27 October 2006

Rosario and Santa Fe, those reluctant sisters

First of all, I need to thank Miss Cupcake from La Otra Dimensión for her comments about my blog. La Otra Dimensión is, quite logically, written in better English than this one, and it's also much better because it has news, pointed social criticism and pictures of healthy and delicious food, accompanied by Miss C's recipes. This post however, was prompted by a terrible, terrible mistake of hers

OK, it was my fault -- I did say "Santa Fe" while commenting on car accidents. I meant Santa Fe Province, which is important because Rosario ≠ Santa Fe. The problem with many Argentine provinces is that the capitals have the same name as the provinces themselves, so the confusion often arises. Santa Fe, the provincial capital of Santa Fe (see?), is a large city (metro pop. 500,000) that lives mostly thanks to the presence of an unnecessary, bloated bureaucracy. We rosarinos don't want to be associated to it. People from other provinces, when asked where they're from, always name their province first, and then their city or town. People from San Rafael, Mendoza call themselves mendocinos; people from Gualeguaychú, Entre Ríos call themselves entrerrianos. We don't do that. Referring to a rosarino as a santafesino is like referring to a porteño as a bonaerense.

Whence this rejection, this seeming resentment? Well, there's a difference in character. Rosario is and ever was progressive, cosmopolitan, part leftist, part nouveau riche, revolutionary, a newcomer, "the Phoenician City", "the Chicago of Argentina", home of gangs, entrepreneurs, prostitutes, exiled Russian Jews, labour unions and filthy-mouthed Italians. Santa Fe City is and ever was conservative, insular, elitist, aristocratic, a colonial capital born with a silver spoon in its Spanish-born fundamentalist Catholic mouth. Santa Fe was a large village in the 17th century; Rosario was a smaller village even in 1840. Santa went on to become a large town in the 19th century; Rosario went from a small town to a large city in 40 years, and was already a major metropolitan area before the Great Depression. Rosario was ruled by political appointees sent from Santa Fe City during all of this time. In the meantime, also, it was almost declared capital of Argentina, and vetoed, three times.

One illustration of the difference may be found in a book I've recently read, a collection of history essays sold as New History of Santa Fe together with La Capital. Regarding the Carnival celebrations, it was pointed out that the ruling elites of Santa Fe passed only a few laws regulating them, and the Carnivals were nevertheless calm and well-behaved. In Rosario, the ruling elites held tighter controls and imposed many regulations as to public demonstrations of the spirit of Carnival, and yet the celebrations were scandalous. At first sight it looks as if Rosario was in fact more conservative, but no: in fact, Santa Fe's lower-class population was more accustomed to being submissive and to blissfully look up to their rulers, the wealthy families with a long and illustrious lineage, as they paraded with their chariots along the avenues during public celebrations; Rosario's people were dangerously free-willed, immigrants not educated in reverence to the local elite, merchants who would reject the smell of old money, anarchists, agitators, drunkards, and generally not suited to participate in high-society parades.

You can still see how this works today, as Rosario has been ruled by the opposition since 1983 (and in particular, by the Socialist Party since 1989), while Santa Fe Province remains a bastion of Peronism. You can see it also in how Santa Fe has had a good sex education law since 1992, but the provincial government has never applied it, as the crème of a Roman Catholic clerical establishment dating back to the enlightened days of 1600-something still breathes heavily in the back of their necks; while the government of Rosario was a pioneer in handing out condoms and contraceptive pills in its poor neighbourhoods.

This and more, while Santa Fe City gets as much funds as Rosario from the provincial government, despite the fact that it's half the size. Not surprisingly, many people here would rather have the south of the province split from the center-north, with Rosario as its capital; we are only stopped from revolting by the sad thought of Santa Fe crumbling and returning to the mud of the Paraná as the source of its lifeblood is removed from it.

¹ Just kidding!


  1. HOla:

    Hace poco me soprendi haciendo lo que decis, anteponiendo mi origen rosarino al santafesino en una reunion de argentinos aca en Irlanda.
    Tu explicacion me parece excelente y es algo que uno siempre quiere decir pero que nunca encuentra las palabras justas.

    Me gusta tu blog, si de algo sirve que me guste, mas que nada porque mostras cosas sin deshumanizar o quitar esperanzas a los argentinos. Tampoco generalizas, asi que evita la tipica discusion inutil.
    Un saludo.

  2. Hi PDF,

    The magnitude of my error is completely understood and will be rectified as soon as I get off your blog ;-). I suppose it is just like my friends who felt offended when they were associated with inhabitants of Recoleta (barrio in BA, not unlike Santa Fe City by the sound of it) - needless to say, they have now moved.

  3. Luciano: A mí me dijo lo mismo una sanjuanina en Mendoza y una porteña en Entre Ríos. A mi vieja le dijeron lo mismo en cada lugar donde haya viajado. Evidentemente nos la creemos mal. Felicitaciones por la poesía con la que vivís el ser un Gordo Motoneta.

    Miss Cupcake: You've hit the nail right on its head, with the only difference that Recoleta looks nice on the outside. Thanks for being understanding. :)

  4. Es que Rosario de Santa Fé tambien suena muy catolico. Es demasiado :)
    Mas alla del chiste, creo que Rosario no ve a Santa Fe, la provincia es muy grande, extensa, bien podria dividirse en dos y la mita del sur llamarse Rosario.
    Ya esta, ya lo dije, soy un separatista.


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