Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Boina Blanca and Leandro Nicéforo Alem

Leandro Nicéforo Alem (11 March 1841 – 1 July 1896) was an Argentinean politician and the founder and leader of the Radical Civic Union. After returning from the war against Paraguay in 1868, he joined Adolfo Alsina's Autonomist Party, showing a skill for incisive rhetoric in public debates and strong anti-authoritarian and democratic ideas. In 1877 Alem, together with his friend Aristóbulo del Valle founded the Republican Party, organized the Youth Civic Union (later the Radical Civic Union) and in July 1890 Alem was one of the leaders of the revolution that forced Juárez Celman to resign.  After a failed uprising in 1893, Alem saw many of his supporters leave him. Feeling disappointed and betrayed, he committed suicide on 1 July 1896, shooting himself in his right temple.

His trade mark white beret became a symbol for the Radicals and centre-left parties in Argentina. 

Homero Manzi paid tribute to Alem in his tango "Milonga del 900", a number of towns and cities in Argentina are named after Alem and, with his Boina Blanca, or white beret, he became a bit of a cult icon avant la lettre, with his picture on various consumer items. The razor blades shown here are from Germany, the US, Argentina and Switserland. 

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