Thursday, May 7, 2009

We All Need A Hero

The national hero of Uruguay is José Gervasio Artigas Arnal, known as the the father of Uruguayan independence. He championed independence from Spain's centralized control in Buenos Aires, and eventually his work came to fruitation in the early 19th century.

In almost every city, there is a statue of him on his horse in a major plaza. There is a city named after him and an entire entire department (what we would call "state") in northern Uruguay. He also has bridges, airports, and schools (included the one I work at) named after him. The entire country is infatuated with Artigas.

Artigas was able to ascend to such a place of heroism because he represents military and political leadership without bipartisanship. He lived before the parties (traditionally the colorado and blanco parties) divided the political landscape of Uruguayan democracy.

I was trying to think of similar figures of national appeal in the United States and George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were first ones to come to my mind. These men were not bipartisan figures in US history, and yet they each register as heros in our public memory for individuals of every political leaning. Interesting.

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