Ireland’s patron saint in the virtual nation of the internet:
Identity debates and resistance
now examine the idea that St. Patrick’s Day appears as a key
element for the debate about the redefinition of traditions in
the urban context, within the virtual community that is the
internet. For this reason we consider relevant the reflection
of social identities starting from the recent massive updates
and circulation of this celebration commented on in some
webfora. We particularly refer to the high levels of
attendance of this celebration in recent years; St. Patrick’s
Day is seen by those attending as an element of the group
identification of the Irish community, which does not
invalidate the attendance of people outside that community,
consuming large quantities of beer, as we noted in reference
to the street parties. Attendance extends to young people,
whether employees or not in the downtown area, who have access
to virtual communication on the internet. We highlight that
the commentaries which arise in some web fora refer, 
one hand, to the need to define a contrastive identity in
comparison with the immigrant festivities, and on the other,
to the devaluing of those who adopt customs promoted in
advertising and the media.  In this manner, in different
messages they try to establish and mark the boundaries of the
‘traditional’ performance of each group in the face of the
complex need to institute a differential and contrastive
identity highlighting the effects of recent media promotions
on social conduct.
some virtual commentaries, through different critical
references, the implied relationship of the overestimation of
‘foreign’ practices which entails the devaluation of the
festivities of the local public, is mentioned. At the same
time as, while still recognising the plurality of the
communities who settled in the country, and the inter-ethnic
relationships of their descendants, the search for a singular
identity which distinguishes itself from other cultural units
and expresses itself in social rituals continues. Moreover,
the existence of a presumption regarding traditions is
inferred from the commentaries on the web, given that they are
seen as a set of successive and identical phenomena which
should be celebrated for their perpetuation and continuity,
and whose beginning dates back to an ‘original’ instance with
mythical resonance. Thus, the ruptures, discontinuities and
redefinitions of the elements of the past given in the
present, as key aspects of the ‘traditional’ performances, are
not taken into account.  In this way, ‘importing festivities’,
as is debated on internet fora, corresponds to a re-traditionalisation,
where the meanings assigned to the feast day have been
selected from the past by advertising agencies, and adopted by
the participants. Also, the axiological qualification which
alludes to ‘being mediocre’ in this communicative context is
significant. This can be understood as a means of devaluation
in the face of the over-valuation of what is Saxon, which is
related to an economic and cultural subordination exteriorised
as much in the approval of ‘foreign’ customs linked to the
English code, as in the participation in ‘traditions’ imposed
by advertising and the media.  Finally we wish to highlight the
singular absence of references to the festivities in Buenos
Aires on the ‘official’ web-page designated for the
celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, despite the fact
that this celebration has been held on a grand scale for at
least the last four years.  Therefore we can infer that the
Buenos Aires celebration is still not ‘visible’ for the Irish
community, which is paradoxical as, in Buenos Aires, people
believe they are recreating the ‘legitimately’ Irish feast
possible effects of a discursive transference
reflection, we underline the possible divergence in some
registers presented in 2006 in relation to the previous year.
In effect, we have noted a discursive distancing as much in
the media circulation and in the comments on some web fora, as
in the sphere of the Celtic festival previously examined. In
2006 we observed that in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s
Day, there was little mention of this celebration in the
media, and also a reduction in the advertising references to
beer aimed at associating Irish identity with that product,
targeted at the overwhelming majority of non-Irish people
attending. Moreover, we have noted the repeated mention in
publications after the event of the effectiveness of
institutional regulations on those attending the celebration,
through the closure of some businesses and a greater police
divergence we refer to particularly takes into account the
information on the front page of the capital’s newspapers in
2005,  in which the image of bottles and rubbish after the
party was notable: this news story is later expanded upon
inside the publications. Yet one year later, the celebration
is only referred to inside the newspaper Clarín.
Although the high levels of attendance of the festival in the
downtown area were highlighted, it was also repeatedly pointed
out that ‘this is the first time that the sale of alcohol in
the streets was not permitted’. Similarly, the mention of a
greater institutional presence at the event was disseminated
in the online version of Clarín on the day before the
party. Here it was indicated that the public area would be
cordoned off to clearly outline the contrast that Parente
pointed out regarding the rapid changing of boundaries in the
event a year previously. Also, in some web fora the
communications only make reference to getting together to
‘celebrate St. Patrick’s’ without debating the participation
of people outside the migrant community in the celebrations.
