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October 25, 2014
Thursday, April 3, 2014

At ex-Inglaterra street, fatigue wins out

The City government has yet to change the street sign to make the new name official.
By Jayson McNamara
Herald Staff

Residents say they are tired of all the attention, makeshift ‘2 de Abril’ sign marks spot

There wasn’t much more than a balloon string left yesterday on the one-block street in the City’s Agronomía neighbourhood, which has been at the heart of a symbolic change of name that became official last week, when the City legislature voted to change its name “Inglaterra” (England) street to “2 de Abril de 1982” (April 2, 1982).

The renamed street at the intersection of San Martin avenue was the sight of a small gathering of people on Tuesday night, and had acted as an occasional meeting point for activists and local residents who, over the 30 years, had urged City Hall to recognize their demands for a name that honours the date Argentine Armed Forces occupied the Malvinas Islands.

Aside from the balloon itself, also hard to come by on the street formerly known as “Inglaterra” (England), were its residents, who seemed to be either locked up or out of town on yesterday’s public holiday.

One elderly resident told the Herald she and other neighbours who’ve lived on the street for decades didn’t agree with the measure.

“It’s just part of our street. This is name it’s always had,” she said. “Ask the other neighbours, nobody agrees.”

On the instructions of the old lady — who will eventually have a new street sign stuck against her house, above her front door — the Herald tried to speak with those residents who were home yesterday, but none were willing to comment.

Martín Soria from around the corner on adjoining Julio Cortázar street told the Herald that he understood the concerns of the tiny street’s residents.

“It’s been a huge kerfuffle. Lots of people have come, lots of people who aren’t from around here,” he noted, while walking his dog. “But I do agree that the new name is the right name.”

All quiet in Plaza de Mayo

People wandering through Plaza de Mayo — arguably the country’s most famous plaza — yesterday had mixed feelings on the decision to kick “Inglaterra” out of town.

“They do things like this as a means of defending what’s theirs,” said 38-year-old Santiago who was found drinking mates in front of the Pink House with his girlfriend, Laura. “Why change the name? Well, how can we put up the name of someone who tried to take away something that was ours. The islands belong to Argentina.”

Alfredo, a 61-year-old retiree, said he wasn’t surprised by the measure.

“I remember the pharmacy on Florida and Sarmiento streets was called the Franco-Inglesa pharamacy. They changed it to just Franco because ‘English’ was a terrible word at the time,” he recalled. “It doesn’t surprise me. Emotions tend to prevail here — Argentines are often more emotional than rational.”

Fifty-year-old Tulio Fraboschi was enscripted at the Villa Martelli barracks in Greater Buenos Aires during the war and has spent the last six years camped out in the square demanding government recognition for non-combatant Armed Forces personnel. He expressed agreement with activists’ decision to change the name, but insisted no British person should take it personally.

“When you know somebody you can’t hate them. The problem is a lack of knowledge and contact with the British,” he told the Herald. “The British are as much victims as Argentines of the stupid and misguided decisions of their governments.”

Plaza de Mayo — frequently the sight of mass rallies — was a shadow of its emotional self yesterday, with people instead gathered together in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral for a quiet mass led by Archbishop Mario Poli.

Just outside the cathedral’s entrance 24-year-old graphic designer, Florencia — who, with her friends, was also drinking an afternoon mate — told the Herald she was indifferent about the decision to change the street’s name, suggesting moreover that few in her generation had bad feelings toward the British.

“Older people do, perhaps,” she suggested. “But resentment is never healthy for anybody.”

City Hall criticized

Late last year, the street in Agronomía — which, with its row of small townhouses, has an ironically English air about it — attracted dozens of activists and residents wishing to, for one last time, express their frustrations with City Hall for not having changed the street sign.

A fairly typical middle-class neighbourhood, Agronomía, which is just behind Chacarita cementary in the heart of the capital, is missing just tumbleweed when it comes to tranquility. But, this was hardly the case early November last year when the firm contracted to replace the City’s street signs had arrived at 2 de Abril street with a sign that read “Inglaterra.”

A group of people subsequently axed the street sign and began calling for the new name to be approved by the City Legislature. A bill sponsored by the Victory Front (FpV) was later passed and definitive approval for the street name came last week with a unanimous vote.

But, the change seems far from done and dusted.

Neither of the two signs have been properly replaced on 2 de Abril de 1982 street; one has been taken off the wall and the other spray-painted with the new legally recognized name, presumably by activists.

What’s more, when the Herald was looking into how to get to the street, only Google Maps and Blackberry Maps recognized it as “2 de Abril de 1982,” while City Hall’s own online map gave indications to the street with the same name in the Villa Lugano neighbourhood, and only recognized the street in Agronomía by its old name, “Inglaterra.”

For some on the street, this might not be such a bad thing. But for others, after more than 30 years of painted-over names and axed street signs, and with the law now on their side, there’s certainly no doubting the eventual outcome of this “2 de Abril” battle.

@jaysonmcnamara

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