Argentina’s economy has not grown for more than a decade and is in a serious crisis, with annual inflation exceeding 140% and poverty exceeding 40% of the population.
The promise of the elected president of Argentina, Javier Milei, to return the country to its beauty raised the hopes of a society that longed for the “rich country” and the “powerful country” in the early part of the th 20th century, although the “golden age” is not the same for everyone.
“At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina was the richest country in the world,” admitted Milei during the election campaign, where he criticized the “decadence” in which, he claims, it is now broken.
“With the reforms that I propose, in 15 years we will reach levels like Italy or France. If they give me 20 years like Germany and if they give me 35 like the United States,” said Milei , a libertarian and ultra-liberal who will assume the presidency of Argentina this Sunday, in a speech that evoked former US president Donald Trump.
Those words, for the historian Roy Hora, from the University of San Andrés, are out of place. “They strike a chord. We Argentines feel we are ready to play first class.”
For a decade, Argentina has not grown and is now in a severe economic crisis, with annual inflation of more than 140% and poverty that exceeds 40% of the population.
“We were the main exporter of seeds and meat. And we lost that,” Franco Propato, 23, a Milei follower, lamented to AFP, who nevertheless thinks that “if we put our mind to it we can become a world power. We have a great country with great capabilities.”
In the period from 1880 to 1929, when the Great Depression began, Argentina was a magnet, a promised land where millions of European migrants arrived. The population quadrupled, from 2 million people in 1869 to 7.9 million in 1914, according to the census.
Luna Block, a 20-year-old physical education teacher, smiled and said “Great Argentina was a long time ago, I wasn’t there.” But he thinks it is “possible” for his country to become a world power, although he acknowledges that “it will take time.”
Not much wealth at all
Hora emphasizes that at the end of the 19th century the income per person in Argentina was very high. “Not like the United States, nor England, but close to the countries of the European continent.”
“At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina was the richest country in the world”JAVIER MILEI
PRESIDENT OF ARGENTINA
That wealth came almost exclusively from agricultural exports and was concentrated among an upper class who owned land.
“Never before or since have rich Argentines been so rich,” the historian stressed. “But economic growth, which is very powerful, also includes the middle and lower classes, workers and intermediate sectors. That explains a lot of migration,” he said.
Those were the years in which French-style palaces were built in Buenos Aires and the stunning Teatro Colón was built using noble materials imported from Europe.
Peronist paradise lost
But for the historian Felipe Pigna, at that time Argentina was called the breadbasket of the world also dictated its sentence.
“In fact, this is the best definition of condemnation – ordered by the world market and accepted with joy and benefit by our local oligarchs – to be suppliers of raw materials and buyers of processed products, many times with the same core products,” Pigna wrote.
A precursor to the crises that followed when the rest of the world ceased to be important because of economic depression or because it became self-sufficient.
And yet, the revival of the golden age is returning to the political discourse of Argentina, which also includes a lost paradise: the Peronist period of the 1940s and 1950s, when the welfare state was established by President Juan Domingo Perón. .
“This is the paradise of equality, of social justice. The one who says that we should not return to the oligarchy of the liberal era, often judged for its inequality, criticized as a moment where the benefits concentrated on the top of the society, “Hora pointed out.
“Those who value equality above freedom say that paradise must be the Peronist, those who value more a society with more dynamism and opportunities for development tend to favor the era of agro-export,” he explained.
Between one lost paradise and another, Julieta Saravia, an 83-year-old teacher, pondered: “A powerful country, again? Please, no. This is a chaotic country, that if it is organized leads to a better life.”