Adios, Buenos Aires: Politics and El Eternauta

Welcome to the final installment of the summertime print travelogue Hola, Buenos Aires (written from the comfortable but alfajor-deficient city of Austin, Texas). With national elections on the horizon in Argentina, it seemed appropriate to end the series with something tangentially political.

The figure in the CMYK stencils above is El Eternauta, an Argentinian comic book character. Below is a stencil featuring the country’s current President, Cristina Kirchner, who was elected after her husband, the former President, died of a heart attack while in office. Though people seemed to think the announcement was inevitable, Cristina finally made her plans to seek re-election official yesterday. Again and again, I saw these two characters, El Eternauta and Cristina, throughout the city.

Check out this Cristina poster. What does an anti-hero from graphic novels have to do with the President of Argentina? It struck me as a strange juxtaposition. What is this character doing in the background of her posters? Can you imagine Obama campaign posters with Batman in the background? It seems unlikely.

Here are some images that come up when you search “Cristina Eternauta” on google…

As I mentioned in earlier posts, all forms of graffiti are pervasive in Buenos Aires but opposed to the murals and tags, most stencils seemed to serve a more utilitarian purpose. They are quick means of advertising a message or a product. Politics are “discussed” on the walls of the city through stencils. It was interesting to discover mash-ups of reality and fiction, politics and popular culture. It’s hard to imagine that many of the individual stencils aren’t part of a larger, more coordinated effort to when seeing them integrated on the poster. My best guess is that this is an attempt to mobilize the youth vote by appropriating a popular fictional character.

All of the following pictures are random shots from throughout the city. They’re a fraction of what I saw…

A local translated the lower text as an unflattering addition to the original stencil. So I guess support is not unanimous.

This stencil features Cristina’s husband, Nestor Kirtchner, and General José de San Martín, “the prime leader of the southern part of South America’s successful struggle for independence from Spain.” Talk about writing yourself into history…


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3 Responses to “Adios, Buenos Aires: Politics and El Eternauta”

  1. goetz says:

    buenisimo!!! tenga yerba mate para mi!

  2. Diana says:

    Thanks for this really interesting article.
    I just wanted to add that “El Eternauta” is not just any comicbook hero, and is quite different culturally to argentines than Batman, since it is directly related to the most horrible period in argentine history. Also, El Eternauta is a collective hero, not one that works individually, and whose success depends on the common effort of annonymous people, congregated in one joint cause.

    Even though interpretation about “El Eternauta” is left open, there is a veiled reference in the invaders to the frequent coup d’etats that the country went through during the time the story was written by Héctor Oesterheld. Oesterheld wrote the three versions of his story coinciding with the military takeovers of Aramburu, Onganía and the so called “Proceso de Reorganización Nacional”. And was “dissapeared” ( which at the time was a euphemism for being kidnapped and then tortured and killed without a trial, and without letting anyone know what had happened) in 1977.

    From wikipedia ( some of this is a little off, but I couldn’t find anything else in English about Oesterheld)

    “His work slowly acquired a greater political emphasis, with stories such as El Eternauta, Part II (1976), which describes a futuristic Argentina under a dictatorship; his 1968 biography of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a year after Che’s death, was removed from circulation by the government and the originals destroyed. In 1973 he published 450 Years of War Against Imperialism. During the military government of the 1970s, Oesterheld is believed to have joined, following his four daughters, a leftist guerrilla group, the Montoneros.

    In 1976 he disappeared, and a year later his daughters, Diana (21), Beatriz (19), Estela (25) and Marina (18), were arrested by the Argentine armed forces in La Plata, and were never seen again. His daughters’ husbands were also among those that vanished. One grandson, Martín, was born in captivity and recovered from the government by Oesterheld’s widow, Elsa Sánchez, and raised by her. A second, Fernando, born earlier, was raised by his paternal grandparents.

    Elsa Sánchez participated in the protests of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and became one of the spokeswomen for the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which advocates for the return of children of the disappeared to their birth families.

    When the Italian journalist Alberto Ongaro enquired about Oesterheld’s disappearance in 1979, he received the reply: “We did away with him because he wrote the most beautiful story of Ché Guevara ever done”.[1]”

    So, it is a really strong point these people are making by using this figure. I think it is also a clincher for the younger generation, calling them into the “militancia” for Kirchner.

  3. Jason Urban says:

    Thank you, Diana. Yes, I also visited the wikipedia page about El Eternauta and learned about his creator, Héctor Oesterheld- it’s a pretty fascinating and sad story. I definitely understand the undertone of this pairing (Kirchner/Eternauta) but lacking serious expertise and time to research, I decided to share my pictures and a few thoughts and leave it there. I was actually hoping someone like yourself might add further explanation! So thank you again- perfecto!