Chapter 7. Final conclusions of the Argentine case
States design national identities through creating and spreading images and by intervening in national discourses. This production and spreading of symbolic fictions is called the state apparatus of cultural fiction which produces and reproduces the dominant hegemonic ideology produced by an Ideological State Apparatus. Such an apparatus requires three main resources to work, which are: an existing common content like a myth that allows a process of nationalism and collective identification, a supporting element for the content and the power to institutionalize an interpretation of nationality.
In the first case, discourses, narrative and symbolic fictions are considered the agents which symbolically structure the national imagination. According to Anderson, a Nation is an imagined community constructed by new political entities which produce, reproduce and validate the figure of Nation as the correct one for representing such communities (Anderson, 1991). Accordingly, the State has an institutionalized role as mediator of nationalistic sentiments (Laclau, 2004) by attaching and fixing a difference as a representation of the whole range of collective identities that are running in a given community. Therefore, national identities are made according to «the logic of hegemony” (Laclau and Mouffe, 2001: 47). In this regard a Nation is a hegemonic construction where the nationality becomes the main way to understand any other social organization, leaving other identities or belongings in second place. Those national structured sentiments, as identity, change over time and the prevalence of one or of some of them depends on the historical context and the power of the different groups to prevail, to become a hegemonic group and to narrate their version of nationalism. In this sense, the State has the power to institutionalize any interpretation of nationality by representing the self interest of particular groups that are trying to impose their own vision of what the nation is.
The relationship between those sentiments and the national identity are woven in a kind of textile or rope, borrowing the idea put forth by Wittgenstein who understood it as a complicated network of similarities and relationships overlapping and criss-crossing. Besides, one of its constitutive fibres could only be visible for a while to be hidden underneath another in the next segment and no dimension alone could represent or symbolize the whole collection of sentiments.
In the Argentine case, it is possible to find the expression of six different national sentiments, during twelve historical periods that correspond to different Ideological State Apparatuses. Also it is possible to find a differential use of supporting elements in the cultural apparatus of the State in each case expressing and designing their political ideas about the Nation.
In relation to the six national sentiments, the proprietary and the religious ones appeared only in one historical period each. The nationality as a home appeared in two periods. The organizational dimension and the sentiments of sharing are the most common sentiments, and they appearing in four different historical periods each. In the case of the religious sentiment, it does not mean that the sentiment disappeared but it means that it does not reflect the dominant ideology any more. For instance, this religious sentiment is present in all military governments but it is central as a dominant ideology only in one of them. In other cases, such is the case of the organizational and sharing sentiments, they are sometimes dominant and in other historical periods are not very important and even change the meaning of the sentiment. In this case, this general classification hides differences that are expressed in different periods.
All the mentioned sentiments were materialized in different supporting elements. In this way, the myth, as a speech of the collective assumption and memory speaks through the individuals and circulates due to the existence of a supporting element that attaches national sentiments.
The Argentinean shield entitles religious sentiments by holding the person to an existent, eternal and established entity and by certifying the link of the person to the place and with his or her descendants and ancestors. Therefore, Argentine shields are present in all kind of national issues where the State exercises authority and gives an almost magic certification of authenticity. For instance, it is used in public spaces, in national documents of identity, passports, coins, banknotes and other national documents.
The Argentine flag promotes religious sentiment, a representation of a social organization on behalf of some of the Ideological State Apparatuses and is an object with an intense political use throughout history. It is a resource from where different representations of Argentina have been struggling to control. As result of that, this flag has abandoned its immaculate and idealized character of the past and now it is possible to find the flag inside almost any social and sectoral expression of the Argentine people. For instance, the flag is found in schools, in football stadiums and on the streets after each victory of the Argentine natioanl team, in political and even religious meetings, in product packaging that resort to the “Made in Argentina”, in taxicabs and in homes of high and low socio-economic levels. In this sense, in Argentina the flag is the incarnation of the nation but of an ideal nation that gives solutions to the problems people face. Thus, people resort to the flag as a coat to protect themselves and for this reason it is possible to see the flag in the front lines of almost all kinds of social claims.
In the case of the banknotes, a very popular object, they are known for their exchange value, for being a national sign of stability and as a medium of communication of social memory and national narratives that form the collective imagination of a nation. In this sense, they can attach different national sentiments depending more on the myth they narrate than for the meaning of the object in itself.
It is found that the flag, shield, rosette and banknotes are used throughout the Argentine history even though national banknotes started to circulate in 1880. The first three have a light blue and white colour with an exception in the Rosas period where they became blue and red. The banknotes have many different colours and it is not possible to find a particular reason or pattern for their use.
