Buenos Aires is the most European city in the world, say the locals.
“The Mexicans descended from the Aztecs,” they say.
“The Peruvians descended from the Incas.”
“But the Argentines descended from boats.”
The Indians found on the Pampas were either killed or died of natural causes. Then, there were some African slaves shipped over in the early days to work on the haciendas who mysteriously disappeared in the 19th century. There is little trace of them around anymore. Buenos Aires is almost 100% European.
Many cities in Europe, by contrast, have seen waves of immigrants from Africa and Asia. Walk down any street in London. You will find yourself among Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, sub-Saharan Africans and people from all over the rest of the world. Or, take the subway in Paris. Often, coming back from London, we get on the subway at the Gare du Nord and find that we are the only white person in the car.
Still, the Argentines are not the same Europeans you find in Amsterdam or Edinburgh. Many of them came from the south of Italy…or the south of Spain…or Sicily…or even Syria. They tend to be dark-haired, with olive skin. Of course, there were many immigrants from England and Germany too – so many Argentines have blond hair and blue eyes. And many speak English better than we do.
“Oh yes,” said an elegant Anglo-Argentine woman with whom we dined the other night, speaking in very precise, but rather antique English. “My family has been in the Argentine for more than four generations. We have always spoken English at home. But when I went to London a few years ago, I turned on the television and couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying.
“Still, we have always thought of ourselves as British. When Britain went to war in World War I and World War II, many people from here went over to fight for Britain. In World War II, for example, my husband volunteered for the British Air Force. We have always been loyal to Britain.
“But then, after the war was over, Malvinas Islands came along and a crew from the BBC came to interview me and find out what the Anglo-Argentines thought about the war. I told them that the Argentine had been good to me and to my family. It was not exactly what they wanted to hear. We are English, but we are Argentine too. And this is our country.”
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