EXPLAINING ARGENTINA TO BRITAIN
SYNOPSIS OF LECTURE
Counsellor of H. B . M. Embassy at Buenos Aires
Appointed British Minister to Uruguay (at Montevideo) October 1933.
FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS,
UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES
This lecture in its
original form was given between Oct. 11 and Nov. 4, 1930, at the following
places: Malvern, Bedford, Eton, Cheltenham, City of London College (for
Anglo-Spanish and Spanish-American Institute), Oxford University,
Birmingham, Oundle, Cambridge University, Harrow, and Liverpool School of
In its present form it was
given between Oct. 8 and Nov. 4, 1932, at Uppingham, Fettes, Edinburgh
University, Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, Glasgow University, Downside,
Wellington, Manchester University, Marlborough, and in London at the
Grocers’ Company’s Hall (by arrangement with the London School of
WHY A LECTURE ON ARGENTINA?
AND WHY AT THE PRESENT TIME?
TWO IN THE PAST:
(1) Historical: Before any other European
country the British became political and economic pioneers in Argentina
and collaborators in her development—Great Britain, thanks to Canning, was
the first European country to recognise (1842) the independence declared
in 1816 of "The United Provinces of the River Plate" (now Argentine
Republic)—At that time British exports to Argentina already amounted to
£5,600,000, due to the "Industrial Revolution"—In 1825 a Treaty of Amity
and Commerce was concluded; its Centenary was celebrated when H. R. H. the
Prince of Wales visited Argentina in 1925.
(2) Economic: As a result of (1) there is to-day
more British capital in Argentina than in any other country, viz, at least
£515,000,000 nominal—Argentina has been one of Great Britain’s best
customers not only for manufactures but also for invisible exports,
e.g. shipping, insurance, investments—Conversely Great Britain is by
far Argentina’s best customer for her grain and meat, above all the
latter—Thus Anglo-Argentine trade and prosperity have been complementary
and interdependent—Argentina does 52% of whole foreign trade of South
TWO IN THE PRESENT AND FUTURE:
(3) Commercial: Since 1914 our position in
Argentina seriously threatened by competitors—In other words, to-day we
sell to the Argentines less than half the amount they sell to us—Thus much
money resulting from sale of Argentine produce in Great Britain is
utilised to buy imports from other countries in spite of advice of
enlightened Argentines to "Buy from those who buy from us"—To remedy this
the British Empire Industries Exhibition, the biggest all-British
Exhibition ever organised outside British territory, held in 1931, and
H.R.H. the Prince of Wales visited Argentina a second time to open
it—Other British efforts to this end and desirability of continuing
them—Need of cooperation of Argentine Government especially for
alleviating too heavy burden of labour charges and working conditions for
British public utility companies in present exceptional bad times.
(4) Cultural: For the above purposes something
more is required than purely commercial activity—Need of pioneering in a
new sphere in accordance with the spirit of the times, viz, cultural
understanding and co-operation with Argentina as emphasised by H.R.H. the
Prince of Wales when opening the Exhibition—Main object of the Lecture is
to facilitate such understanding.
ONE AT THE IMMEDIATE MOMENT
(5) Immediate topical interest: negotiations for
a Trade Agreement imminent following Ottawa Conference: Latter will
perforce somewhat affect Argentina’s exports to Great Britain-Federation
of British Industries has just urged that in commercial negotiations with
foreign countries following the Ottawa Conference precedence should be
given "to countries whose basic development for some time to come is
likely, to be complementary to our own, both as offering a more promising
field for a substantial advance towards freer interchange and the fewest
technical difficulties in negotiation"—To begin such negotiations the
Argentine Ambassador has just returned to London after conferring with his
Government—Latter has received from two important Argentine institutions
petitions urging an early agreement giving the greatest possible tariff
preference to imports of British origin which should be "treated with the
same liberality with which Great Britain treats our imports."