We think it possible that these differences may, in part, be
linked to some of the comments made by members of that
community about this issue. The majority expressed their
disapproval of the copious consumption of alcohol in the
streets caused by this celebration, as this facilitated a
unidirectional association of the saint with beer. In this
way, the identification significance that the saint has for
this endo-group, linked to his sainthood, is excluded.
therefore suggest, as possible lines of inquiry for further
research, on the one hand, the effective intervention which
some members of this group may have in certain social
institutions. This incidence may be aimed at mitigating the
image perceived as negative, noting the unfavourable light in
which their migrant community has been represented to the rest
of society. Similarly, it reflects the role of the
institutional mechanisms triggered by the demands of the
residents of the area, as a consequence of the disturbances
caused the previous year. It is therefore possible that
protests by certain social groups offer a better opportunity
for an effective and evident state presence.
St. Patrick's Day Parade,
(Embassy of Ireland in Buenos Aires)
presented here a non-exhaustive account of the convergence and
dispersal of the figure of St. Patrick and his value as an
emblem of group identification. We began with his function as
enxemplo, as spiritual edification, present in the
different versions which refer to his life and legend. We
continued by pointing out the redefinition of Irish traditions
in the Canadian and Mexican context, as a migrant group
expresses its contrasting and different identities in its
social interactions, emphasising folk-tradition performance
in parades and street parties. We also considered the
importance of the religious element as an aspect of group
cohesion within the Irish community, and the symbolic function
of identification which the liturgical celebration of St.
Patrick in rural and urban contexts produces, and which
enables the construction of an exo-group based on excesses and
the excessive consumption of alcohol. In this sense, we noted
the reversion of the emblem of the saint for that of beer,
from advertising (‘the young saint of parties and beer’, ‘the
sinner saint’, ‘the Irish saint’) to the party on the streets
of downtown Buenos Aires, in which beer was linked to the
plural convergence of identities and memories. Finally we
examined the debate surrounding the validity of this festival
in the city, which appeared on internet fora, in relation to
the problem of identity construction.
In view of
what has been put forward here, it can be considered that the
celebration of St. Patrick’s Day constitutes the emblem of
cultural identification of a specific migrant group which is
shown in the celebration, understood as a performance.
As with all emblems of identity, this celebration presents
elements of rupture and continuity, which favour the adhesion
of other participants from outside the Irish community, who
transitorily appropriate this differential identity, in the
invention of tradition and redefinition of St. Patrick’s Day
in the city of Buenos Aires.
Ultimately, we noted the effect of a media discourse related
to the problem of safety, which gives rise to the appearance
of a ‘rhetoric of control’, and produced modifications in the
way it is celebrated, especially those related to the street
parties and with the consumption of alcohol associated with
the emblematic figure of the saint. Such transformations, in
the light of the processes of redefinition of practices and
discourses we documented in dealing with the celebrations in
2005 and 2006, demonstrate the impact of context and its fluid
relationship as much with the processes of physical
appropriation of public space as with the symbolic
appropriation of ethnic and religious emblems of identity
Palleiro, Patricio Parente and Flora Delfino Kraft
University of Buenos Aires, Department of Anthropology
(2004) for an analysis of the concepts of performance and (re)traditionalisation
within the framework of new perspectives on Folklore.
As has been
comprehensively argued by Artal (2004), it could be asked to
what extent these practices are transgressive and question
social hierarchies, or whether in fact they justify the
esta forma, cabe preguntarse hasta qué punto estas prácticas
son transgresoras y cuestionadoras de las jerarquías sociales
o más bien legitimadoras del statu
quo, como muy bien discute Artal (2004).
Kraft & Tella (2005) for a study of the discursive
construction of insecurity in advertising discourse from an
Although it is
not the objective of this article, we refer to the social
impact of economic policies established in the 1990s. One of
the significant characteristics was the parity between the
Argentine Peso and the US Dollar, formulaically designated as
the 'one to one' (uno a uno), typical of Buenos Aires
For reasons of
spatial constraints, in this article we limit ourselves to
highlighting some statements from the web forum http://www.pcmasmas.com.ar,
which was consulted in 2005.
