Leonardo Castellani

“The most effective way to prove that Liberalism is a sin is to examine its effects in our country. Effects that are so ugly that they can only ooze from sin. ‘By their fruits ye shall discern them.’ Here are its ten crimes: Liberalism exterminated the native population. Liberalism ruined our education. Liberalism corroded the family. Liberalism sterilized our people’s intelligence. Liberalism instilled in us a despondent spirit, an inferiority complex. Liberalism mutilated our nation from its historical natural territory. Liberalism made a miniature of our Church . Liberalism created the Jewish problem gratis. Liberalism made us a feudal territory of the foreigner. Liberalism broke harmony and created the spiritual division among us that is currently heading for a painful crisis” (quoted from Sentencias y aforismos políticos)

The Never Ending Saga

Those words by Fr. Castellani are as fresh today as they were many decades ago when they were uttered by the first time. Today it was a gloriously sunny winter day here in Buenos Aires. The weather was in dark contrast with the gloomy mood of the longsuffering Argentines. Another economy crisis is looming. If I count well it is the ninth perhaps I am forgetting one or two.

I was born in 1954 only months before Gen. Juan Perón got ousted by a military coup on September 1955. It was the sixth military coup since 1930. There is a process that I call the demolition that started in the feverish minds of some men around the end of the 19th century. By that time the majority of the people wanted to leave in peace and work. Being Argentine was good business in a country that had the Pampas, a nearly infinite surface of ancient river lime patiently accumulated by the great rivers that flow south from the Amazon. The Pampas are the most fertile continuous extension of flat land in the planet.

It took from 1853 to 1880 to organize the country well enough to make it prosper. These are rough numbers, some may say the country was already getting ahead before the 1850’s but the truth is in the numbers: by 1881 young Argentina proudly had the best paid workers in the world. Immigration flowed from Europe at a pace never seen before.  About the late 1820’s, three brothers hailing from Emilia-Romagna had landed in Buenos Aires. They were fleeing the cholera epidemic that plagued the Po river valley. I was told the Caso Rossendi —that last name was spelled that way back then, before losing an ‘s’ and  being ‘argentinized’— married local ladies, opened a general store in the southern side of the Pampas. One of them was my great-great-grandfather Alberto. His son, also called Alberto caught the economy in the upswing. As prejudices against non-Spaniards and natives softened, he managed to place his son in the incipient Army Engineers Corp (the Cuerpo de Zapadores Pontoneros). That was my grandfather Alberto. The lives of both Albertos spanned the most prosperous times the country had ever seen, half a century of solid, rocket-fast economic expansion.

The General Store (built in the 1800’s)

Along with the good immigrants came the bad apples. Europe was boiling with all kinds of hotheads and some crossed the Atlantic lured by promises of easy money. Those worked incessantly at every level of society producing the ferment that was going to transform a good country into the laughingstock of the planet that it is today. I say this with a sincere heavy heart because I was born in time to see the ruins before the weeds took over.

The genius that took a totally uncivilized country, the equivalent of Afghanistan to rub shoulders with England, Germany, and France in only four decades began to be assailed by radical bands of revolutionaries that gradually figured out that they could take over if they could organize as political parties. In 1891 the Radical Party was born. By 1916 the country had its first Radical president. When Hipólito Yrigoyen took the reins, Argentina was the sixth economy in the world. That is exactly when the decline started.

I always run into people that tell me that mine is a skewed view of history, blah, blah, blah. Nothing can change the fact that the great fiscal conservatives of the past built the country to that point. Nothing changes the obvious fact that Argentina never returned to that place in the concert of nations. Europe was rebuilt twice while Argentina plummeted sinking further and further from that enviable position after wasting the equivalent of twelve Marshall plans to do absolutely nothing.

New ideas and methods of government were tried: from mild socialistic ideas in the 1920’s to military fascist dictatorships in the 1930’s and 40’s. Finally, in 1945 when Fr. Castellani was a young priest, the ascending star of Juan Perón captivated the country. By 1952 a number of other novelties arrived: price controls, inflation, violent rhetoric, labor union extortion and so forth. Inflation hit 52% in a country that did not know what a devaluation of currency was. Perón was ousted by the Navy in a bloody military coup. What followed was a series of  lackluster administrations punctuated by economic crisis and military coups. St. Luigi Orione had predicted all of it in 1935.

The oversized state apparatus created by Radicals and Peronists survived intact. Argentina became a dwarf with an enormous head. The deficit generated debt, the debt was paid printing more money, inflation grew, governments fell. The cycle became endemic and the country did not get much from the postwar recovery but there was some degree of normality. I came of age in that era.

My grandfather had died in 1958 and my grandmother survived him all the way to the 1970’s. In 1973 she saw the return of Perón. The third part of the demolition began. 1973 to 1976 were chaotic years. Peron died during that period and it did not take long for the military to return. Of course, no one attempted to even control the growth of the state apparatus. Eventually the war with Great Britain ensued and the military fell never to return again. The “democracy” that followed was dead from the very beginning. The cycle of crisis after crisis continued and now we are in crisis number nine.

Poverty is nearing 50%, the currency is rapidly losing value, inflation appears to be beyond control. Today, even the Catholic Church of Argentina is being dragged to a court of justice accused of fraud. The Pachamama planter rests on the altars of many churches in Buenos Aires. Apocalypse now. The present picture reminds me of Revolution Number 9, a piece of music I used to hate when I was a young Beatles’ fan. Now I see it as something that can be used to describe the apocalyptic climate that this new crisis has unleashed on the broke and exhausted Argentines.

We were warned

One night in 1935 after a dinner at the local Archdiocese, the man we know now as St. Luigi Orione had a vision and uttered several prophecies regarding the future of Argentina. A good friend of mine who passed away in 2014, inherited  a handwritten note taken by a lady who was there. She was sitting at the dinner table, inches away from our saint. I scanned that precious piece of paper in 2013. Here are the predictions of Don Orione, now St. Luigi Orione, a true saint of our days:

1. I see a dramatic persecution of the Church.
2. Profanation and destruction of the temples in [Buenos Aires]. [NOTE: It happened once already in 1955]
3. One day the blood will run (a tragic day for the whole country.)
4. Death of the [Archbishop of Buenos Aires], priests, nuns, and religious assassinated.
5. Fall of the worshiped mud idols (the President persecutor will be hanged along with several of his ilk.)
6. Salvation will come like a flash from the center of the Argentine Republic,

and from all that blood and putrefaction a flower will grow:   ‘A thriving Christian Argentina —  Peace and happiness will be reborn for a feast of the Virgin Most Holy, and a Catholic civilian man will govern the country brilliantly while an excelsior Bishop will reign over the souls for many years, because the Lord has remembered this country where one night the International Eucharistic Congress of 1934 was celebrated.’”

Continued in Forgotten in the Purple Land

Front page of one of the local English newspapers. July 20, 2022.