Mr Kwan's FeeTuesday, September 17, 2013
Sitting behind me at a Microcosmos Quartet concert this last Sunday I heard a couple talk tango. I turned around and we were soon comparing notes on dancing in Buenos Aires. They told me they loved Buenos Aires. Mr. Kwan was particularly pleasant even though I had explained that in my mother’s Manila Tagalog, kwan is that which women have that men don’t. Mr. Kwan just smiled. Mrs. Kwan told me that the only wrinkle in their fine trip was that they had to each pay a $75 entry fee to Argentina. I began to worry. I know that this is some sort of reciprocal reaction to our Prime Minister’s resolve to get fewer Latin American immigrants and students in Canada.
I called the Argentine Consulate in Montreal (there is no consulate in Vancouver) this morning. The woman who answered was quite firm in telling me using those awful Argentine bureaucratic terms “corresponde” (it corresponds) and “no corresponde.” She told me that being from Vancouver Montreal was not my Consulate for any consultation but the one in Toronto was.
She did manage to give me the information that I wanted. When I enter Argentina with my Canadian Passport I must show my Libreta de Enrolamiento and the authorities will wave the $75 fee.
Until President Carlos Menem eliminated the obligatory military service in Argentina a man’s most important document was the Libreta de Enrolamiento which was a sort of combination identity and draft card. Since the draft was obligatory there were methods (expensive ones) in which one could get the document and somehow get a stamp that said one had served or that one had been found ineligible for some health reason.
I obtained my Libreta at the Argentine Embassy in Mexico City. Few if any Argentines living in that country had attempted to fulfill their patriotic duty. The consulate staff rustled up an ancient one from 1926 and if you note the map within the document there were provinces not yet provinces and territories not yet that.
If you read in illustration you will see that I finished my service in the Argentine Navy in marinería furriel. That meant that I undertook all my responsibilities in a dangerous desk job. You might also note by my signature that I was still carrying in August 1961an Esterbrook pen with an italic nib. I still have the pen, but alas it now sports a normal nib.
I look forward to flashing my extra special, and obviously not quite obsolete libreta at the authorities at the Ministro Pistarini Airport in Buenos Aires this coming Sunday.
As for that number on the cover of the document, 588737 it is embedded in my memory. That was me for 24 months.