A while back, Randy “Proud Canadian” McDonald expressed surprise at the terrible state of Uruguayan-Argentine relations. Well, now President Fernández has managed to add some fuel to the fire by saying this:
Transcript: “Esta bandera de Entre Ríos, cruzada por la franja roja que es el símbolo de Artigas, vivo en la tierra entrerriana, de ese Artigas que quería ser argentino y no lo dejamos, ¡carajo! ¿Cómo pudo haber sido posible? Ay, se me fue, disculpeme. Se me fue pero me da bronca cuando lee la historia y ve que desde Buenos Aires rechazaron a los delegados de la Banda Oriental. Por eso no somos una sola nación.”
Translation: “The flag of the [province of] Entre Ríos, crossed by the red stripe symbol of Artigas, alive in the land of Entre Ríos, of this Artigas who wanted to be Argentine and we didn’t let him, fuck! How could that happen? Ah, it just slipped out, apologies. It slipped out but I get annoyed when I read the history and see that Buenos Aires rejected the delegates from the Eastern Shore. This is why we aren’t one single nation.”
Hmm. As history, she has it sort-of-right. Perhaps I should say “not quite wrong”?
Artigas’ revolt against Spain was linked to the Argentine revolt (in more-or-less the same sense as the revolt against the British in Virginia was linked to the revolt in Massachusetts) but the leaders in Buenos Aires sold him out by signing a truce with the Spanish viceroy in Montevideo. Artigas fled to what is now Entre Ríos.
Uruguay might have then become the quite-literal Canada of South America, but Buenos Aires resumed the offensive and liberated the territory. (The government in Buenos Aires was hostile to Artigas, seeing him not as a secessionist but as a rival for the national leadership.) With the Spanish gone, Argentina now had to figure out how to organize its new government. Artigas was a federalist, and once it became clear that Buenos Aires was not willing to accept a federal system he organized the Federal League (which included several northern provinces) and went to war with the dictatorship in the capital.
He lost when the Portuguese allied with the Buenos Aires government. The Brazilians invaded and annexed Uruguay. Artigas fought on in what is now northern Argentina, but he was eventually defeated.
So, as history President Fernández is almost right. It wasn’t like Artigas went down to Buenos Aires and said,“Hey, great country there, let me in?” Rather, he fought and lost a civil war when Buenos Aires refused to allow for a federal system. But it is correct that he thought of himself as a citizen of the Provincias Unidas de Sudamérica. (Argentina, like America, had a lot of trouble deciding on a name for the country. The Argentines eventually picked one, however, while up in the United States the moniker “Columbia” never really caught on.)
But as politics, well, ugh. Whatever the origin, Uruguay is in fact now a country. Moreover, it’s one whose citizens have (quite understandably, even absent nationalism) rather little interest in joining the Argentine Republic. Not only that, it’s a country that has a remarkably contentious relationship with the Argentine Republic.
So having an Argentine president say, “Fuck, I get annoyed that we’re not one country” does not help.