Panspermia in Pangea?

By Jheri St. James

The name Argentina derives from the Latin argentum (silver).  The first Spanish conquistadors called the River Plate the Río de la Plata (“River of Silver”).   The legend of Sierra del Plata—a mountain rich in silver—reached Spain around 1524.  The name Argentina was first used in Ruy Díaz de Guzmán’s 1612 book Historia del descubrimiento, puolacion, y conquista del Rio de la Plata (History of the discovery, population and conquest of the Río de la Plata), naming the territory Tierra Argentina (Land of Silver).

The Argentine Republic is a country in South America, situated between the Andes peaks in the west and the southern Atlantic Ocean in the east and south. It is bordered by Paraguay and Bolivia in the north, Brazil and Uruguay in the northeast and Chile in the west and south. It also claims the British overseas territories of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Under the name of Argentine Antarctica, it claims around 386,000 sq. miles of Antarctica, overlapping other claims by Chile and the United Kingdom. By area, it is the second largest country of South America after Brazil, and the eighth largest country in the world.

Europeans arrived in Argentina in 1502. Spain established a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580, and the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata in 1776. Independence from Spain was declared on July 9, 1816. Centralist and federationist groups were in conflict until national unity was established and the constitution written in 1853. From 1880 to 1930 Argentina became one of the ten wealthiest nations. Political change led to the presidency of Juan Peron in 1946, whose aims were to empower the working class and who greatly expanded the number of unionized workers. The Revolucion Libertadora of 1955 deposed him. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, military and civilian administrations traded power. When military governments failed to revive the economy and suppress escalating terrorism in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the way was open for Peron’s return to the presidency in 1973, with his third wife, Maria Estela Isabel Martinez de Peron, as Vice President. During this period, extremists on the left and right carried out terrorist acts with a frequency that threatened public order. Peron died in 1974. His wife succeeded him in office, but a military coup removed her from office in 1976. But the lives of Juan and Maria were overshadowed by the life and death of Juan Peron’s second wife, Eva Duarte Peron—Evita.

ArgentinaDuring her 1947 "Rainbow Tour" of Europe, Eva Perón became the only South American first lady in history to grace the cover of Time Magazine, a distinction she holds to this day. María Eva Duarte de Perón (commonly known by the affectionate diminutive Evita) (May 7, 1919 –July 26, 1952) was the second wife of Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón (1895–1974) and the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. Though she was never an officially elected political figure, as First Lady she came to exercise more power and influence within the government than anyone but her own husband. Among the poor and working class of Argentina, she wielded a charismatic influence that has few historical parallels outside of hereditary monarchy.

Evita presided over the creation of the Eva Perón Foundation, a charitable foundation that built thousands of homes and schools for women and the poor, and ensured that, for the first time in Argentine history, there was no inequality in health care among citizens. Evita also presided over the creation of the Female Peronist Party, which was the first truly powerful female political party in the nation.

In 1951, she launched a campaign to be allowed to run for the office of Vice-President of Argentina, which the nation's military, elite, and her own husband ultimately prevented. Had Evita been elected she would have become the world's first female vice-president. (This distinction eventually went to Juan Perón's third wife, Isabel Perón, who ironically attempted to model herself after Evita.) Instead, in 1952 Evita was given the official title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation".

Eva and Juan Perón with a crowd of supporters (note their portraits in the background).

At the moment of Evita's death at 8:25 p.m. on July 26, 1952, all activity in Argentina stopped. Movies stopped playing, restaurants were closed and patrons were shown to the door. Argentina went into immediate mourning. A radio broadcaster interrupted the broadcasting schedule, "It is my sad duty to inform you that at 8:25 p.m. Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation, entered immortality.”


The death of Evita was unquestionably the biggest event of the year, and the ornate lying in state and mass grief expressed by the people have come to be legendary images of Argentina. An estimated one million filed past Evita's coffin as it lay in state. She was eventually given an official burial, an honor usually reserved for formally elected government officials. Seventeen people were crushed to death in the throngs on the streets during the procession of Evita's coffin through the streets of Buenos Aires. Thousands more were taken to city hospitals and treated for injuries. Shortly after her death, a labor union would petition the Vatican to have Evita officially declared a saint.

Evita's body was embalmed by Dr. Pedro Ara. Shortly after her death, plans were made to construct a monument in Evita's honor, a statue of a man representing the "Descamisados", projected to be larger than the Statue of Liberty. Evita's body was to be stored in the base of the monument and, in the tradition of Lenin's corpse, to be displayed for the public. Before the monument to Evita was completed, Juan Perón was overthrown in a military coup, the Revolución Libertadora, in 1955. Perón had only enough time to collect a few belongings before he fled the country, not having time to secure Evita's body. In Perón's absence, a military dictatorship took power in Argentina. Fearful that Evita's body would become a symbol of Peronism and inspire the population to revolution, the military hid Evita's body. Thus began what, by many accounts, is perhaps the most bizarre ordeal of any corpse in history. In 1995, Tomas Eloy Martínez published "Santa Evita”, which detailed many previously unknown facts about the escapades of Evita's corpse, such as the fact that many wax copies were made of the corpse, as well as other violations of the corpse.

