Museo de Armas de la Nación [Weapons Museum of the Nation]

Across from the Plaza de General San Martín, which is a lovely, large plaza near the Retiro train station, in quite a stately building, is the Museo de Armas, originally founded in 1904.

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Right there, below the official oval.

I’m not particularly interested in all the tools humans use to disassemble each other, but swords are neat, so I went to check it out.

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Pretty stately on the inside, too.

The first displays are of medieval armor and weaponry, both replicas and originals.  There was also some disconcertingly incongruous pop music playing in those rooms.

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Replicas of a war hammer and a flail, my favorite medieval weapons.
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Lobster tail helmet from Great Britain, 1600s.

A great variety of pointy things is available for examination, though without much of anything in the way of information–just the sort of label you see above.

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Fancy shmancy French saber.
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Spanish-made saber for the Argentine Army.

Firearms were of course already a thing by the time these swords were made, but the museum also has some artifacts from those more transitional times, when one might still find a rifle’s effectiveness reduced to that of a spear.

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Bayonets have always creeped me out; something about the desperation that must attend having to use one.

Artistry wasn’t limited to swords in the 1800s; this is a hunting rifle that belonged to President Victorino de la Plaza.

Prettier and less bayonet-y, for sure.

But you know what is even cooler than fancy sabers with official ovals and detailed German hunting rifles?  Bonkers cane weapons.

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Debonair, dashing, DANGEROUS

Cane swords AND cane pistols.  Wonder if there’s a safety on that thing.

Of course, there’s plenty of more modern kill stuff.

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*yawn*

But there’s also a few box sets of dueling pistols–including this one, which says it was used in the duel between Pantaleón Gómez and Lucio Victorio Mansilla on Feb. 7, 1880.  Both men were former soldiers, politicians, and journalists, but Gómez ended up the dead one in a story that the Wikipedia entry made sound kind of insane.  Dudes gonna dude, I guess.

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I can’t even.

As weaponry is always pretty closely tied to the military, the museum also has several minifigs that illustrate the history of the uniforms.

The items on display aren’t limited to melee combat and small caliber things, of course.

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Both of these are mid-19th century, the bottom one being a Gatling design, Gatling having been a medical doctor who rather blew off that whole Hippocratic Oath thing. 

Remember what an absolute, unique horror show World War I was, with its meeting of traditional cavalry and horse-drawn supply wagons and mechanized death and chemical warfare?

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Imagine putting a gas mask on a horse, or, hell, being a horse that had to wear a gas mask.

Look, an anti-tank mine.  It’s smaller than my backpack.

 

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That circle to its left is the size of my palm and designed to blow up a human being.

There’s also a room that’s full of weapons from all over Asia, which at least can restore the more comfortable feeling of looking at museum pieces with some artistry to them instead of just efficient kill boxes used within living memory.

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14th century Indonesian.

 

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*sigh* stupid glass cases
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Small utility knife. Nazis ruin everything

So there you have it!  Certainly a very interesting collection of early firearms, fancy swords and Argentine military history.  Not much on the informational side of things, but certainly more interesting than I thought it would be for me.  The Museo de Armas de la Nación is located in Retiro at Santa Fe 702, right across from the Plaza, and very near other sights, like the Kavanagh building and the Basílica Santísimo Sacramento.  It’s easy to get to from the C and E subway lines and Retiro train station.  As of this post, the entry fee is 100 pesos (about US$2).

Buque Museo Fragata ARA Presidente Sarmiento [Frigate ARA Presidente Sarmiento Museum Ship]

AHOY!

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There are two museum ships in Puerto Madero:  the ARA Uruguay  and her more famous yet less interesting sister, the ARA Presidente Sarmiento.  But just because she doesn’t have the very cool history of the Uruguay doesn’t mean the Presidente Sarmiento is boring.

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I’d say that it might be unfair to compare them, but it’s impossible not to, as they are literally within sight of each other.

The Sarmiento was a training ship for the naval academy.  It was English-built and launched in 1897.  Retired in 1961, it’s been a museum since 1964.

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I love passageways on ships!  This one has a lot of plaque bling.

