Wednesday, March 12

Swords into Ploughshares

Pulled back from the brink of catastrophe Argentina and Chile were able to successfully negotiate a peaceful settlement of the border war in the Tierra del Fuego region, high in the Andes. Brokered by President Theodore Roosevelt and King Edward VII of England, the peace averted certain armed conflict which would likely have plunged much of South America into an intractable war.

To commemorate the event Monsignor Carmel Benavente, the Bishop of San Juan, suggested the erection of a statue--as a way to remind the people in both countries of Christ's words, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Tourists traveling the Pan American highway can see the result today: a 26 foot tall bronze Christ holding out his right hand in blessing over the disputant nations. His left hand clings to a cross. Under his feet is the Western hemisphere. Located 13,000 feet up in Uspallata Pass, Mount Aconcagua forms its backdrop, lofting 13,000 feet higher. This is the highest readily accessible point on the boundary between the two nations.

Sculptor Mateo Alonso modeled the work. Señora Angela Cézar de Costa raised the financing. Old cannons were melted down to make the casting. The statue was dedicated on this day in 1904 as the “Christ of the Andes.” A plaque at its base asserts, “He is our peace who hath made us one.”

Such monuments are rare in this tumultuous globe, where ploughshares are more often beaten into swords than swords into ploughshares.