Viajar a las Malvinas es subirse a una montaña rusa de emociones contradictorias

Viajar a las Malvinas es subirse a una montaña rusa de emociones contradictorias

PUERTO ARGENTINO.- It is not, by far, the most complicated special coverage that I faced in all these years in the trade. Nor is it the most difficult. But yes the most difficult from a flank that I never imagined: the emotional one. Being here is like traveling a roller coaster of complex and contradictory emotions.

The preparations are the usual ones for any coverage of this type. Laptop, two cell phones, flash drives, extra batteries, plus all the knickknacks needed to broadcast online, as well as pens, books and notes in the backpack, and a dozen interviews already arranged from a distance.

An image of the capital of the Falkland Islands, on the 40th anniversary of the start of the South Atlantic conflict

That’s the obvious, as are cash, debit and credit cards, and suggestions from colleagues and friends who have already traveled to that destination. And if no one passed by, friends of friends can serve to get to the place with some point of reference.

From there, however, coverage on the islands was a jolt. The light, the temperature, the wind and the landscape are identical to those of Río Gallegos. The Patagonian steppe, barely 700 kilometers away, is here. And that is already impressive.

One of the main streets of Puerto Argentino (Stanley for the British), on April 2, 2022
One of the main streets of Puerto Argentino (Stanley for the British), on April 2, 2022Hugo Alconada Mon – THE NATION

But then comes the city, and shakes even more. To begin with, because the sign on the route welcomes stanleyin English, next to his coat of arms surmounted by a sheep. No “Puerto Argentino”, no Spanish.

The welcome sign to Stanley, the British name for the capital of the Falklands (Puerto Argentino)
The welcome sign to Stanley, the British name for the capital of the Falklands (Puerto Argentino)

Everything from there is different. The constructions, the meals, the schedules, the customs, everything is island, when not British. Since the main church is Anglican, not Catholic, until the steering wheel in cars is “on the other side”.

With the passing of hours and days, it is also evident that here they promote “falklanization”. In Spanish: the promotion of the islands as their own entity. They are not Argentine, nor British. They put themselves under the protection of London because it suits them, for example, in the face of what they define as the Argentine “threat”.

The Darwin Cemetery, where the fallen Argentines are buried
The Darwin Cemetery, where the fallen Argentines are buried

If it weren’t for that, they leave the feeling that they would declare their independence. If they even define themselves as a “country” or a “nation”! They have their own currency, the Falkland Islands pound -which trades 1 to 1 with the pound sterling-, its flag and even its own national soccer team.

A Falkland Islands 10 pound note (reverse)
A Falkland Islands 10 pound note (reverse)

All this can be picturesque, if it were not because it contradicts the ideas and premises that we Argentines have about the islands that here they consider an affront to call “Malvinas”. For them, the discussion ended on June 14, 1982, “Liberation Day”.

The professional challenge thus reaches another level. The notions of objectivity, equanimity, journalistic balance or whatever you want to say stop being a theoretical allusion to become a constant dilemma. A challenge that is exacerbated when it is time to visit the Darwin Cemetery or battle zones, such as Mount Longdon.

Remains of clothing and materials used by Argentine soldiers in Malvinas
Remains of clothing and materials used by Argentine soldiers in Malvinas

Yes, there is a family history involved –and that’s all I’ll say about it-, but even without that intimate plot, stepping on sacred ground is moving, it throws off the axis. Hands and voice tremble when it’s time to write, go on air or send a video. It’s not cliche.

The islanders respect that. They assertively defend their position. They invoke data and throw Chicanas when arguing, but they have a limit. They do not mess with the “boys”, as they call the combatants who died on these islands. They don’t mess with other people’s pain. At a minimum, maintain a respectful silence. And more than one hand reached for a hot coffee. It’s a lot when emotions bristle the skin.

A Malvinas pub during the night of April 2, 2022
A Malvinas pub during the night of April 2, 2022Hugo Alconada Mon – THE NATION

Touch the stones where an affection fought. Tour the barracks where another sought refuge when the bombs fell. See with your own eyes what for years were oral stories. Comparing a map drawn by hand with what remains where they killed and died by the dozens, and verifying that everything is still in the same place, is a joy and an anguish. It is to understand more and better the other. Accept your pain. His pride. The honor of him.

Falkland Islands football team jersey
Falkland Islands football team jersey

Then comes the moment of the journalist, again, with an increasing challenge. How do you put what you experienced into words? Until where? Does it contribute to the reader? Where to draw the line between what the reader deserves to know and the superfluous, the personal or the intimate? When is it appropriate to write in the first person, like this text, and when is it narcissism or vainglory?

The Argentine footprints in Malvinas
The Argentine footprints in Malvinas

When THE NATION He proposed this coverage to me, I took it as a challenge. Now I see it as an opportunity. There is a part of my own story that makes more sense. I only hope I have honoured, as a journalist, the trust of the editors. And have contributed something to the readers. Something valuable, enriching.