Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

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Falkland Islands (Malvinas)

The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) comprise an archipelago of approximately 200 islands located in the South Atlantic, 298 miles from the Patagonian coast. Its principal islands are West Falkland (Gran Malvina) and East Falkland (Soledad). Its current political status is as an overseas autonomous territory under British control. It has 3,000 inhabitants, 2,000 of which live in its capital, the city of Port Stanley (Puerto Argentino) located on East Falkland. The residents call themselves Falkland Islanders.

The climate is cold and humid, with strong, steady winds. The terrain is rocky, covered with grass, moss, and bushes. Marine fauna is plentiful, and includes native and migrating birds, cetaceans, crustaceans, fish, and mollusks. Squid fishing is the principal economy activity, followed by sheep farming, the export of high-quality wool, and tourism. Permits have been issued for petroleum exploration, the results of which are not yet decisive.

The archipelago was occupied by the French and the English around 1760, and then became part of the Spanish Empire in the late eighteenth century. The United Provinces of the River Plate considered themselves the heirs to the Spanish Crown, and in 1820 they claimed ownership of the islands. After conflicts with U.S. fishing vessels and a punitive expedition by the United States, the United Kingdom began a military occupation of the islands in 1833. Following almost 150 years of diplomatic demands, the Argentine military dictatorship took over the islands by force in April 1982, with widespread domestic support. The British government, with the support of a United Nations Security Council resolution, sent an expeditionary force to the islands. After a few short air and naval battles, the British forces landed at San Carlos Water on May 21 and obtained the surrender of the Argentine forces on June 14. The conditions of the Falkland Islanders improved noticeably from that point: They were declared British citizens with full rights, and a new phase of great prosperity was ushered in with the advent of British investment and the exploitation of marine resources. Argentina continues to demand its territorial rights over the islands.

See alsoFalklands/Malvinas War; Vernet, Louis.


Goebel, Julius L. The Struggle for the Falkland Islands. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1927.

Gustafson, Lowell S. The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Smith, Wayne S., ed. Toward Resolution? The Falklands/Malvinas Dispute. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1991.

                                        Vicente Palermo