Shortly before her death, Evita said, "Volveré y seré milliones," which translates into, "I will return and I will be millions." Evita herself would perhaps be surprised by how prophetic her words turned out to be. By the late 20th century, Evita had been transformed into a popular culture icon that had transcended Argentine politics. She was made the subject of numerous articles, books, stage plays, and musicals, ranging from the gossipy biography by Mary Main called The Woman with the Whip, to the B-grade film "Little Mother", and a 1981 TV movie called "Evita Peron" with Faye Dunaway in the title role.

But none of the other renderings of Evita's life were nearly as successful as the musical Evita. The musical began as a concept album co-produced by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, with Julie Covington in the title role. Elaine Paige would later be cast in the title role when the concept album was adapted into a musical stage production on London's West End. But it was Patti LuPone's 1978 Tony Award-winning Broadway performance that ultimately fulfilled the historical Eva Perón's desire for immortality. To date, the stage production has been performed on every continent (except Antarctica) and has generated over $2 billion in revenue.

As early as 1978, the Broadway musical was considered as the basis for a movie, with everyone from Patti LuPone, to Liza Minnelli, to Michelle Pfeiffer, to Meryl Streep, being considered for the title role. After a nearly 20-year production delay, Madonna was cast in the title role for the film version of the musical. Madonna would later win the Golden Globe Award for "Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy."

In response to the movie starring Madonna, and in an alleged attempt to offer a more politically accurate depiction of Evita's life, an Argentine film company released "Eva Perón: The True Story" starring Argentine actress Esther Goris in the title role [19]. This movie was the 1996 Argentine submission for the Oscar in the category of "Best Foreign Film".
In a 1996 essay, English author Nicholas Fraser wrote that Evita was the perfect popular culture icon for our times. Fraser wrote that during her reign as First Lady of Argentina, Evita was often criticized by her detractors for turning national political life into show business. During Evita's time it was virtually unheard-of for a former actress to take part in political life. In our current age this is not the case. Former actors and entertainers, from Ronald Reagan, to Sonny Bono, to Arnold Schwarzenegger, have often taken public political offices. Fraser wrote that in this way Evita was ahead of her time and is therefore perhaps "the perfect minor deity" for our age of "electric celebrity".

"She was far from being a saint, despite the veneration of millions of Argentines, but she was not a villain either. Human beings are full of contradictions and labyrinthine complexities. Rarely do they resemble their portrayal in the musicals of Hollywood and Broadway." -- Tomas Eloy Martinez, author of "Santa Evita" and Director of the Latin American program at Rutgers University, in an online article for Time Magazine.


It won't be easy, you'll think it strange
When I try to explain how I feel
That I still need your love after all that I've done
You won't believe me
All you will see is a girl you once knew
Although she's dressed up to the nines
At sixes and sevens with you
I had to let it happen, I had to change
Couldn't stay all my life down at heel
Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun
So I chose freedom
Running around, trying everything new
But nothing impressed me at all
I never expected it to

Don't cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don't keep your distance

And as for fortune, and as for fame
I never invited them in
Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired
They are illusions
They are not the solutions they promised to be
The answer was here all the time
I love you and hope you love me
Have I said too much?
There's nothing more I can think of to say to you.
But all you have to do is look at me to know
That every word is true


Evita is not the only person who inspires Agentinians.  It has become increasingly common for people to direct their prayers as well to the spirit of a 19th century "gaucho." Little is known about Antonio Gil, except that the cowboy was an outlaw who was probably executed by provincial authorities. But where history leaves off, religious devotion has taken over.  Legend has it that Gaucho Gil was a good-hearted outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Before his hanging, Gil is said to have pledged to become a miracle worker. Now more than 100,000 people come to visit a shrine at the spot of his death, where they leave offerings and seek miracles of their own -- from help passing a grade in school to cures for illnesses.  There's no historical record of Gaucho Gil, but that doesn't stop these Argentines from entrusting him with their most fervent hopes and fears.

Candles lit at Gaucho Gil’s Shrine

A Guacho at His Evening Fire

The gaucho stands as one of the best-known cultural symbols of Argentina. This rough, tough, free-riding horseman of the pampa, a proud cousin of the North American cowboy is maintained in Argentine culture as the perfect embodiment of argentinidad, the very essence of the national character. He has been elevated to the level of myth, celebrated in both song and prose, and well endowed with the virtues of strength, bravery and honor.

