurprising and very familiar series of rather stock images: an aircraft carrier with a Harrier jet taking off, artillery firing, images of the Argentine junta, of Margaret Thatcher, and other instantly recognisable scenes.

The sequence is, in and of itself, another instance of a rather overused technique to situate an audience in a particular time period. Moreover, in a film that seeks to avoid all ambiguity in its exegesis, it is rather unsurprising that the sequence is immediately absorbed into the film’s narrative: the archival footage is interspersed with three close-ups of Esteban’s face which reveal that he too is watching the same footage.

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In the first of these shots (above) the camera faces Esteban directly and is backlit so that only the silhouette of his profile is visible. The camera pans round so that Esteban’s profile appears to move across the screen from right to left.

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The second shot (above) is a perfect inversion of the first: Esteban’s profile moves from left to right across the screen, and this time the camera shoots from behind his head, so that the audience is watching the archival footage through Esteban’s glasses. In the final image (below), the camera returns to its original position and directly faces Esteban, signalling the end of this interruption in the narrative.

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This sequence of shots represents the only moment in the film when the distance between audience and character is eliminated and they occupy the same subject position. Yet, if the sequence constitutes a moment of closeness between the audience and Esteban, it equally pushes them apart. For the audience with no direct experience of the war, these images essentially constitute the visual memory of the conflict. For Esteban, however, they may well be familiar, but they cannot constitute a visual representation of the war as he remembers it. Therefore, this sequence of shots actually marks the point at which the audience and Esteban essentially interchange subject positions: Esteban reviews the very matter from which collective memory of the conflict is constructed (but of which he is less familiar because when they were first transmitted he was fighting on the islands); just as the audience will subsequently view the images from his personal memory which are alien to them (as they have been excluded from that same collective memory). And the visualisation and incorporation of this alien memory into the collective memory was, of course, Bauer’s original intention while making the film.

As is now well established, following the defeat in the Falklands-Malvinas war, the Argentine combatants were subject to a strict pacto de silencio [pact of silence] which prevented them from ever speaking of their experiences on the island. It is in response to this omission from the historical record that Bauer made his film. As he has stated:

“I had to film the hidden defeat of the Malvinas: the failure of the military and the human tragedy that has been kept quiet. We Argentines have been converted into accomplices in covering up and hiding a reality about which we wanted to know nothing.” (Cit. McGuirk 2007: 269)

It is for this reason that McGuirk comments that ‘Iluminados por el fuego was to seek some balance in revisiting substantially the 1982 conflict and in coming to terms with a complex, conflict-torn and unresolved present’ (2007: 268). That this situation still continues today, and the important contribution made by the film, is emphasised when one recalls that it was only this year that the abuse of Argentine conscripts at the hands of their superiors was confirmed following the release of some 700 military documents related to the war (BBC 24/09/2015, BBC 14/09/2015).

In discussing cliché, Anne Carson argues that ‘[w]e resort to cliché because it’s easier than trying to make up something new. Implicit in it is the question: Don’t we already know what we think about this? Don’t we have a formula we use for this?’ (2008: 178). In the case of Iluminados por el fuego, however, it would appear that cliché is employed to a rather different end. Where the incorporation of archive footage certainly serves to remind the viewer of what we already think we know of the conflict, Bauer, in fact, mobilizes a series of clichéd tropes and images to expose to the audience that the formula they use to interpret the conflict is incorrect. Cliché becomes the very means through which the historical record is corrected. The over familiar and clichéd narrative ultimately encourages the viewer to reassess the war and consider it with others where the human cost and tragedy of armed conflict are at the forefront of collective memory. And revealing the human side of the conflict was precisely the task which Edgardo Esteban stated was an important motivation for writing his memoir from the outset. In this regard, the film is undoubtedly a faithful adaptation of the original text.

 

[1]. The panel was organised and chaired by Professor Bernard McGuirk (University of  Nottingham) and featured Stuart Urban (Director and writer of the movie, An Ungentlemanly Act, 1992), Jeremy McTeague (Communications Executive, Falklands-Malvinas veteran, and author of ‘Who Cares About the Enemy?’ 2009), Tessa Morrison (Institute of Modern Languages Research), and myself, in dialogue with Edgardo Esteban. The present article is a revised version of the comments I made during the discussion.

 

Bibliography:

BBC News, ‘Argentine Conscript Speaks of Falklands Abuse by Superiors’,  (24/09/2015) <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-34335103> [Accessed 11/11/2015]

———, ‘Argentine Falklands War Troops Tortured by their Own Side’,  (14/09/2015) <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-34252025> [Accessed 11/11/2015]

Carson, Anne, ‘Variations on the Right to Remain Silent’, A Public Space, 7 (2008), 179-87

Maguire, Geoffrey, ‘Between Victims and Veterans: Remembering the Malvinas and Framing Nationalism in Julio Cardoso’s Locos de la bandera (2004) and Tristán Bauer’s Iluminados por el fuego (2005)’, in La Guerre de Malouines: Trente Ans Après ed. by Michael Parsons and Diana Quattrocchi-Woisson. (Forthcoming)

McGuirk, Bernard, Falklands-Malvinas: An Unfinished Business (Seattle: New Ventures, 2007)

McLoughlin, Catherine Mary, Authoring War: The Literary Representation of War from the Iliad to Iraq (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

McTeague, Jeremy, ‘Who Cares About the Enemy?’, in Hors de Combat: The Falklands-Malvinas Conflict in Retrospect, ed. by Diego F. Garcia Quiroga and Mike Seear. (Nottingham: Critical, Cultural and Communications Press, 2009), pp. 53-61

Piette, Adam, ‘Keith Douglas and the Poetry of the Second World War’, in The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century English Poetry, ed. by Neil Corcoran. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 117-30