The four mentioned symbols carry different messages according to the elements, images and figures that are designed in them. In the case of the shield, it could represent a federal government or a country that included diversity if surrounded by flags or other elements. On the other hand, it can represent a central and monolithic government primarily led by Buenos Aires if the shield had no external elements. In the case of the flag, it can be used to promote strong military and religious values if the flag has a sun and becomes a symbol of civil citizens if the sun is not present. In the case of the banknotes a main duality is found between the alternate presence of the figure of the Republic as a representation of democracy and the figure of San Martin that represents military power. In the case of the rosette, the main use was for military identification and official ceremonies even though from the beginning of the country till 1828 and then with Peron again the ribbon rosette was used by civil population as a national emblem. In this sense, according to the elements and attributes they have or have not, the four symbols carry messages associated with democratic or military governments, a federal or a non-federal country, representing the altering political situations of Argentina.
It is important to highlight that, since the return of democratic governments since 1983 the versions of the rosette, shield and almost all banknotes have been the same used by the previous military governments. This apparent contradiction would mean that the rosette, shield, flag and even banknotes are no longer considered by the democratic State as important objects to attach national sentiments or characterized as identity creators. In the case of the rosette, it was not used for State ceremonies. In the case of the shield, it had communicational clarity and efficiency to articulate the attributes of union, liberty and glory during the Independence and in the first half of the XX century. Therefore, from the beginning of Argentine history the shield was representative of the people. Then, the shield had no popular use and the current shield does not reflect other situations the Argentine people and their institutions face at the present. For instance, there is a lack of reference to the federal system of government of the nation, as well as to the diversity in genre, ethnics, geography and politic representation.
In the case of the flag, even though the design is maintained, since 1985 there has been a deregulation in its use and everybody can use it. Moreover, since Peron, the use of the flag for posters and advertising has increased by democratic and military governments. For instance it has been used by the State as a graphic resource to deliver their message in different propagandas in democratic times and even in the dictatorship of 1976-1983.
In the case of the banknotes, the State places a minor importance on the narration of symbolic fictions through banknotes because of the continuos economic crisis, with periods of inflation and hyperinflation where money and the paper money itself loose value. Within this context, it is possible to assume that the symbolic value given to the paper money has not been considerably high.
Similarly, other supporting elements are not considered as important as before. In general, army uniforms, stamps, architecture, sculptures and monuments have lost importance as objects to attach national sentiments to and as identity creators by the State.
In the case of the stamps, the State no longer issues them any more as of 1997. In the case of the uniforms, the last change was in 1955 and to present day it has been influenced by the North American style uniform. At the beginning, they ranged from a European style to differentiate from the Hispanic style and from the autochthonous style of the country. The Unitarios maintained the European influence while the Federals had an autochthonous influence with the use of the clothes similar to those used by gauchos. Last, from 1853 to the 1900 the French influence returned and from 1909 to 1955 the German influence arrived. In this particular case of the uniforms, they reflected the political alignments with different countries, armies and cultural models that prevailed in each historical period. However, as democracy was consolidated, the army uniform no longer became important as an identity designer.
The architecture shows a similar tendency of that of the uniforms through its colonial and French influence by election and English influence that came with economic infrastructure. Then, German and eclectic influences grew in importance and produced a public architecture that was characterized by its monumentality, typical of a military power. With the return of the democracy in 1983 the architecture created by the State was not relevant any more. The use of sculptures responded to the same parameters mentioned above because from 1983 to present day the use of monuments and sculptures has not been as common as in 1880’s or 1940’s, even though Menem and Kirchner settled several monuments. There are periods with no production of sculptures and monuments, especially since the establishment of a durable democracy and even before when Peron held office. The periods most important for sculptures and monuments were from 1880 till 1916 with the figures of liberty, the republic and progress. In addition, in 1862 the first monument to San Martin was made and his statues and bust were systematized during the period of 1930 to 1945 with a nationalist government. In this sense, it is possible to conclude that in general the political right-winged governments used sculptures and monuments to settle their presence and military discourse inside the communities. On the contrary, the democratic governments did not use these supporting elements as a political discourse and action.
The use of all mentioned supporting elements has decreased, with the exception of the flag, since the arrival of the democracy and it coincides with the major use of other supporting elements especially mass media. The intense use of media has been equal in democratic and non-democratic States and it has increased throughout the history of Argentina. In times of military governments there has been censorship to have total control of the messages emitted by these governments not allowing the appearance of other discourses.
The Four Identities of Argentina
As it was mentioned at the beginning, the twelve mentioned Ideological State Apparatuses emitted six national sentiments and used different supporting elements to desgin nationality. However, some ideololgical state apparatuses were not relevant as image producers. In general, the apparatus of cultural fictions of the State in democratic governments did not make a strong use of the apparatus of construction of national imaginations such as happened during the Radical governments of Irigoyen and Alvear (1916-1928), and the periods between 1958-1961, 1963-1966 and 1983-1989. A similar situation happened during the short-term administration of Peronism, from 1973 to 1976 that did not produce a clear and stable national image policy and likewise occurred during the Alliance, Duhalde and Kirchner from 2001 to 2008.
In other cases, other governments created some new images that supported previous identities such us the case of Menem that used the images of Rosas and Roca in banknotes and monuments in an attempt to associate his image with that of the historical Argentine caudillos to include in his government nationalistic and eclectic symbology. In the case of the shield, each area of the government used a different version of the shield.
