“That photo let our families know that we were alive”recalls the former Malvinas combatant Saul Perezshortly after the 40th anniversary of the war, on one of the most iconic photographs of the conflict, that of a group of soldiers reading the newspaper Chroniclepublished by the agency Telam.
The image of several soldiers sitting reading Chronicle in the area near the airport of the islands – taken by the photographer Eduardo Farrewho died last year- is one of the most remembered of the war conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982.
With the limitations imposed by the strict control of the military government, headed by the dictator Leopoldo Galtieri, and without current technology, the photography team of this public news agency was the only one authorized to carry out the journalistic task from the landing and until the surrender of the troops, which is why most of the published photos of the war belong to photojournalists: the “Chicken” Farré, Roman “Polaco” von Eckstein and Eduardo Navone.
One of them became an icon of the South Atlantic war conflict because it portrays the life of the soldiers before the arrival of the British army and at that time it was a kind of proof of life for many families of the photographed conscripts, since they did not They had fluid communication with them and the letters between the mainland and the islands took several days to arrive or never reached their destination.
“Thanks to that photo, my family and that of my colleagues knew that we were alive. I am looking at the newspaper and I did not give importance to the photographer, but my colleagues did notice and shouted excitedly”the war veteran Pérez recalls today in dialogue with Télam from his home in the Buenos Aires town of Merlo.
A member of the Mercedes Artillery Regiment Unit, Pérez recalled the context in which the photograph was taken: “We were there, next to the airport, awaiting the arrival of Galtieri, who came with various personalities and some journalists. They are the carried by newspapers and magazines”.
“I started reading Chronicle because it reminded me of my old man. Throughout my childhood my father worked from 6 in the morning until 10 at night and bought that newspaper,” he recalled excitedly.
And continued: “When I picked up Chronicle, I started reading the Sports section because the newspaper couldn’t tell me what I was already experiencing and what it said on the cover – ‘Enough, pirates: if they attack us, they go to the canvas!’ – nor I saw it”.
Moved by all the memories, Pérez reflected on the media and the coverage of the war: “It seems to me that the media played an important role, what happens is that there was a de facto government and in a war in dictatorship the first victim is the truth“, he remarked.
Like the testimony of the Télam photographers, he agreed that “the Armed Forces controlled everything and said what photo and what note could be published.”
And he added: “Look if we had had cell phones in the Malvinas. It would have served to demonstrate the conditions in which we were fighting and it would have served to lift our spirits because it is not the same to be without knowing anything about your family.”
With a broken voice, the ex-combatant pointed out that some of the comrades who are in that photo have already died. “The one next to me, Roberto Rizini, passed away from Covid,” he said.
In different interviews, the photographer Farré recalled that the soldiers took their rolls of photos: “They only let us pass what they thought was useful to them. They let us go only to the places they wanted. I took many photos, but they took them away from me. Later I found out that the photos were taken care of and then the originals were sold“.
Photographers of that time remember that “there was a phenomenal avidity for images” by the international press and “the Sheraton Hotel was full of foreign correspondents” who came to “pay anything for some photos.”