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Fecha:Miercoles, 3 de Noviembre, 2004  00:14:27 (-0300)
Autor:Centro Humboldt <humboldt>

NCeHu 1730/04




Lic. Ana María Liberali

Centro de Estudios Alexander von Humboldt

Buenos Aires . Argentina




During the 19th century the whole Latin America was in the middle of an era of transformation as a consequence of changes that occurred both in Europe and North America.

Such transformation was related to the former viceroyalties (“virreinatos”), and movements towards independence took place, which ended up in the establishment of independent nations.

The Argentine Republic, far from being an exception, entered a long period of armed conflicts after the colonial relationship with Spain broke up in 1810.  These conflicts led to the consolidation of a national state and the sanction of the National Constitution in 1853.

At this time, both Argentina and other Latin-American countries, began to enter as  appendixes of the world market, especially in Great Britain, from where investments came and with which trade relations had become stronger.

As from the Work International Division, Argentina was allotted the production of raw materials, especially  leather, wool, meat and cereals.  But, at the same time, it was viewed as a peripheral area as market for the manufactured goods produced in Europe.

This era had the expansion of the territory as its goal, fighting against the “tehuelches” (South American indians) (through the so-called “Dessert Campaigns “) so that the dominating sectors could appropriate the productive lands in order to export farming products to the world market.

In consequence, the determination of borders of the new national states was a decisive issue of  the prevailing policies.  The main example is the Border Treaty with Chile in 1881, about the Andes range division from the north to the Beagle Channel.

On the other hand, the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), which had been taken by Great Britain in 1833, were not claimed, since the British capitals dominated the economy of the country.

The arrival of large groups of immigrants, as in other American shores on the Atlantic Ocean, contributed to a natural cultural “europeization” of the country.

The Catholic Church, which had stood by the Spanish metropolis during the colonial period, became consolidated, due to the philosophy underlying the legislation and the immigrants coming mostly from Italy and Spain.


No doubt Geography had great importance in the developing of a national identity during this period.

The broadening of borders was as important as spreading knowledge about the models to be followed; but the main task was to homogenise the existing deep social and economic inequalities behind the label of “the national issue”.

As a result of the use of this model called “farm-exporter” (agro-exportador) the country obtained profits from trade that were devoted to countless investments, many of which related to education, probably at its peak , relatively speaking, in the whole history of the country.

This is the time of the appearance and development of Scientific Societies, academic reference of the main disciplines, and Geography was one of them.

The Argentine Society of Geographical Studies was founded in 1922, and since then it has been the main reference for Geography teachers.

As with all entities at that time, the prevailing spirit was  positivist , and it is still in use in school teaching.





Conflicts and closed borders were supported by Official Geography as from 1930 to the Falklands War.

During the first stage of national consolidation, the area of the “pampa” had been dominating, with a relative integration regarding the other regions of the country.

But the world crisis of 1929 /1930 had decisive consequences on the productive and, therefore, territorial relations in Latin America.

During the Second World War, some countries in Latin-America had to be national internal -markets, so the closed borders were necessary in order to control trade.

Chilean immigration in the Patagonia was indispensable to start mining, forest, fishing, and cattle raising activities.  However, the official discourse managed to create xenophobia among the people.

Many National Reserves were established along the Chilean  border in the Patagonia, and mine exploiting began on the borders “for political reasons”, with little or no profit; companies were nationalised, some real investments were made and programs to improve the life standard of local inhabitants were developed.

At the same time, a claim started, both to Chile and Great Britain, about some old litigated territories.

Each square metre of territory could mean  more mineral exploiting , and some extremely tense situations arose, often including armed conflict.

Military governments continuously referred to “conflict hypothesis” and both geographers and teachers would repeat this discourse at schools and universities.

At universities, all books that did not support the official message were prohibited, and there were special classes at schools related to the Beagle conflict and later to the Falklands.

The study on the Patagonia became important and the official budgets were used both for .infrastructure  works and the development of cultural activities related to the region.

A feeling of rejection against Chile as a whole had to be  instilled at all levels of education , as well as against all residents from that country in Argentina, whether legally or illegally settled.

The xenophobia aroused by the government through the mass media, gave rise to many expressions, (e.g. the street named “Chile” had its name changed to “Soberanía Nacional” (=national sovereignty).

Receiving broadcastings freely from bordering countries, through radio or television was not possible. There was special stress on limiting the access of all kinds of information from abroad, and diffusion of “indian” languages and all types of so-called foreign knowledge was prohibited.

All this apparent nationalism, created a great advantage for Northamerican economy in its fight for the markets and supplying sources; however, the official discourse talked about an absolutely autonomous country.

Geography continued to have a relevant role not only as regards the information that it had to provide about the characteristics of the national territory, but also as regards its aim for omission and false imaging.