However, there are some governments that generated a break with the past and created a new identity by using strong visual objects and images. In this sense, it is possible to find four identities generated by the images produced by the Argentine State which are the European identity, the Nationalist identity, the identity of the workers, and the Republican identity even though some of the characteristics of each identity appear in different moments or circumstances.
The European identity grows with the Unitarios, from independence to 1829 and it becomes strong again in the period of 1862 to 1916 even though some of its characteristics can be traced to the whole history of Argentina. This identity is characterized by a negation of the local culture and Buenos Aires is considered the centre of the country. In this period, the most important public infrastructure has been created. The French and English aesthetic influence is extended to architecture, monuments, banknotes and others arts. The European soldier’s uniform style sought to establish a differentiation from the Hispanic root as well as from the autochthonous of the country. It was a seducer State (since 1880) with images of seducing woman in the banknotes and naked European women in sculptures and then an Institutional State (1908). Many sculptures have been created by French sculptures.
The flag is the light blue and white one pertaining to the Unitarios and the shield has classical ornaments (figure 1).
The Republican identity started in 1916- 1930 and got stronger again in 1983 till present times. It has only one version of Argentina and it has no strong visual testimony as it can be found in other identities. The apparatus of cultural fiction rests more on words than on images. Since 1985, the use of the flag with a sun has been permitted with no restriction by civilians. In the banknotes, there are images of different elected democratic presidents. Since 1983, the face of the sun of the shield has been a woman’s face, accordingly to the dominant ideology of democracy, considered as a woman and in 2001 there was a change in the colour of the skin of the arms in order to introduce diversity in the symbolic composition of the Argentine society (figure 2).
The Nationalist identity starts with Rosas as an opposition to the Unitarios and European model. It appears again during the military governments of 1930 till 1983. Rosas gave value to the catholic Spanish and inland culture. There is a massive use of the image of San Martin in banknotes (a young and brave soldier), in stamps, sculptures and monuments. The German influence is important in the uniforms and in the architecture that is characterized by its monumentality. The use of the flag and shield is regulated and restricted. The official flag has a sun while the civilian one hasn’t. Then, during the military government from 1955- 1976 and from 1976 – 1983 the sun’s face changed to a worried look and frown and the republican symbols of arms and bonnets became smaller, while the pike was bigger. In addition, the laurels crown got systematically closed (figure 3).
The workers identity started in the Peron government in 1945 and lasted till 1955, even though some of the icons or images created by them are still circulating as part of its political party. This identity replaced the traditional republican symbology and even competed with the nationalist symbology. The Argentine symbols are borrowed to represent the Peronist party, mainly the national flag and a modified version of the national shield (the Peronist shield). The Peronist party used the worker’s figure in its different versions of shirt-less men, workers, Evita and Peron in stamps, posters, sculptures, school text books. The messages were designed with lively and strong colors and represented happy people. In banknotes, workers and the images of a justice without blinded eyes appear and there is a breakdown of the conventional way of designing the banknote. In 1949 the new constitution and the justice without blinded eyes were promoted by the note (figure 4).
As a balance
Generally speaking, the Argentine State, through the creation and spreading of images projected four models of exclusive identities that responded to the dominant ideology of the moment. They are exclusive because some attributes belonging to a historical and present Argentina are not represented.
For instance, there is a symbolic absence in the national representation of the State of inland people, the interior and of the provinces and of some very popular democratic presidents.
The representation of Argentine people and citizens is reduced to the union and fraternity of white men. It does not include those of children, women, old, obese or thin people and people from the in-lands. This bond of union, as it is represented within the shield and Argentine context, reflects who are maintained throughout history as the core of the country and who are left aside. Similarly, in banknotes the only social group to be seen in the Argentine notes is the European one and in general there is no testimony of other groups that represent the Argentine culture. The only gender present in the notes is male, especially white males. Women are never represented as complete human beings; they have no name or occupation and are mostly only idealisations for the sake of men’s imaginations. This could be seen as contrasting with the existence of some important real and mythical women in Argentina, such as Eva Peron.
In the case of the Argentine interior and provincial representation, the shield represented Buenos Aires and, the version of the shield that represented a centralized and Unitarian power is mostly used. In the case of banknotes, some tourist places appear but not as places to live.
Last, the civilian presidents portrayed on the notes are presidents who governed the country before the beginning of the century such as Mitre, Sarmiento and Roca. They were first used to create and maintain a Republican identity even though by continuing the use of these images today they deny other important historical democratic presidents of this century, such as Yrigoyen, Alvear, and Peron, among others.
As a last note, it could be said that this research focused on the use of flag, shield and banknote as suppporting elements, attachments of national sentiments and myths emitted by the State throughout Argentine history. In addition to that, other supporting elements were analysed in a simple way to see how each ideological state apparatus expressed itself through them. However, it is seen that since 1983 till now, with an exception of the flag, the use of mass media has increased. In this sense, an interesting line of work for future research is open to analyse the role of the mass media as a supporting element for the messages emitted by the Argentine State to design nationality.