19 June 2007

Flag Day is tomorrow!

These have been atypical days. First of all, it was a long weekend; and then also, in Rosario it's a very short working week. You see, most public holidays are moveable in Argentina. In order to produce long weekends, which are good for tourism, holidays that fall are moved back to the prior or next Monday. The exceptions are the fixed religious festivities (such as Christmas), the New Year, and the two main patriotic holidays: May 25 and July 9. No matter where in the week they fall, they're never moved. One would expect public displays of outrage if the government decided to play around with those two sacrosanct dates just to please tourists and raise the profits of the tourism industry.

Banderas argentinas desplegadasYet, one would also expect Flag Day to be a very patriotic date, but Flag Day (June 20, the anniversary of the death of Manuel Belgrano, creator of the Argentine Flag) is moveable. May it be because it's a celebration linked specifically to Rosario and not to Buenos Aires? Belgrano, after all, crafted his flag and hoisted it for the first time in two artillery batteries located on both sides of the Paraná River, one in Rosario and one in an island directly opposite the village. And he did it in violation of direct orders of the central government of Buenos Aires (the same government which, a few years later, ordered General José de San Martín to attack the province of Santa Fe, that was beginning to oppose the centralism of the capital — an order which San Martín, too, disobeyed).

But that mustn't be it. After all, the Declaration of Independence was written and proclaimed in Tucumán, and Independence Day (July 9) is not moveable, and the President usually celebrates it there.

Must be that national governments, one after another, have never found Flag Day very important. We rosarinos, supported by the provincial government, have asked the federal government to fix Flag Day at June 20, but to no avail, for years. June 20 continues to be a public holiday for the public administration and for all the schools in Rosario, but for no-one else and nowhere else, so many people in the city and from other places cannot attend the celebrations.

This makes it, in principle, easier for the President to bring a parade of applauders for hire, as especially Peronists like to do, but historically that hasn't been a good idea. When Carlos Menem did that, he was left with his minions and a minuscule group of followers in what amounted to a badly organized party meeting. It was so pathetic and sleazy that he didn't want to come to Rosario anymore. He always had excuses: his plane was broken, it was too foggy, it was too windy... Besides, Rosario was hit very hard by anti-industrial Cavallonomics, so Menem stayed away. President De la Rúa never came in his two years. He wasn't a Peronist but I bet he was a Menemist... Duhalde didn't come either. Kirchner came in 2003, and then in 2005; he had appropriate excuses.

Kirchner is not going to come for the main celebration this year; he announced he'll be here "late" (that's 3 hours after the beginning) and just do a speech. Now I understand a president's agenda is always full, but didn't anyone notice June 20 was in there? If a president skipped the celebration of any other major patriotic date, he would be burned at the stake by the media, the opposition, and many common folks. I don't like the guy; I was even guessing he was going to turn his speech into a campaign rant like he always does; but leaving the person aside, there's the symbol, the authority. This is the commemoration of the death of one of the very few true patriots this country has seen in its history, and the celebration of its flag.

Well, I'll tell you tomorrow (or Thursday) how it was like, with or without K. Vice governor Bielsa is not happy the president isn't coming (maybe because her brother, the candidate, won't be able to grab a campaign picture next to K? — though she says it's because people were looking forward to parade in front of the president, which is true). Governor Obeid excused Kirchner, though... I'm sure there won't be much of a difference.

It's the 50th anniversary of the Flag Memorial, and the Municipality is, as we say over here, throwing the house out the window (or "throwing butter to the ceiling"). There have been concerts, a professional reenactment of General Belgrano's entrance into Rosario in 1812, rodeo-like traditional events, and a national artisans' fair; the Memorial has a new and revolutionary lighting system installed (which will be inaugurated tonight), and in general, the city is bustling with flaggy activity. Before the mast of the Memorial, a group of volunteers is sewing up the parts of Alta en el Cielo, the longest flag in the world (and longer each year!), so as to march with it tomorrow. I saw them yesterday when I passed by with the Rosarigasinos to take pictures. There were still people at the Memorial, listening to a guide narrating the life of Manuel Belgrano, at 8 PM, just as I returned there after a tour of Rosario's historical cupolas. I was tired and freezing, but the old ladies in scarves listening to the guide were just warming up.


  1. There was another ceremony that Kirchner declined to attend last week (to which he was specifically invited).

    Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the end of the Falklands/Malvinas hostilities. On Friday, a brief ceremony was held at the Argentine cemetery near Darwin, on East Falkland. Buried here are 234 young Argentine men, more than half of whom lie in unidentified graves.

    Soldado Argentino. Sólo conocido por Dios.

    They deserve better than this. They deserved a government representative to recognize their sacrifice, and beg their forgiveness.


  2. Hey Pablo!

    That's a very interesting story - and very interesting pictures on NoCommentNews.com !



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.