The verbal slips of President Alberto Fernández that make Argentines themselves blush

The insinuation of the president that only the Argentine population comes from Europe unleashes a wave of criticism

Argentine President Alberto Fernndez on Wednesday.AFP

In his first months in office, Alberto Fernández tried to convince Argentines that he was something like the “first professor of the Republic.” A president who continued to go to the Law School of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) to take an exam on his students, a head of state who, using graphics on giant screens, explained to journalists and his compatriots why the Argentina’s battle against COVID-19 was reportedly being much more successful than in other countries. A year later, little and nothing remains of that, because after a verbal stumble from historical and international proportions, This week, the Peronist head of state became the protagonist of the most ingenious and cruel memes that have been seen in a long time.

“Octavio Paz once wrote that the Mexicans came out of the Indians, the Brazilians came out of the jungle, but we Argentines came from the boats. They were ships that came from Europe. “The phrase was pronounced on Wednesday afternoon by Fernndez with a mixture of pride and complicity towards Pedro Snchez, who was on a speedy visit to Buenos Aires. The president of the Spanish government had a certain fortune: his His face was covered by a mask, so no gesture could be seen or guessed at such a surprising and incorrect statement. Nor could Sánchez know that Paz never said that, and that what the Argentine president was doing was remembering aa phrase from an album by the singer Lito Nebbia, one of his idols of youth in the 70s.

Paz’s phrase was different, and it was full of irony towards the Argentines and their conviction of being the Europeans of Latin America: “We Mexicans descend from the Aztecs, Peruvians from the Incas and Argentines from ships.” An irony with sustenance: In just 33 years between 1881 and 1914, Argentina received more than four million European immigrants. The fact that the total population of the country was 7.8 million people in 1914 gives an idea of ​​the impact on Argentina of these migratory flows. A land that already had an indigenous population before the arrival of Europeans and that today has a milln of indgenas in a population of about 45 million.

Thus, the sum of absurdities in a single sentence overwhelmed, and unleashed the flood of memes, many of them from terrified Argentines: if they were already known and frequently rejected in Latin America and Spain for their not uncommon arrogance and superiority complex, what can you expect in the future?

“The phrase ‘the Brazilian came out of the jungle’ will be remembered for 300 years. It will be the most remembered phrase of this president,” wrote the Argentine essayist Santiago Gerchunoff, who lives in Madrid. Fernndez’s predecessor, Mauricio Macri, wanted to ingratiate himself in 2018 with those attending the World Economic Forum in Davos. “All South Americans are descendants of Europeans,” he said. But he did not go to the extreme of locating the origin of all Brazilians in the jungle.

Reaction in Brazil and silence in Mexico

Although it is true that the percentage of the population of European descent in Argentina is greater than that of other Latin American countries, the problem for Fernández was that, beyond misdescribing the country he governs, I mistreated the other two great powers of the region. The government of Mexico, a political ally, kept a pious silence, but in Brazil the reaction was powerful: the phrase, with infinite resonances, was the opening theme this Wednesday in ‘Folha de Sao Paulo’, as offended and shocked as its archrival, President Jair Bolsonaro, who reacted with aggressive irony on Twitter: “Jungle!”, post, surrounded by members of the original peoples of the Amazon. More fuel for the mutual contempt between Bolsonaro and Fernandez, who never met.

That a president who created a Ministry for Gender Equality and promotes the inclusive language speak at this point of the times of “Indians”, even if it is citing another person as a source, it leaves the impression that not everything you say and promote is something you really believe in. Or understand. The same when stating that Mexicans and Brazilians “left” from a certain place, while Argentines arrived.

The writer Sergio Olgun was forceful: “The imaginary so ours and so pastoral of ‘we are children of immigrants who came by boat’ leaves out many who came to America by boat, but as slaves. “ And the journalist Daniel Gigena added in ‘La Nacin’: “Not in the best way, the debate on racism in Argentina is updated with the words of the president.”

For hours, “Basta Alberto” was a trend on social networks in Argentina, which exhibited a succession of disqualifying phrases towards much of Latin America and other countries that Fernández could have spoken. In the photos with Fernndez he almost always appeared as a co-star of the Snchez memes, which was presented on Wednesday by the Argentine head of state as “president of the kingdom of Spain”, a whole historical and institutional confusion.

There are already several times that the Argentine president displayed a curious way of understanding reality. In 2020 he wanted to praise Evo Morales and defined him, loudly, as “the first president who resembles the Bolivians.” That same year he dismissively sent journalist Cristina Prez, in an interview on the primetime newscast, to read the National Constitution. Then it would be confirmed that he was the wrong person in terms of constitutional interpretation. But he had never encountered an issue so deep that it led his own supporters to bet on silence rather than on defending what is very difficult to defend.

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