1580: DAYS OF ELIZABETH:
COLONISATION BY SPANIARDS. Putting Argentina on the world map—How Spanish
"bootleggers" sought to put it there in the latter half of the XVIth
century—They sought a better route to "Eldorado," i.e. in their quest for
silver in the mountains of Peru—already a Spanish Vice-Royalty (1551). To
reach Peru they sailed a thousand miles up the Parana River—hence its
estuary (on which Buenos Aires was founded in 1580) was named "Rio de la
Plata" (River of Silver) and the whole country was eventually named
"Argentina" - The older and official route was by Panama; new route was
boycotted for nearly two centuries by Spanish Government and big Spanish
merchants—Broad comparison with Cape Colony, Suez and the "Eldorado" of
India, before and since opening of two canals.
1806: THE NAPOLEONIC WORLD
WAR—British "side-show" for capture of Buenos Aires, now a separate
Vice-Royalty under the Spanish Crown—Its failure and contribution towards
Argentine Independence by increasing spirit of self-reliance—"Redcoats"
settle in the country—Rodriguez Larreta therefore said that they came as
"the first red streaks of the dawn of Argentine Independence."
1816: DECLARATION OF
INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN by the new Federal State "United Provinces of the
River Plate"—Its army crosses the Andes under General San Martin to help
fellow colonists in Chile and in Peru—Help of Admiral Cochrane—Expedition
commemorated by fine monument on the "Hill of Glory" at Mendoza—British
members of the Expedition.
1824: RECOGNITION BY GREAT
BRITAIN at the instance of Canning "to bring in the New World to redress
the balance of the old"—The first British Diplomatic Agent, Sir Woodbine
Parish, signs Treaty of "Amity and Commerce" with President Rivadavia, the
great Argentine patriot of the time—Parish’s personal impressions of life
in Buenos Aires, its lavishness and cost, exactly those of the lecturer
1916: THE WORLD WAR:
NEUTRALITY maintained by the first Radical (Labour) President of
Argentina, Dr. Irigoyen, elected at first election under Universal
Suffrage Law—But grants loan £40,000,000 to Allies for purchase of
Argentine grain crop.
1930: "THE REVOLUTION": mere change
of government, explained by cartoon regarding President’s procrastination
in signing documents—The President of the Revolutionary ("Provisional")
Government, General Uriburu, handed over to a constitutionally elected
Government early in 1932 with General Justo as President.
BRIEF GEOGRAPHICAL, POLITICAL AND
Area over a million sq. miles—Would hold comfortably 13 important European
countries (film and animated map showing this when possible), and
stretches some 2,000 miles north and south between latitudes corresponding
roughly to those of Shetlands and the Soudan—The Central Plains, or
Pampas, are in a temperate zone, and from them come most of the cattle and
grain which form the country’s great wealth—Argentina is in the main a
white man’s country and Buenos Aires, in this zone, has the climate of a
southern European capital.
Population, Race and Language:
Population: 12 millions, of which 2 1/4
are in Buenos Aires, the only big city in Argentina—Race: roughly 50
per cent. Spanish, 30 per cent. Italian, 20 per cent.
miscellaneous—Practically no African, and only a very small percentage of
aboriginal Indian blood—Language: Spanish, differing from Spanish of Spain
somewhat as English spoken in America differs from the English spoken in
Federal Republic with a constitution (1853) broadly on
the lines of the American Constitution
— President his own Prime Minister —Fourteen
Provinces and ten "Territories"—State Religion is Roman Catholicism—No
Principal Produce and
Northern Sub-Tropical Zone.
Sugar cane in the Tucuinan
region (e.g.. Leach’s Argentine Estates). Hardwoods, especially
quebracho and its tannin extract (e.g. Forestal Co.) in the
Chaco forest region — Tobacco, cotton, oranges and
mostly in Corrientes and Misiones regions— Iguazu
Central Temperate Zone.
Grain (wheat, linseed, oats and especially maize of
which Argentina is the world’s biggest exporter) in the vast central
plains (pampas) with the world’s longest straight piece of railway
line, viz., 168 miles. Cattle with its livestock industries ("Frigorifico"
factories for preparing chilled and frozen meat and beef extract, e.g.
Bovril and Liebig, and dairies). Vineyards and wine industry of
Southern and Colder Zone.
Sheep and wool in Patagonia (a British Land Company
owning 600,-000, acres and 100,000 sheep). Oil, large production in
Comodoro Rivadavia Oil Fields (big refineries near Buenos Aires). Fruit
growing by irrigation in Rio Negro valley.
