Recently, my colleague Al Pinkerton and University of Keele political geographer Matt Benwell (a former PhD student at Royal Holloway) wrote about the importance of the creative when it comes to understanding geopolitics and diplomacy in the context of the Falklands/Malvinas. Their article was published in the journal Political Geography.
Hot off the press comes the news that President Christina Kirchner announced the introduction of a new 50 peso bank note which will become legal tender in Argentina in September 2014. Strikingly, the new bank note features not only a map of the disputed Islands but a depiction of a gaucho, Antonio Rivero, who was involved in a revolt against the British in August 1833. Nicknamed ‘El Gaucho’ he was involved in the murder of five settlers at Port Louis settlement on the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas. In the absence of an established legal system at the time, Rivero was never brought to trial and thus his folk hero status grew over time as he was seen as a figure who evaded authority figures of the British Empire.
According to press reports, the Argentine president made it clear that the new bank note was intended to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the South Atlantic conflict and the loss of nearly 650 Argentine military personnel. It was intended as a popular geopolitical reminder of the outstanding sovereignty conflict involving the UK and other territories in the southern Atlantic including South Georgia.
The role of bank notes in representing geopolitical disputes alongside national and regional identity projects is something that human geographers have taken some interest in as part of a concern for popular geopolitics and geographies and their relationship to the making of the citizen and institutions. A former colleague Tim Unwin wrote in 2001 about central Eastern European identities and the role of bank notes. Other political geographers have written about Euro coins as well. Recently, of course, the Bank of England was embroiled in a controversy about the lack of women being represented on national bank notes and I would expect to see further scholarship on how money is caught up in circuits of gender, class, nationality, race and age. For example, see this editorial.
But the representation of disputed territories, via the bank note, is just one of multiple arenas used in Argentina to remind domestic citizens and others about the Islas Malvinas. It is common to see maps, murals, stamps and sign posts all over Argentina reminding viewers that the ‘Las Malvinas son Argentinos’. The late Jack Child’s work on Latin American stamps was particularly rich in allowing us to better understand how the humble postage stamp was enrolled in national territorial projects and philately remains an important output from the Falkland Islands as well.