Way down to the very south of the country is a small province called Tierra del Fuego, which literally translates to Land of Fire. The first European to arrive on these lands, Ferdinand Magellan, gave it its name since he could see the fire of the Yámana people from the shore.
The Yámana (also known as the Yaghan people) were a nomadic tribe of indigenes that lived on the coasts of the south of Argentina and Chile. One of the features that was particular about them was that they wore little or no clothing despite the cold. This is why the fire element was so important to them, and they carried their fire everywhere, even in their canoes, making it a priority to keep it alight in order to keep warm.
They had no designated leader and their social structure was initially matriarchal. Later on, it shifted to a patriarchal structure although women played a significant role in their system because they were the only ones who could swim and were in charge of collecting shellfish while the men hunted for sea lions and whales.
Another interesting factor of the Yámana people was their language that had a very rich vocabulary and was full of melodic vowels. The records of the language show an English influence, this was due to the many English settlers that populated the area with which they traded. In the 1800’s they were also occasionally taken hostage by the Europeans for stealing and the like, and there began to be a big cultural exchange during that period. In fact, Captain Fitz Roy took a Yámana man along with three other indigenes from other tribes to England to educate them and later bring them back to the island. The man known as Jemmy Button (Orundelico in his native tongue) became a celebrity as the London newspapers were fascinated with the exotic newcomers. Later Fitz Roy returned to Tierra del Fuego with Button, and also Charles Darwin (who studied the Fueguian tribes) on board. Upon his return, Button reinserted himself with his tribe and taught some of his family English.
(Photo by Patricio Irisarri)
Atahualpa Yupanqui is considered to have been the most important folklore musician of the country. His real name was Hector Roberto Chavero Aramburu, and the pseudonym he adopted is Quechua for “he who comes from a faraway land to tell something.” The renowned musician was not only a singer, songwriter and guitarist, but also a poet and an author, and is remembered both for his music and his lyrics.
One of the great influences on his work was his second wife Nenette, a French musician who immigrated to Buenos Aires in the thirties. Since she was the artist’s second wife, and at the time they met he was still not divorced, and also because of the strong traditional imprint in Yupanqui’s work and the sexist conditions of Argentine culture at the time, Nenette worked under the pseudonym Pablo del Cerro. Credited to Pablo/Nenette are 66 songs, most in collaboration with Yupanqui.
In Argentina, teacher’s day is celebrated on the 11th of September, as it was the day in which one of the country’s founding fathers known for propelling the Argentine educational system, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, passed away.
La puerta historiada, which stands at Av. Entre Rios 1349 in Constitución, was created in 1933 in his honor, and in honor of all Argentine teachers by sculptor Arturo Dresco. It is the main door of a library dedicated to social sciences and education.
The doorway was sculpted in bronze and consists of eight panels that depict teachers carrying out their tasks in the country’s different landscapes. The most important men in history that contributed to Argentine education, Mariano Moreno, Bernardino RIvadavia, Manuel Belgrano and Domingo Sarmiento, are included in the center of the piece.
Unfortunately, it has been somewhat forgotten and unkept and the neighborhood it’s in is shady and run down, however it is an important local art piece and a significant emblem of Argentine education.
Alfonsina Storni is one of the most renowned poets of the Modernist period, and although she was born in Switzerland, since she moved to Argentina at a young age and developed a local literary identity, she is considered an Argentine poet.
She was born in 1892, and when she was four she moved to South America, which would become her permanent home. As a young woman, she worked as an actress touring the country, and later on as a teacher. She was also the single mother of an illegitimate child, and had breast cancer in her adult life. These experiences put her in touch with issues related to the role of women in society and she developed a strong feminist streak that permeated her works. Her poetry deals with themes related to women, love, eroticism, and her later works with thoughts regarding intellect and emotion.
The talented poet, tormented by her illness, finally committed suicide by drowning herself in the sea in 1938.
Argentine folklore is characterized for its poetic representation of the land and the local people. Talented songwriters and singers have helped to configure the identity of indigenes and gauchos, rivers and birds, and the ever-present Argentine nostalgia of farewell. One of the most low-key and yet stunning voices of the local folklore scene is José Larralde, who has recorded over twenty records since the late sixties, dealing with themes of injustice and inequality. The singer and songwriter has also worked as a construction worker, mechanic, and rural worker amongst other jobs that colored his music with the experience of the common working man.
Walter Malosetti was one of the greatest jazz composers and guitarists of the country. The musician, who recently passed away, was born in Córdoba in the thirties and was a big influence on the Argentine jazz scene. During the fifties he played with some of the most significant local orchestras including Guardia Vieja Jazz Band, California Ramblers and The Georgians Jazz Band. In the sixties, he founded a jazz and guitar institute where many of the locally renowned names, such as Armando Alonso, Francisco Rivero and Botafogo, went to study. Throughout the following decades, he continued to teach and to play and record music, both locally and abroad. His style was highly influenced by swing music and he often cited Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt as his greatest influences.
(Photo by santiago nicolau)
Monday is a national holiday in memory of José de San Martín, the country’s independence leader. The famous general was born in the late 1700’s in Corrientes province and is credited with leading Peru, Chile and Argentina to their independence whilst Simón Bolivar did the same in the north of the continent.
Although he was born in Argentina, San Martin grew up in Spain where in fact he began his military career, reaching the rank of lieutenant coronel and came in touch with the ideas of the Spanish Enlightenment. After resigning to the Spanish military, he returned to South America and began his participation in the independence wars. Many speculate that this decision was actually encouraged by the British who had commercial interest in the independence of South America; others argue that for San Martín, the South American independence war was only an extension of an ideological battle between enlightenment and absolutism. Whichever the cause he became a national hero and had a brilliant military career, with many anecdotes, such as the crossing of the Andes, which history highlights as one of the extraordinary feats of South American independence.
In Buenos Aires, the Plaza San Martin in one of the central landmarks. In it is the famous San Martin monument where the independence battle and the country’s libertador are commemorated.