Through an opinion column titled “Argentina needs to talk about racism. Alberto Fernández proves it”, the influential newspaper The New York Times analyzed the failed declaration of the President in which he assured that Mexicans come from indigenous people, Brazilians from the jungle and Argentines from Europe.
Signed by Sylvia Colombo, a Brazilian journalist specialized in South America, the opinion column rekindled the controversy generated by the head of state’s comment, who without hesitation labels it as “racist” and that in his opinion he does nothing more than repeat “what for an important sector of society is a mantra: that Argentines are European, unlike the rest of Latin America.”
The controversy began from the moment that Alberto Fernández, in the framework of the visit of the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, it occurred to him to declare that “the Mexicans left the Indians, the brazilians came out of the jungle, but we, the Argentines, came from the ships. They were ships that came from there, from Europe ”. The worst thing is that the President believed that he was quoting the Mexican Nobel Prize winner for literature Octavio Paz, when in fact he was paraphrasing a song by Litto Nebbia.
“For Argentina it is a bad sign someone say that. And more if it comes from a president. Not only because of the bad example it sets, but also because Peronism has made progress in recent years in the inclusion of minorities through the conquest of women’s rights and the LGBTI communities, “the journalist said in her opinion column. .
According to what was published by The New York Times “the problem is that it was not only a false step. Fernández’s racist phrase reveals the denial of the mestizo and black roots of their society and that underlies the formation of Argentine cultural identity. “He even posits that this vision” is well rooted “within society.
“And although Fernández tries to position himself today as a center-left liberal politician, deep down he also thinks like the sector that continues to believe that Argentines are European. idiosyncrasy seems to have spoken stronger in that sentence than his academic and political credentials, “said the journalist.
In the extensive opinion column, it was stated that this “tradition of racist thought” is even reflected in the thoughts and writings of 19th century politicians and cites, for example, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento for his work “Facundo. Civilización. and barbarism in the Argentine pampas “.
“Driven by the conviction that it was necessary to whitewash society and impose the idea of a European origin to ‘advance’ Argentina’s development, during his presidency Sarmiento encouraged immigration from the old continent,” the article highlighted.
In a kind of historical revisionism, the column pointed out that Sarmiento’s vision continued, “in a brutal way, in one of his successors in the presidency and national hero, General Julio Argentino Roca“.
“Shortly before being president, Roca led the well-known Conquest of the Desert, which began in 1878. In that military campaign, with the supposed idea of taking civilization to the most remote corners of the country, the army murdered thousands of Ranqueles and other indigenous communities, “he said.
In this analysis, the Brazilian journalist also quoted the writer Jorge Luis Borges, for having said “half jokingly, half seriously, that Argentines’we are european. Europeans in exile‘”.
In this analysis of Argentine history, he included former President Carlos Menem, who, when asked about the presence of the Afro-Argentine population in society, said that blacks were “a Brazilian problem”. “And at the 2018 Davos World Economic Forum, former President Mauricio Macri affirmed that in ‘South America we are all descendants of Europeans‘”.
“Macri liked to give the example of the trajectory of his own family when he tried to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in the country. He spoke of his father, the immigrant Franco Macri, who arrived in the country from Italy —of course, by boat— without many resources, and ended up founding a small business empire, “he noted in another paragraph of the column.
Colombo noted in his article that “still the myth of the European descendant and white nation prevails to a large extent in Buenos Aires, but it is enough to go to the provinces to realize that it is wrong and that maintaining it can be dangerous. “” If a country denies a part of its population, the lives, needs and claims of that A crucial part of the population will continue to be marginalized and invisible. The Argentine Mapuche, who still claim their land, sovereignty and the right to speak their language, are a good example, “he said.
The columnist stated that “the political class has a moral obligation to promote a deeper conversation about national identity.” “This debate should give rise to better inclusion policies,” said the journalist, who stressed in the end that “Fernández’s phrase reflects an ancient prejudice that must collapse. “