Some examples of hiding reality are the Antarctica issue, the Beagle conflict and the Falklands (Malvinas ) situation.

Secondary School books do not show Antarctic Treaty. Argentine maps draw only the reclaimed area (25º and 74º W Greenwich and 60º S to 90º S), without the other foreigner bases.

It was based on this policy of non-information and false data that the people decided by referendum on the destiny of Picton, Nueva and Lennox islands, and later supported the Malvinas war.

In all cases the Catholic Church was with these processes not only with the number of followers but also with the productive and financial investments of the Vatican in many Latin-American countries .

The motto “ We have to populate the Patagonia” (= “Hay que poblar la Patagonia” ) and  “Let’s march to the borders” (Marchemos hacia las Fronteras”) have been central issues resources to justify the need to consolidate the possession of those regions.

The discourse of the Argentine Society of Geographical Studies (Sociedad Geográfica Argentina) has always been prevailing since it is highly adaptable to the situation.

The Geography teachers are still trained according to this and the Military Geographical Institute (Instituto Geográfico Militar) holds the representation overseas of the Argentinean Geography.





During the last 20 years there has been a transition between political conflicts and attempts of integration in Soutthamerica.

Nowadays, it is no longer necessary to think about limits.  The integration among Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina involves other geographical ideas; but most people do not accept that.  Workers see it as a foreign advantage. And a shattered national internal market, people wants that the government to act as protectionists, with a return to nationalist ideologies.

Moreover, a privatisation process is being carried out, and its consequence is the de-nationalisation of the Argentinean productive structure and, not only the destruction of small and medium companies, but also the sale of the private national banks to foreign capitalists.

The overvaluation of local currency does not make exports competitive.  The technification of the scarce production together with the exodus of an important sector of industry to Brazil, are increasing unemployment and causing a general feeling of despair.  Foreign debt is growing and trust on government officers in general has been lost.

This process of productive “foreignization” has as its main customers/clients the United States (35% of the companies), Chile (22%), United Kingdom (7%) , and the rest of the European Community (22%).

Nowadays Argentina and The United Kingdom are under the “UMBRELLA”.  It means that both countries cannot treat about sovereignty or about another conflict themes for making trade or another important issues.  (It was established during Madrid Treaty in 1989/90).

Every activities under “umbrella” do not recognise sovereignty.

Great Britain and Argentina use this treaty for mining (petrol) and fishing in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Great managers from Argentina and Chile are going to make a joint venture for mining (copper, gold and silver) at the Andes.  It is the first time that it is possible.  The integration have got that the law that prohibited to buy bounders lad (50 km) were derogated.  Geometal company will be the first mining integration between both countries.

In such a situation, no doubt it is absurd to start a claim regarding the Continental Ice (Hielos Continentales) against Chile.  Managers wish to maintain solid friendly relationships in order to continue operating in one country or the other according to commercial advantages, but a large number of the population does not accept it.

The Catholic Church tries to mediate through the labour conflicts that occur almost daily, but its negotiating power is diminished by /loses ground because of the new demands of the markets.

Meanwhile, the Geographical Discourse either goes together with the Global Economy or is absent. It never questions, it always legitimates.

However, many sides seem to be co-existing in our country these days.

On the one hand, there is a more and more generalised, non-official, discourse which tends to “geographize” all aspects of both national and world life, as regards the economic as well as cultural, social, etc. activities, and which is used by professionals of different areas and it is also adopted by the mass media as well as by a broad segment of society.

On the other hand, always minority and strange, we find the Argentinean university discourse, that as regards Geography has always been insular.  It should be noted that the training of secondary school teachers is done, in most parts of the country, at tertiary non-university institutes which respond to the guidelines of the Argentine Society of Geographical Studies ( Sociedad Geográfica Argentina), which is today undergoing a crisis and it is losing its representative force.

In the University environment, therefore, the actual trend/tendency is to develop excessive epistemological studies which only mean to hide the budget reductions.  As deep conscientious studies on physical, regional or other aspects that may require field study are not possible, a large percentage of researchers can obtain meagre budgets for themselves.  This kind of work should anyway be analysed in deep if we consider that the available bibliography in all universities is becoming poorer every day.

Another reaction against the reduction of funds to be used in research is shown by those who, either from outside or inside the universities try to sell their production to private bodies or municipalities.  This is the reign of the GIS or the microurban study in juxtaposition with / to the architects’ field of action.

A third group repeats the term “globalization” permanently , without knowing exactly what it is about, as so many trends imposed on/in the academic field.

These “globalizators” have not a territorial context, they use neither foreign bibliography nor journalistic or statistic reports, or other sources of information, while they remove the regional subjects referred to extraamerican continents from the universities’ courses of studies.

At schools the consequences are even more serious.

Those who believe that globalization means the homogenisation of the world without specificity, integration and conflict, think that Social Sciences are an amorphous mass without specific contents.