Mostly "light," sprang up of necessity during world
war—Have rapidly developed with protective tariffs and low cost of
production (low taxation).
Until 1931 there was no income tax and latifundia
(big estates) unpenalised—Half of State revenue was derived from
Customs duties and only one-tenth from direct taxation—To meet universal
crisis Argentina has taken radical and courageous steps towards balancing
her Budget by drastic reduction of expenditure and the imposition of new
taxes, notably a reasonable, graduated income tax, increased tax on
property, a universal tax on business transactions and higher customs
Argentina almost only South American country which has not defaulted on
her Government loans (largely from United States), though payment of
interest on these is now very onerous owing to present unfavourable
exchange—But this makes almost impossible the payment of interest on
commercial loans, i.e. dividends on capital (largely from Great
Britain) invested in the country in railways and public utility
undertakings—These in most other countries have been created and financed
by means of government loans—Argentina off gold standard since 1929, but
44 per cent. gold backing all currency—Lack of a bank of issue on modern
lines to give most advantageous effect to this gold reserve— The Buenos
Aires Bourse is economic nerve centre, being not only the Stock Exchange
but also the grain option and freight market—The Argentina investor used
to expect to get 15% for his money from Mortgages or Land Appreciation, so
did not invest in Argentina Railways or other British enterprises, but is
now beginning to invest in local industries.
COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSPORT
Their preponderate influence on
Argentine economic development, external and internal.
Europe to Buenos Aires
by sea about 19 days by British liners but only about
14 by fastest French, German, or Italian liners—50% of shipping calling at
Argentine ports is British — Air line (mail only) of Compagnie Aeropostale
in 9 days (by motor despatch boat between nearest points of Africa and S.
America). Times from New York about the same: American air lines (all the
way) by both Atlantic and Pacific coasts of S. America (latter crossing
easily built on the pampas, were all the more
useful and profitable because of lack of roads until some 10 years ago.
The British railways represent a capital of £227,000,000 and have some
16,000 miles of line, being about 70 per cent. of all the railways.
up the River Parana and its confluents northwards from
Buenos Aires for about 1,000 miles along eastern side of Argentina up to
Paraguay and Brazil—Practical monopoly of the Argentine Navigation Company
which was originally started by a Dalmatian boatman, Ni-colas Mihanovich,
and became a British Company in 1912: its recent re-sale to Argentine
interests is significant.
Proper roads practically inexistent until 1920 owing to
the lack of stone on the pampas for macadam—Since then many have
been built partly by patent earth-baking processes—Growing competition
with the railways—Bill before Congress for the control of road traffic on
the lines of the measures recently taken in the U.K.
SNAPSHOTS OF MODERN ARGENTINA
(Mostly taken by the lecturer himself.)
Buenos Aires, the Federal Capital:
the largest in Southern Hemisphere—City and
parks—The Cattle Show—The Races—Sports Clubs—"El Tigre," the Argentine
Great development of Sports in
Argentina: Attained World Championship class
in polo, association football, boxing, swimming, athletics, and golf
(e.g. the polo team winners of North American championship, 1931;
Firpo, the almost victorious challenger of Dempsey, and two, winners
Olympic boxing events, 1932; Tiraboschi, who in 1924 swum the Channel in
then record time; Zabala, winner of Olympic Marathon, 1932; Jurado,
runner-up, British open golf championship, 1931)—rugby, tennis, and
netball very popular.
The Pampas and Estancias:
Houses—Water, the great problem—Absence of proper
roads (due to lack of stone in the plains) now being remedied— The Gaucho,
the Argentine cowboy—His customs: drinks maté (Paraguayan green
tea) and plays the accordeon, hence the tango—A stud farm—A Derby
winner—Prize pedigree bull, worth £3,000 to £6,000.
PROGRESS OF ARTS AND LITERATURE
IN THE ARGENTINE. (Slides.)
The links between British and
Argentine literatures are: (1) The writings of the early British
travellers and pioneer settlers, now among the classics of early Argentine
history; (2) W. H. Hudson, the famous naturalist (e.g. "Far Away
and Long Ago"); (3) Mr. Cunninghame Graham (e.g. "The Conquest of
the River Plate").
