Argentinians who know nothing about their nation
This would be ridiculous if it were not tragic.
This week, three darker-than-accepted-average Argentinian young boys wanted to board a flight to Miami. People at the Frontier police station considered that these guys were too dark and too badly dressed to be true travelers. They looked poorer than the usual public at the Airport, and who knows could they not they be in the drug business?
The police officials chose not to allow them to fly unless they demonstrated they were Argentinians. They were not convinced by the passports (something not unreasonable in a country where the connections between the highest Government officials and drug dealers is never clear) and the officials attempted to determine whether the three were Argentinians or not. They were made some elementary questions of Argentinian history. I remember two: the date of the death of San Martin, and the date of creation of the national flag; easy questions because both dates are national holidays, more or less like "What happened on July 4th?" or "What's the date of Veteran's day"?
The way the policemen acted was usual policemen suspicion. [As Balzac said, a policeman is always a bitter person because they live out of smelling the arse of humankind.]:
Three not well dressed, slightly dark people trying to board a plane to Miami are an unusual sight, the probable reaction is "Let us not take risks". Display of the passports should have been enough, and here begins a clear act of discrimination. The fact is that due to this act of discrimination, the three Argentinians could not travel to Miami, as they had planned.
The head of the INADI (a for-the-screens institution of the Menem Administration that cynically pretends to fight discrimination) made a fuss of all the thing, and defended the boys. Newspaper headlines, condemnations of the frontier cops (is it always so easy to sling mud at a cop, isn't it?), and so on. The boys will probably be given formal excuses and they may even see their air tickets refunded by the State. Of course, they deserve that and much more.
But let me stop for a second. This is quite outrageous (though policemen are _always_ policemen, and had the cops been right, they would have dismantled a drug transit operation: they took a risk), but there is a detail that nobody paid attention to: the three young Argentinians who were victims of this discriminatory harassment DID NOT KNOW THE ANSWERS TO THE ELEMENTARY QUESTIONS THEY WERE POSED!
These dates were common, basic, elementary knowledge of average Argentinians in the days when this country was precisely that, a country. It was the poorer layers who more carefully remembered these, perhaps almost the only tiny crumbs of wisdom that life would ever allow them to own. And our good national educational system, with all its ideological biases, ensured that at least these data were, as a hallmark of national personality, embedded in the brain of the Argentinians. The methodological mistake of the policemen (their condemnable discriminatory attitude put aside) was not to recognize that we have become a colonial outpost, and that citizens of colonial outposts do not have national identity.
A final, bitter, coda. The name of the head of the INADI is Victor Ramos. I knew Victor when he was young. He was a fine boy, who would always try to differentiate from his father, a famous person. He was a leftist and a Latin American nationalist in his primitive way (he was not a politician at all, his mind was never the mind of a politician). Time passed by, and this candid young friend of mine became the callous Menemist official of these days. This downfall, however, has a family reason: Victor is the elder male son of the late Jorge Abelardo Ramos, the traitor to the National Left who ended his career as Ambassador of Menem to Mexico.
The ruin of a country in a nutshell.