Monday, June 17th was an Argentine national holiday: the anniversary of the death of Martín Miguel de Güemes, one of the country's Founding Fathers. I was making my way from Plaza de Mayo to Avenida de Mayo and stepped into the Cabildo, the historical site of the beginnings of Argentina's fight for independence. It' now a museum; visiting it was on my to-do list, since my time here is coming to a close. (I leave on June 28th.)
Buenos Aires, many people will tell you, is a bit like a Latin American New York City: it's the nation's cultural center and also a city of immigrants. Add Washington, D.C. to the mix, since Buenos Aires is also the federal capital. I know New York City pretty well at this point; I've never, on the other hand, been to Washington. I was pleasantly surprised by my visit to the Cabildo to see a connection to another U.S. city: Boston. One of the displays in the Cabildo was of influences on the War of Independence: the image representing our own Revolutionary War was Paul Revere's famous depiction of the Boston Massacre.
While I was born in Boston and lived there for a few months as a baby, I was raised and live in Quincy, and, if you know Quincy, you know that it calls itself the City of Presidents. This is because John Adams and John Quincy Adams were both from Quincy. The Adams mansion is preserved by the city, as is the house in which John Quincy Adams was born. Both presidents are buried in United First Parish Church, commonly called the Church of the Presidents. I remember visiting these sites when I was a little kid.
Quincy, together with Boston, forms a slice of the United States which is monumentally proud of having played a fundamental role in the Revolution. I think that this kind of thing is absolutely essential to the way that our culture constructs national pride. Without the Revolution, there would be no United States of America. I saw the same mindset at work in the Cabildo in Plaza de Mayo regarding Argentina's own independence.
Having spent the past few months singing in the choir at the Metropolitan Cathedral (including a national Te Deum at which the president was present), getting to know the city's landmarks, and, of course, speaking Spanish all the time, I've, in a certain sense, gotten to be a little bit Argentine. Visiting historical sites (in particular, stopping by the tomb of Liberator General San Martín in the Cathedral), I've gotten the sense that my time here is a variation on my previous immersion in our own sense up in North America of the sacred character of our national experiment, as we might call it.
A good part of Argentine national pride is the conviction that Argentina is one of the many nations of America, New World peoples whose existence is a great experiment in liberty. What I experienced the other day was another little glimpse into the brotherhood of the U.S. and its neighbor far to the south.