Gaucho life had its beginning on the Pampa, the vast grasslands of the east-central Southern cone some time in the 18th century. As to the origin of the name gaucho, there are many theories which trace the word to everything from Arabic and Basque, to French and Portuguese. The most likely answer, however, is that the word has joint roots in the native Indian dialects of Que-chua and Mapuche, a derivation of their word for orphan (Huacho). It is not hard to imagine how a word meaning orphan evolved into a term for these solitary figures, as they were neither loved nor ruled by anyone. The first gauchos were mostly mestizos, of mixed Spanish and native American stock.

Argentina Cattle and horses that had escaped from early Spanish settlements in the 16th century had, over the centuries, proliferated into enormous free-roaming herds, and it was this wild, unclaimed abundance that was the basis for the development of the gaucho subculture. The horses were caught and tamed, and then used to capture the cattle. Beef at that time did not have any great commercial value; there was more meat than the tiny population of Argentina could consume, and methods to export it had not yet been developed. This surplus led to waste on a grand scale; any excess meat was simply thrown away.





Argentina has another object of interest and study: continental drift. Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist, in a 1915 book On the Origin of Continents and Oceans, proposed that at one time all continents were joined into one huge super-continent which he named Pangaea (Greek for “all the land”), and that at a later date the continents split apart, moving slowly to their present positions on the globe. During the Jurassic era, Pangaea separated into two parts--Gondwanaland and Laurasia. In matching coastlines he found that by including the continental shelves the fit was very accurate, and large blocks of ancient rock called cratons, the oldest core of a continental land mass, formed a contiguous pattern across the boundary of South America and Africa. He also looked at other geologic formations and saw patterns such as the presence of ancient mountains in South Africa, which align with the mountains near Buenos Aires in Argentina when the two continents are “fitted” along coastlines. One of the earliest fossil forms to be used as a clue to continental drift was the plant Glossoptera. It was a rather cold-hardy species with a substantially large seed. Because of the seed’s size it is unlikely that the extremely wide distribution could be easily attained by wind or water dispersal. Members of this genera have been found in South America, Africa, Madagascar, India, Antarctica, and Australia; all the continents of Gondwanaland.

Oblique color satellite photograph of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Chile and Argentina. Photograph acquired on 10 March 1978 by Russian cosmonauts G.M. Grechko and Yu.V. Romanenko, courtesy of Vladimir M. Kotlyakov. This is 1 of 40 photographs taken from the Salyut-6 orbital space station of the ice fields, outlet glaciers, and other glaciers in South America that were analyzed in a paper by Desinov and others (1980); see also Williams (1986-87).

While in Europe and North America Wegener’s ideas were being attacked, in the southern hemisphere some of his staunchest supporters were collecting data to support the theory of continental drift. One, a South African named Alexander duToit traveled to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina where he found remarkable similarities in fossils and strata to his native land. He also studied the Karroo sequence, expanding on earlier work to show the parallel development of South America, Africa, Antarctica, and India. In the early Permian layers of both South America and South Africa were found the fossil remains of a freshwater reptile called Mesosaurus, and bands of coal were found extending through each of the southern continents which contained fossil remains of a plant group Glossopteris. Du-Toit also mapped glacial sediments and striations, Argentinawhich pointed to a very different orientation of the southern hemisphere in its geologic past. The presence of ancient mountain remnants running through Australia, Antarctica, South Africa, and South America were also used to reinforce the idea of a supercontinent at least in the southern hemisphere--Gondawanland. Living species were also introduced as evidence. Earth worms, very unlikely to be long-distance migrators, were found in soils of all the Gondwanaland continents.

There are several geologic clues to ancient climate, which in turn can tell us about continental placement on the globe. Deposition of glacial sediments is one that is very useful in indicating cold climates and therefore possible pole positions. The specific things to look for are glacial scratches, varves, and tillites. Scratches on rock created as large glaciers passed over can indicate direction of movement. Varves which are sediments carried by glacial meltwater into lakebeds at the edges of the glacier, display seasonal variations dependant on increase and decrease of melt due to summer-winter temperature variation. From this fairly accurate annual counts can be made. And tillites, the mixture of rocks and pebbles pushed forward by advancing glaciers that have been buried and turned to stone, stand as witness to the former presence of massive ice flows. Tillites of the Devonian have been found in Argentina and Carboniferous and Permian Period tillites can be found in widespread areas of southern South America. In South Africa, too, tillites have been found that are similar to those found in Antarctica, India, and Australia. ArgentinaWhen we look at the striations left by the moving glaciers of the late Paleozoic we see what appears to be two central points with scratches radiating outward. One of these points is in South Africa and the other is in eastern Antarctica. When these deposits of tillite and the grooves caused by glacial movement are placed on a map of Gondwanaland as it passes over the South Pole the information has much more meaning. The position of the landmass over the pole had a significant affect on its climate.

