Do you know what happened during the Falkland War? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Though the war occurred in 1982, it was so brief and so remote that some not involved in the conflict have forgotten it happened at all. But not the people whose lives were affected and not metalsmith Juan Carlos Pallarols. As the Associated Press reports, the Argentinian craftsman is commemorating the war by turning its left-behind weapons into roses for families of those who died.
Pallarols, a pacifist, melts down everything from ammunition to aircraft in his studio for his “Two Roses for Peace” project. He tells Byrne that his goal is to “transform the material of war into objects of art and peace.” He is doing so with a project that brings together both British and Argentine veterans and families of those who died during the war.
The Falkland War lasted just 74 days and started when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands and then the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as well. Argentina claimed that the islands were Argentine territory. The UK disagreed: It had claimed ownership of the islands since 1765, when a British naval officer named John Byron dropped anchor on one of the South Atlantic islands and declared it a possession of the British king.
There was just one problem: Spain had claimed it, too. At first, it didn't seem to matter much; the island didn’t have any permanent residents. But in the 19th century, former Spanish colonies that would eventually become Argentina laid claim to the territory. Great Britain and Argentina tussled over the islands until the UK established a permanent colony there in the 1840s.
A long period of peace followed, but tensions over the islands’ ownership continued to brew. Then in 1982, Argentina’s military junta decided to invade the islands in a bid to distract citizens from the economic crisis that gripped the country. The UK fought back. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, herself facing a PR crisis due to her dwindling popularity within the UK, gambled on the conflict and won.
Three Falkland Islanders, 655 Argentinians and 255 British people lost their lives during the ten-week war that followed. Today the country remains linked to the UK, as a self-governing British overseas territory.
“Two Roses for Peace” was designed as a tribute to the people who lost their lives during that war. In a bid to unite both sides, Pallarols gives a handmade rose made out of repurposed weapons to the families of soldiers on both sides of the war. They in turn take the roses to one another and sign a book together.
As Byrne writes, some of the roses will be placed in cemeteries in both Argentina and the UK. Last year, both countries signed a deal to identify the bodies of 123 Argentine soldiers whose remains are still in a cemetery on the Falkland Islands via DNA. But just this week, the BBC reported that the cemetery in question was vandalized. It appears that the “Two Roses for Peace” project—one whose goal is characterized as a “universal call for peace”—is an exercise that won't lose its relevance anytime soon.