Lots of stuff to see from the glory days:

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Training sailors got a mattress on their hammocks, so that’s cool.
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This guy had a really fancy pillow embroidered to commemorate his voyage around the world.
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Arf.

The sign wasn’t super clear on the origin of the taxidermied Lampazo here, but it seems like in 2014 they decided that he’s probably Buli, owned by Lt Calderon and ship’s pupper on the 37th voyage.  I don’t know how he came to be taxidermied and under glass on the Sarmiento, and I didn’t see anything on board to shed light on that.  Such pressing questions remain mysteries.

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There’s no meal service.

The crew dining room now has a video you can watch, and going on through it leads to the officers’ digs, which are nicer.

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If you’re an officer, you mattress doesn’t swing.

The Captain’s quarters are off-limits to visitors, presumably because the naval personnel currently assigned to the ship have taken over the best space for offices.  But there’s a nice little model of it.

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Command and comfort.

You can climb up on the decks, too, which afford a nice view of the Woman’s Bridge and other ship stuff.

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I wasn’t entirely sure I was allowed up on this part, but two navy dudes saw me climbing down and didn’t yell at me, so I assume I was.

The Presidente Sarmiento is open seven days a week, 10 am to 7 pm.  It’s 20 pesos to get on board (at the moment!) and located in Puerto Madero, kind of across the street and to the right from the Casa Rosada.  It’s a very short walk along the river to the ARA Uruguay, so if you’re super into museum ships, you can hit them both.

 

 

Museo Malvinas e Islas del Atlántico Sur [Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands Museum]

There is something that has always struck me as phenomenally tragic about the Malvinas War.

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                                                     They weren’t even brought home.                                                                                           Photo by Tomás Terroba                                    

It isn’t the biggest waste of life ever perpetrated, but it was a waste of life all the same.

It’s not easy for people who were born and raised in imperial powers to understand, either.  There’s a lot of background to the conflict, which is important for understanding how the islands are generally viewed by Argentines, and I am in no way well-versed in the history of it, so I’m going to try to briefly illustrate what was going on before the war broke out in 1982.

1– The sovereignty of the Malvinas (they are known officially outside of Argentina as the Falklands, but this is where I live and also what the museum is called, so I’m going to stick with Malvinas) had been in dispute for 200 years, although they have been held continuously by the British since 1833.

2– The belief that the Malvinas are rightfully the possession of Argentina has been culturally entrenched for a long time.

3– British rule over the Malvinas is seen as imperialistic, and the imperial ambitions of European nations and the US has long wreaked profound tragedy across South America, and indeed the political interference of those nations was actively still doing that in the support of the various military juntas that overthrew Latin American governments at the time.

4– Argentina’s military dictatura had murdered thousands of people and was facing a severe economic crisis and growing opposition; the war was a somewhat cynical ploy to bolster home support by appealing to that dumbest of manipulable emotions, nationalism.  The war, the loss–it’s all tainted by its association with an illegitimate and murderous regime.

5– Unlike the US, which is more or less constantly sending soldiers to die in conflicts, Argentina hadn’t been involved in any foreign conflicts to speak of since the Paraguayan War in 1870.  Most of the Argentine war dead in the Malvinas were conscripts.

So–the Museo Malvinas is located on the edge of the ex-Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada, once the largest clandestine detention center and execution site during the dictatura, now a memorial complex.  The museum itself is quite new and really lovely.

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Outside the building is a large pool with a map of the Malvinas in the middle:

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As seen from inside the building

and a memorial to the ARA General Belgrano, which was sunk by British torpedoes with 321 of its crew and two civilians.

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It’s not a particularly comforting space.  You walk down, until the silhouettes of the ship are above you.  The sound of the fountain forcefully brings to mind the idea of water rushing into the ship.  It is an evocative, emotional memorial.

Inside, the museum covers the history and flora and fauna of the islands.

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That is the focus of the very polished film that runs inside this little theater, despite its introduction here.

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There is a lot of multimedia in the museum.

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There are also areas that cover the older history of the islands as well as Argentine-British relations.

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Antonio Rivero is something of a folk hero within the Malvinas story, but he’s maybe better characterized as someone who was really, really upset over a labor dispute.

