History

Imagine if streets in the United States were named after important dates in history.

For example, there would be a July 4th, 1776 Street. An April 9th, 1865 Avenue. And a September 17th, 1787 Boulevard.

There would also be streets named for famous people–like George Washington or Martin Luther King famous. But that’s not so unusual.

Now imagine that every city in the U.S. had streets with these names. That’s what Argentina is like.

It’s as though someone decided by convention that there were a set number of street names to choose from. Every city has a San Martin, a Corrientes, a Buenos Aires. There are many streets named after dates. The most common by far are 25 de Mayo and 9 de Julio–Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires has 18 lanes of traffic, and is one of the widest streets in the world.

July 9 is relevant to where I am right now. It signifies the date in 1816 that Argentina declared independence from Spain.

(Is there something about early July that makes people want to get out from under European rule?)

The Independence of Argentina was declared by the Congress of Tucumán. That was 200 years ago. Being the bicentennial anniversary of Argentine independence, I thought a stop in Tucumán was appropriate.

Downtown, I found maps pointing me toward the oldest and most historic buildings in town. I walked past the Casa Histórica de la Independencia, which is where the declaration was signed. It’s not the original house, though–it’s been rebuilt. I don’t know if that diminishes anything, but I chose not to go in.

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How much can an identity be defined by the past? Tucumán is right to celebrate its history. History, though, isn’t a guarantee of anything.

It would be easy for me to rest on my laurels. After all, past success is the best indicator of future success, right?

Except I don’t think that’s quite right. Present performance is what counts.

“What have you done for me lately?” is usually said in a joking way, to make fun of those who criticize someone for a short period of poor performance following an extended run of success. We are expected to forgive bad luck.

Luck is beyond my control. I have to accept the bounces, good and bad. But I like the way Will Gadd approaches bad luck by turning a common expression on its head: “Well, what can you do?” I can always do something, even if it simply controlling my emotions. Non-action can be a form of action. But inaction is a death sentence.

Respect the past, but live in the present.

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