Position up to
1915: Broadly speaking, Argentine intellectuals had up
till then satisfied themselves with keen criticism and discriminating
appreciation of the best that the arts and literature of Europe could
produce, e.g. Caruso first sprang to fame in Buenos Aires— The art
of oratory was perhaps the one positive national achievement and in a
sense took the place of literature—There existed already intellectual
leaders—Rodriguez Larreta, diplomatist, orator and writer, comparable to
Lord Crewe—Leopoldo Lugones, forceful publicist, poet and writer on
essentially national themes, an Argentine Kipling, friend of Great Britain
during the war (" Mi Beligerencia ")—Dr. Montes de Oca, G . B. E .—Dr.
Zeballos, a great historian and lawyer—Dr. Drago, an international lawyer
of world fame-And a number of enthusiastic volunteers in the rank and
file. The intellectual establishments consisted of the ancient university
at Córdoba founded in 1613; modern universities of Buenos Aires (10,000
students, 8 Faculties), La Plata and Tucuman.
The position in
1932: The three first-mentioned leaders, and many new
leaders-the late Ricardo Guiraldes, the author of Don Segundo Sombre.—
Hugo Wast, a writer of best-sellers, the W. J. Locke of Argentina—Dr.
Ibarguren’s historical best-seller "Manuel Rosas "—Painters: Quinquela
Martin (his successful exhibition in London), Bernardo de Quiros and
Fader— New Sculpture in quebracho hardwood—First-class Grand Opera—
Actors: Parravicini and the late Roberto Caseaux—Actress, Camila Quiroga;
her successful season in Paris—Berta Singerman, the Argentine Ruth
Draper—Most of the plays, ancient and modern, played by Argentine actors
in Spanish, i.e. Ben Johnson’s Volpone, Journey’s End and
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney.
A new University of the Littoral has
been established with its Faculties distributed among the towns on the
banks of the river Parana—To day Argentina spends yearly on her
universifjes £1,657,000 ($19,895,758)—Lastly, ever-increasing numbers of
noteworthy writers, poets, painters, musicians, singers, actors, and
journalists, the shock-troops of literature.
CULTURAL CO-OPERATION WITH
The foregoing brief review shows
sufficiently that there is ample occasion for such co-operation: indeed it
is a necessity for future relations in the present time of scientific and
intellectual direction of industry and human enterprise.
Steps Already Taken:
Sir M. Robertson created the Argentine Association of
British Culture, 1928—Lord D’Abernon’s Mission, 1929; his Report urged
necessity of cultural relations —Further emphasised by H.R.H. the Prince
of Wales at opening of British Empire Industries Exhibition with its
educational exhibits—Visit of British Cultural Mission—Creation of Prince
of Wales Scholarship at Oxford for two Argentine students (on lines of
Rhodes Scholarships)— Establishment of Ibero-American Institute of which
H.R.H. the Prince of Wales is President, and Mr. Philip Guedalla Honorary
Director—Under its auspices eminent British scientists have lectured in
Argentina, 1931 and 1932.
Visit of Oxford and Cambridge undergraduates to Buenos
Aires in 1931 as guests of Club Universitario, representing some of the
best and most progressive elements in the Argentine Universities, both in
intellect and sport—Return visit of latter to Great Britain, 1932.
The new movement towards cultural,
i.e. intellectual, artistic and athletic development in Argentina
outlined above, has perhaps arisen largely from self-reliance
unconsciously learnt during another World War (just as a century ago
Argentine political independence was achieved largely from the same cause
during the Napoleonic World War) .—It amounts to-day to another and new
Argentine independence, or "self-determination" in culture—It is built up
on the foundation of the previously existing great economic development
itself based on vast natural resources—Hope that not one but many youthful
Cannings of intellect and sport will be found to recognise this fact and
to visit Argentina so that on their return they can bring back (if
Canning’s famous phrase in the House of Commons in 1824 may be adapted)
something of this New World of commerce and culture, not perhaps to
redress, but at least to adjust the balance of the Old.