This pretended integration without differences is destroying both Geography and the disciplines as a whole.

Again, the educate system is adjusted to circumstances.  The general apathy is consolidated in the classroom.  

That is why in school teaching Geography is absent, while it gets more and more important when making decisions.




AZPIAZU, BASUALDO y KHAVISSE: “ El nuevo poder económico en la Argentina de los 80”.  Editorial Legasa.  Buenos Aires. 1986.

BARBERIS, Mabel y CÓRDOBA, Silvia: “Interdisciplinariedad entre Geografía y Literatura Argentina.  El paisaje y las manifestaciones culturales de un pueblo como sustrato de la identidad nacional.  Boletín de Estudios Geográficos. Vol. 85-89 VII Jornadas Cuyanas de Geografía. Universidad Nacional de Cuyo.  Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Instituto de Geografía.  Tomo I . Mendoza. 1992.

BENÍTEZ, Juan Roberto : “Apuntes para discutir académicamente lo académico”, en Revista Zona de Debate. Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata. 1995

“La Geografía en jaque”; en Meridiano, Revista de Geografía Nº 1.  Cengtro de Estudios Alexander von Humboldt. 1995

“Sistema Educativo y Políticas de Ajuste”, en Boletín de Estudios Geográficos Vol. 85-89 VII Jornadas Cuyanas de Geografía. Universidad Nacional de Cuyo.  Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Instituto de Geografía.  Tomo I . Mendoza. 1992.

BENÍTEZ,Juan R. y LIBERALI, Ana M. : “ Tratamiento diferenciado para una mayor integración al país.” En Revista Patagónica Nº11.  Asociación Geográfica de la Patagonia. Buenos Aires. 1983.

CARI (CONSEJO ARGENTINO DE RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES): El MERCOSUR explicado.  Edición preliminar. Buenos Aires. 1996.

GEJO, Omar Horacio: “El quiebre de los modelos mercadointernistas”. Cuadernos de Geografía Económica.  Buenos Aires. 1991.

GEJO, Omar H. y LIBERALI, Ana M.:  “Evolución de la Economía Argentina”; en Cuadernos de Geografía Económica.  Buenos Aires. 1993.

MILIA, Juan G.: “Nación y Estado. Efervescencia nacional”; en Boletín de Estudios Geográficos Vol. 85-89 VII Jornadas Cuyanas de Geografía. Universidad Nacional de Cuyo.  Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Instituto de Geografía.  Tomo 4 . Mendoza. 1992.

QUINTANAR, Silvia Victoria: “La estrategia de integración desde el PICAB al MERCOSUR a través del análisis del sector bienes de capital”; en Meridiano. Revista de Geografía Nº 1. Centro de Estudios Alexander von Humboldt.  Buenos Aires. 1995.

QUINTERO PALACIOS, Silvina:” Geografía y Nación. Estrategias educativas en la representación del territorio argentino (1862-1870)”, en Territorio Nº 7 para la producción crítica en Geografía y Ciencias Sociales. Instituto de Geografía. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Universidad de Buenos Aires. 1995.

“Los orígenes del discurso geográfico en Argentina. (1863-1890)”, en Boletín de Estudios Geográficos Vol. 85-89 VII Jornadas Cuyanas de Geografía. Universidad Nacional de Cuyo.  Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Instituto de Geografía.  Tomo 1 . Mendoza. 1992.

REY BALMACEDA, Raúl: “Límites y fronteras de la Argentina”. OIKOS. Asociación para la promoción de los estudios territoriales y ambientales.  Buenos Aires. 1979.

ROFMAN, Alejandro y ROMERO, José: “Sistema socioeconómico y estructura regional de la Argentina”. Ediciones Amorrortu. Buenos Aires.1974.

SOUTO, Patricia: “Geografía y Universidad. Institucionalización académica y legitimación científica del discurso territorial en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la Universidad de buenos Aires.”  En Territorio Nº 8 para la producción crítica en Geografía y Ciencias Sociales. Instituto de Geografía. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. Universidad de Buenos Aires. 1996




General Archive of the Argentine Nation. Buenos Aires.

Hanis Asociation. Tierra del Fuego Museum. Ushuaia.

Tierra del Fuego Government. Ushuaia.



América Panorama.(Latin-American)

Mercado (Argentina)

Newsweek (U.S.A.)



Ámbito Financiero (Argentina)

Clarín (Argentina)

El Mercurio (Chile)

La Nación (Argentina)

Le Monde (France)

The Economist (United Kingdom)


TV PROGRAMS from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, United Kingdom and U.S.A.


Publicado en Geografía y Gestión Territorial. Revista de divulgación geográfica del Departamento de Geografía y Ordenación Territorial de la Universidad de Guadalajara, Guadalajara, México. Año 2, nro 5, mayo-agosto 2003; pp. 47-51.

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