Chapter 5. The Argentine National Shield Conclusion

Men have been using shields to defend themselves against their aggressors since the beginning of history. From being just a quilted linen or leather, a shield started to be a support for images painted on them, transforming its practical role to include expressions of the one who bears it. Besides, then the shield took the role of acting as a sign when facilitating recognition of friends and enemies. Thus, the images allowed warrior clans to visualize their social and political organization. Since the Crusades, heraldry was legitimized as a visual identity language. Through this language of images, the newly born national states found a way to symbolically call and differentiate themselves in the international and local contexts

The National Shields are constantly offering a testimony to the presence of the state in all kinds of national issues. Such presence is included in three main exercises of authority on behalf of the state over the national sphere. First, in public spaces shields are offering a public testimony of active ownership of the state, while the spectator of the shield would imagine and personalize the nature of the power exercised by this state. Second, shields are also a certification of authenticity. For instance, shields sealed on the face of documents are protecting nations against foreigners and personal identity fraud. Third, the shield is an internalized object for their bearers and the social life of the object interacts with the very same identity of those who feel it as their own. Accordingly, the role of the shield can be thought of as material support for messages annexed to the shield, that anchor the collective memory of the social group. Besides, the active existence and presence of the state and nation that the shield is performing, is attaching national sentiments to each person of a given nation.

The Argentine shield is the result of the integration of the Spanish culture, the influence of the City of Buenos Aires and of images of change pertaining to the French Revolution. As a result, both the laurels and the sun are exterior attributes and they have replaced the necklaces of the royal orders, being the laurels’ heraldic expression of victory and triumph and the sun the symbol of life and power. Besides, the holding hands represent reconciliation and alliance, union and fidelity, while the Phrygian cap held by the pike is an emblem of freedom and political redemption. However, the process of drawing the national shield clearly illustrates how different administrations tried to project their own vision of the theme using mainly two resources which are to highlight part of the emblem and to include a complementary message to the shield.

Lastly, the Argentine shield integrates republican images in a single discursive emblem that allows changes and new interpretations. Therefore, in the Argentine National Shield, the visual representation of the attributes of union, liberty and glory work as imperatives actively appealing to the citizen. Those actions have become central points when making reference to what is common among Argentines. These images and ideas have been crystallized and reinforced by the State from the beginning. The State itself was the one who defined those attributes as a framework for the social identity of the ideal Argentine citizen. However, the communicational clarity and efficiency used by the State to articulate these attributes during the Independence also reflects the lack of thematic allusion to other situations the Argentine people and their institutions relate to up to the present. Among others, there was a lack of reference to precepts of the Argentine National Constitution such as the federal system of government of the nation, as well as to the diversity in genre, ethnics, geography and politic representation. Moreover, it is important to highlight that the democratic governments of the last 25 years did not pay much attention to the shield as an identity creator while they maintained the versions of the shield used by the previous military governments. In this sense, in this mentioned period the shield would not be considered by the State as an important object to attach national sentiments to each person of a given nation.