Christ of the Andes
Early in the twentieth century, tensions were rising between Chile and Argentina over the proper delineation of their mutual border in the Andes, and there was a general belief that war was coming soon. But a message from Pope Leo XIII, calling for peace between the two nations, prompted Bishop Marcelino del Carmen Benavente of Cuyo to pledge to erect a statue of Christ on the frontier if peace prevailed. This in turn inspired Ángela Oliveira Cézar de Costa, the well-connected leader of a prominent Catholic laywomen’s group, to make a direct appeal for a peaceful resolution of the dispute to her friend Julio Roca, who happened to be President of Argentina. This initiative broke the tension, as Roca reached out to his Chilean counterpart, Germán Riesco. The two agreed to arbitration by King Edward VII of Great Britain, who appointed an international commission which handed down a decision in 1902.
On March 13, 1904, a massive statue of “Christ the Redeemer of the Andes” made from bronze salvaged from old cannon was dedicated on the border at 3,832 meters (12,572 feet) above sea level, on the historic pass of La Cumbre, over which San Martin had marched an army to help liberate Chile from Spanish rule in 1817.
The dedication didn’t go off without a hitch. Somehow the statue, which was supposed to face southwards, so that Chile would be on Christ’s right and Argentina on his left, faced east, thus presenting Christ’s back to Chile. This led to some acrimony in Chilean nationalist circles, until one newspaper editor defused the situation by noting that, “The statue is placed as it should be. The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans.”
Afterwards: Sra. Cézar de Costa continued to work for international peace and cooperation, and was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1910 and again in 1911, though the award went to others.
Captain Pakenham Stays Aboard
In 1904 Capt. Sir William C. Pakenham (1861-1933) was the British naval attaché in Japan. On the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, he secured permission from Adm. Togo Heihachiro to serve as observer in the battleship HIJMS Asahi. Pakenham remained aboard for fourteen months, never setting foot ashore lest permission to return be refused. As a result, he endured endless days on blockade duty. But the boredom was worth it. Pakenham had the privilege of being present for the Battle of the Yellow Sea (Aug. 10, 1904), during which Togo’s squadron blocked an attempt by the Russian fleet at Port Arthur to escape to Vladivostok, and then, nine months later, at Tsu-Shima Strait (May 27-28, 1905), during which he was almost killed, but also witnessed the virtual annihilation of the Russian relief fleet that had sailed all the way from the Baltic.
After the war, Packenham’s experiences made him a strong supporter of the trend toward the all big gun Dreadnought-type battleship.
During World War I Pakenham commanded the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron in the Battle of Jutland (May31-June 1, 1916) and by the end of the war was commander of the Battle Cruiser Force of the Grand Fleet.
Pakenham retired as a full admiral in 1926, with the unique distinction of having been in the three biggest battleship fights in history.