Posted on 25 March, 2016Comments (0)

Hampshire Federation of WI

Hampshire Federation of WI

Meeting held on Thursday 3rd March 2016

“My Early Life in Argentina” was the topic for our afternoon talk. Mrs Aphra Peerd brought to share with us many interesting slides of her childhood home and the Argentina of her parents and grandparents.

Britain’s involvement with the Argentine ourished from the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when there was a blockade with trade to and from France. By the 1880s to around 1910 trade boomed allowing the immigrants from Britain and Northern Europe to make their fortunes and live the opulent lifestyle now associated with Russian Oligarchs. In Buenos Aires vast mansions were built and in the countryside the enormous estates, each with their own railway station, sporting houses modelled on those in the American South (but with a tower on the roof where a lookout could warn of approaching natives. The ghting and killing of the original people of the land, as in the U.S.A, went on for many years unopposed).

The British were responsible for much of the country’s infrastructure, the railways, electricity supplies and the installation of wind fuelled water pumps, vital in the countryside. In those early years Argentina was second only to the U.S. for the export of grain and beef to Europe. During the Second World War as well as providing vital supplies of food, including corned beef, many Anglo Argentinians (approx 4000) came to Britain to ght alongside the Allied Troops.

When, after the war, Mrs Peerd’s father and his fellow compatriots returned to Argentina they found a very different country to that they had left. The Peronistas were in power and the country in thrall to the charismatic Eva Peron and her husband. Although introducing votes for women and trade unions, the Peron dictatorship with their mixture of socialism and totalitarianism bought the country to widespread poverty, as well operating a much feared ‘police state’. The education that Mrs Peerd and her siblings and friends received was awash with propaganda and a distortion of their country’s history. Mrs Peerd’s family tried to continue on their ‘camp’ (as the estates were called), despite frequent ‘power cuts’ and failed attempts at growing vegetables and raising poultry, as the country slipped deeper into poverty. The children, however, accepted all of this, and enjoyed life, cycling to the local ‘country club’ to use the swimming pool and ‘helping’ the Gauchos on the camp with the cattle. When at last the regime was deposed, Mrs Peerd was both terrifed and amazed when her father burned all her school text books, saying there was no longer any need to be afraid of voicing opposition to the Perons.

With more revolution and counter revolution the country’s fortunes continued to decline and after working in Buenos Aries for a few years, Mrs Peerd in her early twenties had saved enough for a passage to England. She has been here now for nearly 50 years but keeps in touch and visits Argentina, where despite the Falklands War, she says the British are still held in high regard. A taxi driver once informing her that what Argentina needed was a ‘Margaret Thatcher’ to sort out it’s problems! It was fascinating to hear an insider account of a country that has played such an important part in our history. With the impact of the Falklands War fresh in our minds, it was interesting to hear of how much the British had contributed in both education and manpower during the foundation of this intriguing and picturesque country on the far side of the Atlantic.

On Thursday the 7th of April we are hosting an Open Meeting (even men are invited!!) to hear Jake Simpkin talk on ‘Southampton Passenger Ships & The Docks’. Please join us at the Royal British Legion Hall, Herriard at 7.30pm. The evening will nish with ‘high tea’ and a chance to catch up with all the local happenings in the neighbourhood!

Jean Spottiswoode Clark

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