In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, which it had claimed ever since independence from Spain in 1810. However, England and France had also settled the archipelago, though France eventually abandoned their claims to Spain. Argentina could very well have won, except for one thing: Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher was in charge, and she was having none of it. A short but bloody conflict ensued, with the Brits coming out on top. The Argentine junta of General Galtieri promptly collapsed and was replaced by free elections.
To whom do the Falklands rightly belong? A British sea captain named John Strong discovered the islands in 1690, and Louis Antoine de Bougainville started a French settlement in 1764. There were English, French, Spanish, and Argentinean gaucho settlers in the Falklands; but England decided to lay claim to the whole shooting match in 1833.
That has never sat well with Argentina, which calls the archipelago the Islas Malvinas. The airport in Tierra del Fuego’s Ushuaia is called Malvinas Argentinas International Airport. Streets throughout the Republic bear the name Malvinas. And now the new 50-peso note reiterates the Argentine claim. The country is full of monuments to the war dead, and woe betide any tourist who utters the name “Falklands.”
My friend Peter did some filming in the Falklands before the 1982 war, mostly of old sailing ship wrecks which had run aground there after Cape Horn storms. He told me that, although the Falklands are in some of the richest fishing waters on earth, the local English residents all prefer to eat mutton.
Who is right? England or Argentina? My preference goes to the Argeninians, though I doubt that the British would ever step down, especially as there is considerable oil exploration taking place.