One of the
user statements demonstrates the complexity of the debate
around identity and the legitimacy to participate in various
celebrations: 'What bothers me is that, instead of continuing
the traditions of our ancestors: [that is,] if you are a
Catholic from a Catholic immigrant family, celebrate Christmas
or the Virgin's Day, if are a descendant of Mapuche people,
celebrate the Nguillantún, and so on. So why do some people
celebrate St. Patrick's Day or Hallowe’en??? Because they are
common, that's why. Because they ape people on TV, people in
the First World, particularly Yankees, right? (‘Lo que me
molesta es que, en vez de continuar con las tradiciones de
nuestros antecesores: si sos católico de familia inmigrante
católica festejá Navidad o el día de al Virgen, si sos
descendiente de mapuches festejá el Nguillantún, etc. Pero
porqué algunos festejan San Patricio o Halloween??? Porque son
de cuarta, por eso. Porque imitan a los de la tele, a los del
primer mundo, en particular a los yanquies, Ta?’).
experiencing tradition, the origin of cultural practices is
irrelevant. Its authenticity is always defined within the
context in which it takes place. According to Handler and
Linnekin (1984), what is meant by 'tradition' is not its
historical meaning or its essence, but rather it corresponds
to a symbolic and arbitrary designation of the meaning
assigned from the present.
In this way,
the cognitive representation of English as a universal
language may be understood as a consequence of the current
political hegemonic position of the United States (Nobía
this website, the various parts of the world where festivals
also take place are mentioned. such as Russia, Belgium,
Canada, Italy, New Zealand, the Caribbean, London, etc., but
not a single country in Africa, the Middle East or South
America is mentioned.
In an article
in the newspaper Clarín entitled: 'San Patricio: sin
incidentes pero con varias clausuras' (19 March 2006), it is
emphasised that the ban on selling alcohol on the street was
intended to prevent incidents. Therefore, 'by order of the
municipal attorneys […] a truck with over a thousand cans, and
three other vans carrying alcoholic beverages, were
confiscated.' The article also informs that five pubs for
selling alcohol outside of their premises, for exceeding their
capacity, or for allowing public dances without permission.
This refers to
the Clarín newspaper of Saturday, 19 March 2005; a year
later, the information about this celebration was included on
page 64 of Clarín, in the section 'La Ciudad' (18 March
Artal, Susana, 'Francois Rabelais y Mijail Bajtín. Entre el
humanismo y el carnava' in María Inés Palleiro (ed.) Arte,
comunicación y tradición (Buenos Aires: Dunken, 2004).
Assman, Jan, La memoria culturale (Torino: Einaudi, 1997).
Bajtin, Mijail, La cultura popular en
la Edad Media y en el Renacimiento: El contexto de Francois Rabelais
Baños Vallejo, Fernando, La
hagiografía como género literario en la Edad Media (Universidad
de Oviedo: Departamento de Filología Española, 1989).
Barthes, Roland 'El efecto de realidad' in Lo
verosímil (Buenos Aires: Tiempo Contemporáneo, 1970),
Bauman, Richard, 'Differential identity and the social base of Folklore'
in Américo Paredes and Richard Bauman (eds.), Toward
new perspectives in Folklore
(Austin and London: the University of Texas Press, 1974), pp.
Bauman, Richard, 'Verbal art as performance' in American
) 77:2 (June 1975), pp. 290-311.
Bauman, Richard, 'Performance and honour in 13th. Century
' in Journal of American
) 99:392 (April-June
1986), pp. 131-150.
- Birge Vitz, Evelyn 'Vie,
légende, littérature. Traditions orales et écrites dans les
histoires des saints' in Poétique 72 (November 1987), pp. 387-402.
Canale, Analía, 'El retorno del carnaval en la producción
cultural porteña: murgas, políticas culturales y los
festejos de San Patricio' in
María Inés Palleiro (ed.)