However other evidences that point to periods of relative warming during the middle Paleozoic indicate that many factors were at work besides just position during the Paleozoic. Again in the Cretaceous we see the mystery of the movement of India in the discovery of large sauropods of the same genus in Argentina, India, and Madagascar. Wherever the connection of India to some part of Gondwanaland was we cannot be sure but we can be sure that during that time dinosaurs were moving over connecting pathways between the continents.

Panspermia is the hypothesis that the seeds of life are ubiquitous in the Universe, that they may have delivered life to Earth, and that they may deliver or have delivered life to other habitable bodies; also the process of such delivery. The theory of panspermia has been explored in a number of works of science fiction, notably Jack Finney's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (twice made into a film) and the Dragonriders of Pern books of Anne McCaffrey. In John Wyndham's book, The Day of the Triffids (also made into a film), the first person narrator, writing in historical mode, takes care to reject the theory of panspermia in favour of the conclusion that the eponymous carnivorous plants are a product of Soviet biotechnology. The book and film of The Andromeda Strain examines the consequences of a pathogenic extraterrestrial organism arriving on Earth. Some works of science fiction advance a derivative of the theory as a rationalization for the improbable tendency of fictional extra-terrestrials to be strongly humanoid in form as well as living on earth-compatible worlds (see Class M planet) and having similar levels of technology. In Star Trek, the humanoid aliens, as well as humans themselves, are results of the cells spread through the Universe by the Progenitors.

Fiction writer Dan Brown also includes panspermia in the novel Deception Point. The novel The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle mentions that panspermia is a commonly accepted theory in that Universe. Niven also extensively writes about both directed and non-directed panspermia in his Known-Space novels. Could any theory other than panspermia account for the picture below?

Giant Bird Bones found and put together in Argentina in 1980

Well if not panspermia, then maybe cosmic rays account for this strange creature. In the desolate corner of Malargue, Argentina, scientists are using a network of observatory stations spread over an area 10 times the size of Paris to uncover one of the universe's deepest secrets. Researchers have littered 3 000 square kilometers with hundreds of UFO-like containers to scour the heavens for mysterious, rare and powerful cosmic rays that bombard Earth. 'We are on the very edge of science and the unknown'

Subatomic particles known as "cosmic bullets" are one of science's great unknowns. They pack more energy than any known particle in the universe, and determining what propels the "cosmic bullets" could challenge the laws of physics, such as the theory of relativity. It could "make Albert Einstein turn in his grave", said Carlos Hojvat, an astrophysicist who manages the project funded by nations including the United States, Argentina and Brazil. "We call these rays messengers from the cosmos. They could tell us about universe's origins. We are on the very edge of science and the unknown," he said. The $50-million Pierre Auger Observatory in western Argentina was originally a project of the 1980 Nobel Prize-winner James Cronin of the University of Chicago. Observatory construction began in Malargue, Argentina, in 2000. This year, the observatory started to measure particles blasted onto the atmosphere from outer space. Scientists are unsure from where these tiny, but powerful, rays come. The rays are so rare that one hits an area the size of a football stadium every century. The size of this observatory will give researchers unparalleled access to the "cosmic bullets" by allowing the measurement of about 50 rays every year. Some scientists say the rays may be left over from the start of the universe, split seconds after the Big Bang. Others say they could be emitted from black holes. Either way, discovering how the rays work will help explain how the universe operates, Hojvat said.

Sometimes soil collectors for Common Ground 191 are more verbal than at others, more engaged, more involved. In spite of all the star power of Evita, the lofty discussions of continental drift, and the conjectures about the mysteries of panspermia and rays in Argentina, this soil collector has provided us with his name, Horacio Ocampo, and the very brief information that his soil came from Manuel Ocatipo, Pergamino, the site of his family’s farm. How fitting this particular Argentinian soil is to symbolize one aspect of Gary Simpson’s Common Ground 191 concept—the family farming soil of Argentina, the “salt of the earth” soil, seeded by humans to provide food for people and animals, perhaps fruit trees and flowers, very possibly beef on the hoof. One conjectures that this Ocampo farm is a simple and peaceful place, with lots of hard work applied to the manipulation of this soil, the repository of Gaia, regardless of where in Pangaea it originated, regardless of how it was originally seeded. Thank you, Horacio. The word for peace in Argentina is la paz.


Iguazu and Salto Mbigue Falls



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