Argentines still angry at almost all things English
Buenos Aires — Argentines still travel out to suburbs with English names like Hurlingham and Banfield on a British-built rail system in trains that ride on the left. But in the wake of last year's war with the British over the Falkland Islands , they are doing away with quite a few vestiges of English nomenclature here.
The London Grill on Calle Resistencia, a favorite eatery for more than 75 years, is now simply ''The Grill.'' But the steak and kidney pie served for as long as veteran waiters can recall is still on the menu and much in demand.
Meanwhile the word ''London'' in the sign over the London Tailors down the street is faded. It was not repainted when the rest of the sign was spruced up earlier this year.
''But everyone knows us as the London Tailors,'' says Juan Carlos Sanchez, one of the tailors there.
And quite a few Argentines still refer to the plaza in front of the Retiro train station as the Plaza Britannia, even though it was renamed Plaza de la Fuerza Aerea (Plaza of the Air Force) in a burst of patriotic fervor when the Air Force sank the British destroyer HMS Sheffield in the war. Taxi driver Felipe David Pazos, for example, when asked to go to the Buenos Aires Sheraton Hotel, said, ''Oh, the hotel on the Plaza Britannia.''
Tea-drinking still goes on - a late afternoon ritual for 100 years since the British brought the custom here.
But the government itself is trying hard to eliminate as much of that Anglo influence as possible.
The subway stop once named for Lord Canning, a British foreign secretary of the last century, was renamed 2 de Abril (2nd of April) for the day the Argentines started the 1982 war.
The military suggested that establishments with English names would be well advised to change their names to something in keeping with Argentine Spanish. Some refused to change - among them the Richmond Tea Room; Harrods, a department store; and James Smart, a specialty store. After all, these businesses have built their reputations with their names.
It is hard to eradicate things English in a nation where such things are viewed with considerable reverence. But the English strain was slipping some even before the Falkland war. More than half the nation's population is first-, second-, and third-generation Italians.
But their liking for the English way of life remains. ''British woolens'' proclaim at least five signs in English on Calle Florida, the downtown area's main shopping thoroughfare.
English also is the most popular foreign language spoken here. The English-language Buenos Aires Herald, now more than 100 years old, continues to be a voice of importance. Even Nicanor Costa Mendez, foreign minister during the war, reads it. He attended one of the main English schools in Buenos Aires - as have an estimated 150,000 Argentines, men and women now in business, politics, and the military.
In sports, many of the favorite soccer teams carry English names - River Plate, All Boys, Brown, and Boca Juniors. There is no movement to change them.
Meanwhile, back at The Grill diners get menus, napkins, plates, and the like imprinted with the name The London Grill.
''It is all a bit rediculous,'' muses one of the waiters. ''Just because we have an English name does not mean we are not patriotic Argentines. We carried signs in our windows during the war that read Las Malvinas son Nuestras (The Malvinas - the Spanish name for the Falklands - are ours). We feel that way. But this restaurant remains for many, including those of us who work here, the London Grill. Any why not?''