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).

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.