20 Years, Part 2; Document

'The revenge of Mater' - oil on canvas, 122 x 78 cm 2007

In 2005, I was finishing studies with the idea to go into teaching - perhaps more a means to an end than any great desire to choose that profession, with two small children now to support. Both had been born in Buenos Aires, the first under a cloud of controversy following issues relating to the status of Maria; she had left the Falklands when eight months pregnant, following our being informed of having to pay hospital bills and the risk of emergency care as well the impossibility of registering the baby when born. The Governor at the time gave us permission to leave the islands with no papers for the baby, a strange situation that was allowed to develop. In the end we took the decision to not have Jack born there. This was reported by the Observer newspaper, in an article titled Love in a Cold Climate, which angered several Falkland's officials for their being seen as discriminatory. My father was quoted as saying we had been made an example of; people fall in love after war's, he was quoted. My first son, by now fourteen, had also spent some of his years living in Australia, before returning to the islands with his mother, my first wife during my London years. Whilst in Sydney, Australia, I also began studying philosophy, with free studios to go to and the freedom to pursue changes my work began to move away from the imagery of war and sparse landscapes.

My father and Michael, joking and exchanging berets, 2006.
 In the summer of early 2006 whilst returning to the Falklands for some weeks I was asked to feature in Umberto Nigri's La Mano di Dio', an Italian production released in Milan, 2006. The theme of the documentary was a returning conscripts story - Miguel Savage, who I had become friends with back in Buenos Aires, and my father's story as well the many suicides from both sides. I received a copy of the feature back in Australia that September. In the same week my father called, to tell me he had three months to live. He died in Stanley in December, 2006, with one of my sisters and myself present.

In 2010, Maria and I had separated. Returning to the islands had been difficult, following the death of my father. Trying to mend things once broken seemed impossible to fix as we left again for Buenos Aires. After some six months living alone in my studio I returned to the Falklands, and the reality of never living with or near my two youngest sons. It felt like the war had claimed a few more victims in a sense. I had never gotten over the conflict; the family history I had and the bad taste from a war being started in my home by a country and its people more concerned about their claim than what damage it done to those innocently living there - all added to the impossibility of making peace with myself and others in the home of my two youngest children. I had always felt there was something I had to defend; my home and my father's reputation, I supposed. I needed to do something violent to change that, which would enable me to perhaps even fix my family. I asked Michael that I was going to settle in Argentina and I would need papers. I refused to to think the same thing would happen to me, that I would abandon someone who I loved more than anything else. My mother had never taken the risk to try and see her partner again, who had been expelled following the conflict. Both my parents were now dead, my mother dying two years after my father. But whose life was I living - mine or my parents? There are moments in life when you don't seem to have any other option but to jump.

Falklands hero’s son becomes Argentine

'A Falkland Islander whose father helped British forces fight Argentina during the 1982 war has given up his British passport for an Argentine national identity card in the first case of its kind.'

   From the Telegraph, June 15th 2011.

   A blatant lie, by the UK's Telegraph. I never gave up my British passport.

Tiempo Argentino 15 de Junio de 2011 

'Aunque su padre peleó junto al ejército inglés durante la guerra de 1982, Peck siempre consideró que el territorio malvinense es argentino y por esta razón sufrió la reprobación de otros malvinenses. 

 From Argentine newspaper Tiempo; 'Though his father fought together with the English, during the war of 1982, Peck has always considered that the island territory is Argentine; for this reason he suffers the re-probation of the other islanders.'

Who Tiempo spoke with I can only guess. I assume it was someone from the Argentine Interior Ministry. I have never stated anywhere that I believe the islands should be Argentine. Never. Because deep down I don't feel it. If the islands belong to anyone it is to the generations of families that have lived there, for one and a half centuries, when most wouldn't last for five minutes. I dodged answering the question for years.

'Falkland islander who took Argentine citizenship ‘seeks peace’'
"When James Peck became the first Falkland Islander to accept Argentine citizenship last week, he had no idea of the political storm he was about to create. In recent days he has been hailed an Argentine national hero, received death threats from enraged fellow islanders and found himself at the centre of a bitter dispute between two governments. “I imagined something, but it’s been like I killed somebody,” he told The Times from his home in Buenos Aires. “The whole thing has been mad.”
 From the UK Times, June 20th, 2011, the only interview I gave in English.
Examples of dozens of articles which appeared around the world. The problem had been the date.

When I asked Michael, to inquire about citizenship, where his questions were aimed was not my priority to know. In Michael's book he says he turned to CECIM, an ex-combatants organisation in La Plata, with very close links to the Kirchner government. Close links is probably an understatement; the organisation split into two during the final years of the Kirchner government, as many members felt it had become so politicized it was unrecognizable from its early days of helping former conscripts. It had become an integral part of the Kirchner propaganda tool; it was not just about 'old friends meeting for a barbecue on a Tuesday' anymore it seemed.       

I arrived in Buenos Aires from Stanley in February, 2011. I had been in a meeting previously where Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo had appeared, plus photographer; at that point I had said stop, my wish to return home. Months later I was back again, convincing myself that to take the risk in moving to Argentina would be one I could manage. During conversations, which included a prominent CECIM member, there were hints of helping find work if they could 'just do a little bit of publicity'; we don't get this happening very often, I was told. Well, no I imagine not, I thought. I knew I was surrounded by sharks; what I didn't count on was how those who appeared to be friends thought it was all right to do things this way. I was acting blindly; I had a reason. 

Argentine entry paper, when travelling
 with UK passport if born in the Falklands. My passport
was seldom stamped, leading often to problems
with Police and Immigration in other countries

Three months later, still sleeping on a friends couch and no word of a document or help with work and unable to have my children stay with me I wrote to the Ministry and said I was going home; all had been a lie and - just like I would start to feel with many other things simply promises filled with deception. Their answer was quick. They now had a date, they said. It would be in two weeks. On June the 14th.

I laughed. You must be joking, I said.  

No, came the answer. They were very serious.

My sister cried, she told me; apparently it was my face that done it. Michael wrote that we both went proudly together. No, I wasn't proud of being there. I was there because I wanted to smash all of the thirty years of war feelings and move on, find work, fix my family, and do what my parents themselves had never done; stay together by anyway possible. I smiled, and looked happy. Inside I was ripped apart. But, in such a sense, by doing it I also felt that I could somehow welcome the Argentine society into my life, as twisted and corrupt as that thought seems today to be. 

Michael and I had stopped at a cafe on the morning of the 14th. I had called him some days before, to tell him I was not going and that I had changed my mind. What if the war had not ended on that day, I asked him - would he have survived? My father? Others? It felt immoral to get the document on that day. Today the immoral part lies with those who orchestrated it. Michael instead had offered to come with me. 


Someone had called as we sat at the table. 

I still did not know exactly how and where the document would be presented. 

James? Yes, he's here, he said. He's still with me. Ah...okay, said Michael, hanging up.

It's in public, he said. 

Their 'little bit of publicity' as they called it was about to happen.