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A sizable portion of the museum is dedicated to how the Malvinas have been and are currently addressed in Argentina’s culture, and the idea and importance of sovereignty.

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Much of the museum works to make the concepts accessible to the children who visit; this interactive map says “How do we build paths to the Malvinas?” and the strings are color-coded to the choices that can be made as a nation: diplomacy, dialog, peace, conflict, compromise, etc.

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Plenty of space is also given to the war and the dictatura (the leaders had assumed that the UK would not really bother with a military response and that the US, which Argentina had been aiding in funding the Nicaraguan Contras, would stay discreetly out of it, neither of which would be true) that made the dumb ass decision to go through with the invasion.

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A Mother of the Plaza de Mayo implores viewers to remember the Disappeared are also Argentines.
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A soldier lost his sleeve and the arm that was in it.

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A lot of dumb ass propaganda going around, too. 

The war dead are, naturally, also memorialized.  You can watch the tablets and note how many were young draftees.

So, for better or worse, the Malvinas remain a British holding (the Falklanders, incidentally, are overwhelmingly of British descent and wish to stay within the UK).  The brief war ended with 904 dead and 2432 wounded.  The loss finally brought down the dictatura, which had bought nothing with all the blood it spent for Argentina except meaningless grief and psychic scars.

The Malvinas are currently on the 50 peso note.

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The Museo Malvinas e Islas del Atlántico Sur is free and open seven days a week and holidays.  It’s accessible by train and several bus lines, as it is situated at the back of the ESMA on Avenida del Libertador, a huge avenue.  None of the signage is in English, so if your language is weak, you’ll need to bring a translator.  There’s a nice small cafe within the building.

Buque Museo Corbeta ARA Uruguay [Corvette ARA Uruguay Museum Ship]

Hellooooooo, sailor!

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Best case scenario for a ship, a nice little retirement berth in Puerto Madero.

Situated in the river in Buenos Aires’s ritziest barrio, parked near its better-known sister museum ship the ARA Presidente Sarmiento, you can find the ARA Uruguay.  How much better-known is the Sarmiento?  When you get a ticket at the Uruguay, it says “Sarmiento” on it.

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I was not on the Sarmiento.

But the Uruguay has its own very interesting history!  It’s the oldest ship still floating in the Argentine Navy, having come into service in 1874.  It was a training ship, it did military naval stuff like go to Patagonia to help throw cold water on Chile’s territorial ambitions, and then it got outfitted for scientific exploration in 1887.

The real high point in the Uruguay’s service life came in 1903, when it was refitted as an Antarctic rescue vessel.  It got its chance for glory in that line of work that same year, when the Uruguay was sent to save the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, which had been stranded for an ENTIRE EXTRA WINTER after its own retrieval ship sank on account of being crushed by ice.  They had to eat penguins.  It was not a good time.

The ship, which honestly seems a little small and drafty for crazy cold Antarctic shenanigans, has a museum below decks.

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Just, super small, you guys.

Here you’ll find artifacts from its naval career:

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Important person hat.
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Less important person hat.

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I long for the days when the pinnacle of masculinity was also extremely fancy pants.

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It includes some items that are original to the ship.

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So many jokes here.

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I don’t know what most of this is. Ships are mysterious places.

There are some actual artifacts related to the Swedish Expedition, too.

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Hm, yes, the plan of depending on candles in the Antarctic sounds solid.

Look at all this space below decks!  The 27 guys who went to rescue the Swedes were probably super comfy.  After the Swedes came aboard, everybody probably had to spoon constantly.

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DUCK TAILS, WOOOOO-OOO-OOOOO

Ships’ wheels are kind of neat, actually.

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Well that’s enough of that!  Let’s see some views on the deck.

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Bank, ho!

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Ship’s compass in that brass fixture on the higher deck.

There you have it, a piece of Argentine naval history parked right there in Puerto Madero, a stone’s throw away from a more famous piece of Argentine naval history, but deserving of attention, too.  Tickets are 20 pesos (about 50 US cents at the moment), and it’s open seven days a week from 10am to 7pm.  Look for it in the river here.