Una mujer rinde homenaje a la reina Isabel II con un ramo de flores y un mensaje en el libro de condolencias de la embajada británica en Buenos Aires, el 9 de septiembre de 2022

Argentine reverence for Queen Elizabeth clouded by memories of the Falklands

Una mujer rinde homenaje a la reina Isabel II con un ramo de flores y un mensaje en el libro de condolencias de la embajada británica en Buenos Aires, el 9 de septiembre de 2022 – Copyright AFP Juan BARRETO

Daniel MEROLLA

Argentines have vacillated between admiration and disappointment in assessing the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, a country with which they have a complicated history, marred by a territorial war brutally unfolded before her eyes.

The Buenos Aires government reacted quickly to the news of the monarch’s death, reassuring the British people that they shared his grief at this “painful moment”.

The Argentine press expressed their open reverence, declaring the Queen “a symbol of the 20th century” and describing her as someone “we knew better than our own aunts”.

But on the streets, the praise for the Queen’s record has been overshadowed by lingering resentment over the 1982 war over the Falklands, which both countries claim as their own.

“I wish the Queen would give us back the islands before she dies,” housewife Maria Lujan Rodriguez, 51, told AFP in Buenos Aires.

Celia Karlen, 88, was another of those who laid flowers at the British embassy in the capital in honor of the “very sensible and even-tempered” monarch.

Islands, yes, “I think they should give them back to us. But I share these two things,” Karlen said.

During the war, which lasted 74 days and claimed the lives of more than 900 people – 649 Argentine and 255 British soldiers, as well as three inhabitants of the island – Elizabeth was the target of a lot of sarcasm, many say that he was addressed to the wrong person.

At that time, fans of football, a sport borrowed from Britain and almost a religion in Argentina, sang songs calling her “the most stupid queen.”

– “Archaic system” –

Argentine political scientist Rosendo Fraga stressed that the war was a political decision by the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The monarchy has no executive or directive power, but the queen’s public profile has made her an easy target for public insults.

Mirta Legrand, a 95-year-old TV presenter and celebrity only 10 months younger than the Queen, summed up the Argentinean ambivalence.

“This is very painful. I have been following her since she was crowned at 25,” Legrand said. “She was a great queen, but I cannot forget that she ruled during the Falklands War. I can not forget. It was a very sad moment for everyone.”

The two nations have a long history full of ups and downs.

Two deadly British invasions of Buenos Aires in 1806 and 1807 were followed by a period of economic investment, with British money pouring into agriculture, energy and Latin America’s largest rail network.

Then the war broke out again.

Argentina sent soldiers to claim the Falklands off the coast of Patagonia, which angered Thatcher.

With the consent of the Queen, the Prime Minister sent almost 30,000 soldiers across half the world to reclaim the islands that Argentina had claimed as its own since 1833 and called the “Malvinas”.

The Queen’s own son Prince Andrew, then 22, was a helicopter pilot.

Britain came out victorious, but the campaign left a deep wound, even though diplomatic and economic ties have since been restored.

The Argentina-based Center for Falklands War Veterans said in a statement that Elizabeth II “embodied the suffering of peoples enslaved by colonial and economic rule throughout her reign, an archaic system.”

In April of this year, at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the war, President Alberto Fernandez confirmed: “The Falklands were, are and will be Argentine.”

– “Bravo Lilibet” –

Last year’s poll showed that more than 81% of Argentines support sovereignty claims over the islands.

But in a 2013 referendum among the Falklands, 97 percent voted to remain part of the British kingdom, prompting the Queen to declare it an overseas territory.

She provoked anger in Buenos Aires when she told Parliament at the time that Britain “will ensure the security, good government and development of the Overseas Territories, including by protecting … the right of the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their political future.”

One of the last acts of the monarch in May of this year was the declaration of the settlement of Port Stanley (called Puerto Argentino by Argentina) the official “capital” of the islands.

“This exposes the colonial nature of the illegal and illegal occupation of our islands,” the Argentine government retorted.

Retired teacher Elizabeth Farines, 67, had “a somewhat contentious relationship with the English, but we have to admit that she (Elizabeth) was a real lady.

“We should say: ‘Bravo, Lilibet, you have done very well, for seventy years you have run England very well.’

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