Aboard the British transatlantic Canberra, more than 4,000 Argentine soldiers who had fought in the Falklands War returned to the continent on June 19, 1982 and, despite the attempt to conceal and the imposition of silence by the de facto government chaired by Leopoldo Galtieri, the people of Madryn gave them a moving welcome and starred in the day known as “the day that Madryn ran out of bread”.
After 74 days of armed conflict and surrendering on June 14, 1982, the Argentine combatants had to undertake the return to the country: they began to make long lines in the shipping zone of Puerto Argentino, they were requisitioned and brought up in groups in boats that would transfer most of them to the ship Canberra.
“When we arrived at the port there were thousands of soldiers queuing, we didn’t know what for, until we found out that it was to embark. It was night, they put me on a boat with a large number of soldiers, we hardly entered, without direction, without knowing where they were taking us,” he recalled in dialogue with Télam the ex-combatant of the artillery group 121 of La Paz, Entre Ríos, Raúl Sánchez.
Seeing the Canberra, Sánchez and his companions had to climb a rope ladder about three stories to enter the ship, where with a “welcome card” written in English they were assigned a prisoner number and a sector of the ship where they would be during the four-day trip.
“They assigned us a cabin, there were five of us, four of us slept in beds and one on the floor, but at least there we were able to bathe after two months with the same clothes. We lost track of time because we only went out to eat and once they took us to deck where only the sea could be seen, which seemed infinite,” recalled ex-combatant from Rosario, Francisco Medina.
Both agreed on the “total uncertainty” that represented not knowing where they were taking them, what they would do with them, added to the warning received on the ship that “they had to be careful with the people because the reception was going to be hostile.”
The Canberra docked at the Almirante Storni Dock in the still sleeping city of Puerto Madryn the morning of Saturday June 19 without any warning to the population that upon seeing the large operation deployed throughout the area within a radius of three kilometers it did not take long to find out that “the boys from Malvinas” returned.
“The word began to spread in the town, the commotion was very great because our boys were coming. It was something spontaneous, something that was born from the neighbors who were in the streets, wanting to see them pass, confirm that they were finally back”, told the photographer from Madrid Mabel Outeda, who did not hesitate to take out his camera, break the military cordon that separated them from the combatants and take pictures of that “unforgettable day for Madryn”.
People ran alongside the trucks and buses, they applauded, they shouted, they gave us encouragement, strength, they brought us loads of bread that, with the hunger we had, we grabbed it by sticking half of our bodies out.” ex-combatant Juan Carlos Sosa
Former combatant Juan Carlos Sosa He remembers it clearly: “People ran alongside the trucks and buses, they applauded, they shouted, they gave us encouragement, strength, they brought us lots of bread that, with the hunger we had, we grabbed it by sticking half of our bodies out.”
The soldiers raised the curtains of the Army unimog trucks to receive the affection of the people of Madryn and in exchange they threw their rosaries, prayer cards, helmets and blankets as a sign of gratitude.
Meanwhile, ex-combatant Medina highlighted a difference between the first to disembark who were assigned to groups and those who were later put on unimogs: “Many of us were assigned to groups with all windows closed, covered with paper and curtains, we didn’t see anything, we did hear the applause and the shouts of the people encouraging us but we couldn’t do anything”.
A large part of the soldiers who arrived in Madryn that day were taken to the former Barraca Lahusen where they would spend a few hours for later be transferred to the Trelew airport Already other nearby military units to undertake the return to their homes.
“We were sitting in the kitchen of my cousin’s house around the corner from Barraca Lahusen and we heard a knock on the door, two soldiers from Corrientes who came to ask for food. with everything we had in the cupboard for them to take away,” said the emotional 73-year-old teacher from Madrid, María del Carmen Pereyra.
“I still have the memory of their faces, the state of their clothes, all piled up, it was very shocking,” he recalled.María del Carmen, teacher from Madrid
Shocked by what had happened, María del Carmen did not hesitate to tell her husband that “they had to do something else”: “We went to the Barraca to look for them to see if we could bring two or three home, but we lived further away and when When we arrived they told us they couldn’t because they were already taking them to Trelew”.
“I still have the memory of their faces, the state of their clothes, all piled up, it was very shocking”recalled María del Carmen in dialogue with Télam with a broken voice.
For the Argentine historian and writer, Federico Lorenzthat welcome in Madryn was very important because “it marked a difference between the process of state demalvinization and the popular attitude towards ex-combatants”.
“It marked a difference between the state demalvinization process and the popular attitude towards ex-combatants.”Federico Lorenz, historian
“The one who disobeyed an order and took a soldier to his house to eat and bathe, the one who lent a telephone, the one who offered to call to warn, send a telegram, the one who hugged them as if they were his children to lack of the fact that they had not yet seen their parents, was against the silencing imposed by the State,” Lorenz explained to this agency, who translated what was expressed by the people of Madrid in the slogan “The people are not confused.”
Likewise, the historian remarked that the reception could not be the same in other cities of the country and that Madryn’s case represents a “break in the control device” that installed the already weakened de facto government of Galtieri to hide the arrival of the combatants, their physical state and in this way try to silence what they had experienced.
“A phenomenon happened in this city: When they returned to Madryn, there were several boys from different provinces who, with the reception they received here, settled with their families because they found the place that embraced them and contained them,” said the ex-combatant and current president of the Veterans Center of Puerto Madryn, Daniel Belmar.
Only 33 Malvinas combatants are from Puerto Madryn, most arrived on the continent in other boats to various parts of the country, but the families from Madrid that day they received those more than 4100 men regardless of their hometown because they considered them “sons of the people”.
“Everything that the residents of Madryn offered was for the struggle, for their dedication and in eternal gratitude to the ex-combatants who from that day on are the sons of Puerto Madryn,” concluded Belmar.
That day marked a before and after in the history of the city of Chubut, so much so that in 2016 ordinance 9449 was approved, declaring June 19 as the “Day that Madryn ran out of bread: for the solidarity and gratitude of the neighbours”.