Argentine president sinks himself over boat quote
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández might want to get on a boat and hide.
The left-leaning Argentine leader has been ridiculed across Latin America and beyond for trying to emphasize his country’s European roots during a meeting this week with Spain’s prime minister by saying: “The Mexicans came from the Indians, the Brazilians came from the jungle, but we Argentines came from boats, and they were boats that came from Europe.”
It’s perhaps the most racially charged version of an oft-quoted saying attributed at varying times to writers including Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes of Mexico and Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar of Argentina — though it may predate all of them — and none of those included any reference to “Indians” or “the jungle.”
Fernández, in fact, initially attributed his quote to Paz. But it was far closer to the version in a 1982 recording by Argentine singer Litto Nebbia — “Indians” and “jungle” and all.
Fernández quickly issued apologies on Wednesday. But he continued trying to justify himself on Thursday with a Twitter post endorsing Nebbia’s words, saying they “spoke of us, and of this land (Latin America) we love and is a mix of all.”
The president’s statements were widely denounced in Argentina and ridiculed in Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro — a frequent critic of Fernández — tweeted a photo of himself meeting Indigenous leaders with the ironic label, “Jungle,” and his country’s flag.
Argentine Congresswoman Karina Banfi of the opposition Radical Civil Union said Fernández showed “ignorance and therefore discrimination against the original peoples, with the countries of the region and with all Argentines.”
In one of his apologies, Fernandez noted that his nation had received more than 5 million European immigrants in the first part of the 20th century, adding to an Indigenous population. “Our diversity is a pride,” he said.
Some academics in the past have used the the phrase as an example of a tendency to diminish the role of Argentina’s Indigenous and African origin peoples.