by MATTHEW GAULT
Zamba is a mischievous scamp on the state-run Argentine TV channel Paka Paka. Kids watch as he moves through time learning about music, art and Argentine history.
He’s met Simón Bolivar, studied Latin American paintings … and witnessed the Falklands War. The Amazing Adventure of Zamba in the Malvinas is an Argentine children’s propaganda cartoon about the 1982 conflict.
The 2012 cartoon’s portrayal of the war and the historical figures involved point to a country still upset over a bitter defeat more than 30 years ago. The conflict ended with a British victory, toppled a dictatorship and devastated Argentina’s military.
Naturally, the TV show’s title uses the Argentine name for the islands.
Zamba—who resembles a dead-eyed Dora the Explorer—begins his adventure in a science museum. He’s on a field trip with his class. They see dinosaur bones, a robot and a jet fighter left over from the war.
Intrigued by the jet, Zamba hops in the cockpit and flies into the past. He breaks through time and space and lands in 1982. Argentina has just invaded the Falklands. Zamba’s in the back seat of the jet. Up front is Chispa, a brave pilot.
Chispa—not surprised by the time-traveling child—explains the history of the disputed islands in song. The musical number depicts a history of British colonial aggression in Latin America.
Zamba asks questions. He doesn’t think the British have been fair. Why do they still want the Falklands if the islands belong to Argentina?
“Some people think they own the world,” Chispa replies.
Then the Royal Air Force shows up. Faceless pilots cackle behind masks and fire missiles. Chispa ejects Zamba from the fighter to save his life.
Zamba bounces off some sheep and lands on the islands. A Falklands kid speaking with a badly-done British accent says hello and welcomes Zamba to the British Empire. Zamba insists the islands are Argentine. The two argue until the Falklands boy breaks down and cries.
A cackling British commando appears and plants a flag to settle the dispute. Zamba plants Argentine flags, and the British soldier freaks out and replaces them. He readies a grenade to end the argument … and Zamba.
An Argentine soldier appears and snatches the grenade out of the air. He hurls it back at the commando, and the two play catch with the explosive before they’re both interrupted by Argentine military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri.
He tells the British he’s not afraid of them, then declares war. Another musical number follows, wherein an evil Galtieri and Margaret Thatcher churn out soldiers on a conveyor belt.
Both Thatcher and Galtieri sport clawed hands and wicked smiles. Galtieri’s hat has a bottle with an X on it, instead of a normal military insignia. The implication is he’s a drunk and a warmonger.
The song—and much of the video—is sympathetic to the soldiers on both sides. The Argentinian soldiers don’t want to be there. They’re cold and tired and ill-equipped. “Who schedules an invasion in April?” the song asks.
The British soldiers seem confused and lost. They have no desire to fight their leaders’ imperialist war, the song claims.
Zamba’s soldier buddy explains the initial phases of the two-month war in broad terms. In the beginning, Argentina’s soldiers quickly capture the islands.
But the counterattacking Brits have superior technology—including experimental night-vision goggles—and are better equipped for the cold weather. At the Battle of Mount Longdon, the British pin down the Argentine troops.
Zamba watches as British commandos kill all of Buenos Aires’ soldiers. The Argentines seem outmatched, but one does punch a Gurkha.
In reality, none of Britain’s elite Nepalese Gurkhas were present at the Battle of Mount Longdon, but an Argentine soldier punching one into the sky is a pretty bad-ass visual, all the same.
After the Gurkha falls, the British commandos storm the hill and finish off the resistance. Just as it seems the British will kill Zamba, Chispa reappears in his jet. He rescues the kid, humiliates a commando and flies back to Argentina.
The British reclaim the Falklands. Zamba is sad. Chispa explains that the islands will always belong to Argentina, even if the British don’t believe it.
The cartoon is overtly nationalistic, but there’s also a sense of resignation about it. It accepts the folly of the Guerra de las Malvinas while wishing to retake the Falklands.
Buenos Aires renewed its claim to the islands in 2006. In 2013, the territory’s residents voted to stay a part of the United Kingdom. The program ends with a call to unite the islands with Argentina by peaceful means.
What’s left unsaid is that Buenos Aires doesn’t have much of a choice. At the outbreak of the Falklands War, Argentina had one of the strongest air forces in Latin America. Britain destroyed a third of it. Buenos Aires’ military still hasn’t recovered from the conflict.
The Amazing Adventure of Zamba in the Malvinas is sad and funny. It memorializes the sacrifices of soldiers who didn’t want to fight, and a country that lost a war, territory and a dictator. Democratic forces removed Galtieri after the failed invasion.
But a whole new generation of Argentine children will grow up with dreams of unification. And that’s the point.