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I once went to visit the “Museo de Guerra Malvinas Argentinas” in Rio Gallegos (a key location during the war). I was very interested to see the war from their point of view – particularly to understand why, despite so many quite considerable advantages, they ended up losing so badly.
I got to Rio Gallegos by bus from Punta Arenas in Chile. The contrast on the road when you cross the border is astonishing. The road in Chile is well laid out, maintained and patrolled. Rubbish removed. Even the lines are beautifully painted. All along the crumbling, potted Argentinian road there are the wrecks of the last 20 years of old car accidents, just sitting there rusting. The whole road looks like nobody here gives a damn.
The museum’s in the backstreets of Rio Gallegos; a little bit back from the centre. You have to pick your way quite carefully along the roadside, sometimes in the road, there as there is no consistent pavement; it’s up, down, well laid, badly laid, non-existent depending on each property frontage. Most countries would try to get a proper pavement laid down but this one just looks like nobody gives a damn.
You have to cross a few pedestrian crossings to get there – careful! In Chile the drivers will stop for you; here they don’t seem to give a damn.
I’d checked the opening hours and knew it would be open. And sure enough; there was a lit-up sign “Open”. Great! I got to the door and pulled on it. It was closed. A family sat on a nearby wall (I’m not sure if they were patiently waiting to get in or just liked sitting on the wall) tossed me a sympathetic shrug: “Hey, open….closed….who gives a damn?”
There was a guy sitting there in the kiosk reading. I tapped on the window to see if I might persuade him to open up (or at least provoke him to tell me “go the hell away, we’re closed” – even that information would be helpful). He never even looked up. Didn’t give a damn.
So, not knowing whether it would open soon or not, I waited a while. The family wandered off…It’s a quiet street, not many people or cars…..time drifted by.
I’d noticed a pack of scruffy feral dogs on the way down, just roaming the street. They didn’t look too friendly and I was quite glad our paths hadn’t crossed. Now, after a while, they appeared again on the street and started ambling slowly towards me. Most countries of Argentina’s level of development would have some control on that sort of thing in their town streets. But it seemed like here nobody could give a damn.
Eventually a combination of hopelessness at this place ever opening, combined with a wish to be gone before Paw Patrol arrived, caused me to give up and head out.
At first I thought I’d wasted my time but, upon reflection, I think the “Museo de Guerra Malvinas Argentinas” was actually a very educative experience. I came to Rio Gallegos to see why Argentina lost that war and, you know what? I think I saw it, very clearly……..wars are hard, extreme, things that test countries’ military and political organisations to their limits. They’re a very unforgiving environment for sloppiness, apathy, disorganisation and dysfunction.
They tend to be won by the sort of people who do give a damn.
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