Patricio en Buenos Aires: celebraciones y rituales en su
dimensión narrativa (Buenos Aires: Dunken, 2006), pp. 209-218.
newspaper (Buenos Aires), 19 March 2005, “San Patricio,
conflictivo”, pp. 1 y 51.
newspaper (Buenos Aires), 18 March 2006, “San Patricio
convocó a una multitud”, section “La ciudad”, p. 64.
newspaper (Buenos Aires), 19 March 2006, “San Patricio: sin
incidentes pero con algunas clausuras”, section “La
Ciudad” p. 62.
Dégh, Linda and Vazsonyi, Andrew,
'Legend and belief'
in Dan Ben-Amos (ed.), Folklore Genres
(Austin: University of Texas Press,
1976), pp. 93-123.
and Tella, Mercedes 'Internet y medios
publicitarios: espacios de inseguridad latente', Actas
de la VI Reunión de Antropología del Mercosur
(Montevideo: Ediciones de la Universidad de la República,
2005), CD Rom.
Derrida, Jacques, Mal de
Archivo. Una Impresión Freudiana (Madrid: Trotta, 1997).
Mircea, Mito y Realidad (Madrid: Guadarrama, 1968).
Fishman, Fernando, 'La competencia del Folklore para el
estudio de procesos sociales. Actuación y (re)
tradicionalización' in María Inés Palleiro (ed.),
Comunicación y Tradición (Buenos Aires: Dunken, 2004),
Fine, Gary, 'El proceso de la tradición. Modelos culturales
de cambio y contenido' in Comparative
Social Research 11 (Connecticut: Jai Press, 1989), pp. 236-277. (Translation
by Fishman F., Florio, R.).
Handler, Richard and Linnekin, Jocelyn, 'Tradition, Genuine or
Spurious' in Journal of
American Folklore (
) 97:385 (1984) pp. 237-290
Hobsbawnd, Eric and Ranger Terence (eds.) The invention of tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). Translation
by Jorge Eduardo Aceves Lozano.
Kaplún, Mario, 'Campañas educativas masivas de salud. Una
mirada crítica' in Sociedad, cultura y política
(Montevideo, Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación
de la Universidad de la República, 1997).
Keenig-Bricker, Woodenene, 365. Su guía diaria de meditación
con los santos (Madrid:
EDAF Editores, 1996).
- Le Goff,
Jacques, Lo maravilloso y lo cotidiano en el occidente medieval (Barcelona:
Martín, Alicia, Folclore en las grandes ciudades. Arte popular, identidad y cultura
(Buenos Aires: Libros del Zorzal, 2005).
Noblía, Valentina, 'Conversación
y comunidad: los chats en la comunidad virtual'
in Revista Iberoamericana de discurso y Sociedad (Barcelona)
2:1 (March 2000), pp. 77-92.
Palleiro, María Inés, 'La
dinámica de la variación en el relato oral tradicional
riojano. Procedimientos discursivos de construcción
referencial de la narrativa folklórica. Síntesis
de los planteos principales de la Tesis de Doctorado' in Formes textuelles et matériau discursif.
Rites, mythes et folklore, Sociocriticism IX,
(Montpellier) 2:18 (1993), pp. 177-182.
Palleiro, María Inés, Fue una historia real. Itinerarios de un archivo (Buenos Aires:
Ediciones del Instituto de
Filología y Literaturas Hispánicas de la
Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2004a).
Palleiro, María Inés (ed.) Arte,
comunicación y tradición (Buenos Aires: Dunken, 2004b).
Parente, Patricio, 'El festejo callejero como un carnaval' in
María Inés Palleiro (ed.)
Patricio en Buenos Aires: celebraciones y rituales en su
dimensión narrativa (
: Dunken, 2006), pp.
Schmitz, Nancy, Irish for a day. Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations in
1765-1990 (Québec: Carraig Books, 1991).
- Suleiman, Susan, 'Le récit exemplaire. Parabole, fable, roman á thése'
in Poétique 32 (November
1977), pp. 468-489.
- The Southern Cross, monthly publication
(Buenos Aires) March 2006, “Que la fiesta de San
Patricio vuelva a ser una Festividad Irlandesa”, p. 3.
- Welter, Jean-Thiebaud, L'
enxemplum dans la littérature religieuse et didactique du
Moyen Age (Paris-Tolouse: G. H. Guitard, 1927).
White, Hayden, Metahistory
(Baltimore & London: The John Hopkins University Press,