Manuel Belgrano and the National Flag: a look from the History of Education

Every June and around the 20th, educational institutions prepare to commemorate a new anniversary of the death of Manuel Belgrano and its creation, the Argentine flag; In addition, year after year, the school tradition recovers in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag made in the fourth grades of the Primary Level, a memory of that oath of February 27 of the soldiers in 1812 on the banks of the Paraná River, on the road towards emancipation.

The date of his entrance to immortality, as a patriotic saint, will be placed in the school calendars for evoke on the same day the recognition of the flag as a national symbol and Belgrano as its architect.

The naturalization of the Argentine founding myth hides somehow that the place of Belgrano, today unquestionable, has been disputed as to its legitimacy. On the other hand, the inscription of Belgrano in the national pantheon as the creator of the national emblem reduces and biases, at the same time, the knowledge of his revolutionary action in the politics of his time and the educational implications of his thought and work. of the.

Manuel Belgrano: the story around the real house where he was born and died

Thus, meet and recognize Manuel Belgrano, as a committed politician from the pen and in his actions on the battlefield, opens the possibility of recovering that disinterested man, behind the bronze-coated historical stories, which are transmitted in general, in school evocations. That bronze, which hardens his deep humanity, is fortunately challenged by different Belgranian institutions and associations, which have taken care of keeping his history alive.

Some of the traces found in investigations carried out on the occasion of the bicentennial of Belgrano’s death, show the way in which Belgrano enters history, from the devices through which the National Council of Education ―today Federal, hereinafter CNE― established patriotic educationbody that governed primary education, since 1881 and that are particularly visible in his figure, towards the Centenary of the May Revolution, in 1910.

Manuel Belgrano: a militant of presence, ahead of his time

Towards the end of the 19th century and in an open dispute with the story of López and Miter about Belgrano, the narrative, José María Ramos Mejía, in his essay The Argentine Crowds (1899), posits another story. For Ramos Mejía, Belgrano was neither a promoter of the revolution as a member of the Junta, nor the creator of the flag; for Ramos Mejía the protagonist of these central events towards independence, are the Argentine multitudes, the people.

According to Ramos Mejía, in this writing, the flag is a “question of optics, rather than inspiration.” In a clear political operation, Ramos Mejía, runs from place and actor, the creation of the flag, a story that will not prosper when in the presidency of the CNE he establishes the device of Patriotic Education. Another example of dismissal found in this turn-of-the-century work is Belgrano’s performance in Paraguayan territory, when he says that he fights “with more audacity than weapons.” Ramos Mejía, in his executive role at the CNE and around 1908, will promote the pilgrimages of students and teachers to these places of patriotic veneration.

The three funerals of General Manuel Belgrano

Finally, and without exhausting the evidence, of Belgrano described by Ramos, as most noble meneur, “without a hint of military expertise, according to his own biographer” is just a guide to the one he only recognizes, the study of the masters of war. Although these are snippets of history proposed by Ramos Mejía towards the end of the 19th century, the story that prevails in the first decades of the 20th century is definitely the mitrista, and at this point the dispute seems to have been settled, with no evidence being found that reveals actions by Ramos Mejía to establish his own turn-of-the-century narrative, just the opposite; since the presidency of the CNE, his program will attribute to Belgrano, ―not the sword, whose saint would already have been awarded it first―, but nothing more and nothing less than that doubly denied flag: in its multitudes, creation is attributed to the multitude, and first denied in the origin by the Triumvirate, when in response to the letter he sent from Rosario, dated February 27, 1812, to the Superior Government of the Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, they replied that he should eliminate it.

Hymns and poetry in honor of the creator of the Flag will be the subject of contests promoted by the CNE, to finish crystallizing in the first decade of the 20th century, the mystique of symbols who will be appealed to define the colors of Argentina.

* Dr. Laura S. Guic. USAL-UNLa.

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