Inesita & Liberty
Saturday, October 12, 2013
I may have been around 8 and it was my
birthday, it was August 31 and my mother had organized one of those birthdays
that I hated then and have hated since. It is because of those birthday parties
that I have never cared for cakes. I remember this birthday party because in a
particular l-shaped corner of the path leading from the street, through the
long garden into our house I spotted a beautiful young woman. I had no real
idea of who she was except that my mother said something like, “Greet your
godmother and cousin Inesita, won’t you Alex?” That exact moment is the first
time that I remember Inesita coming into my life.
When I returned to Buenos Aires in 1964 to do my obligatory
military service I stayed at her big house for a few months. She had widowed a
few years before and she and her three sons and one daughter had married a
wealthy widower, of German extraction, with four daughters. They had a house in
the fashionable section of the city called Belgrano R on Sucre Street.
I remember the first day I walked into that
house. I rang the door bell and I spied a lovely young girl peeking at me from
above. She was Inesita’s teenage daughter Marinés. I felt awkward in my ill-fitting winter blues. I was ushered in and
taken immediately to dinner. The table was one of those Hollywood
film types of tables as long as an aircraft carrier. Consider that Inesita and
her husband Dolfi had between them 8 children and most of them were old enough to
have girl friends or boy friends. Plus there was a seat for my gorgeous
red-haired first cousin Elizabeth Blew.
I sat down and
everybody at the table stared in my direction. It was only later that I found
out that I had passed the test of manners and that somehow my table manners
Since those days
Inesita has been in my heart my favourite relative for her warmth, poise and
best of all for an elegance second to none.
Time has been kind to
her. She is now 90 and I attended her celebratory Mass (she was blessed by the
Bishop of San Isidro) and her party at the Club Náutico San Isidro where she
was surrounded by over 100 relatives and friends.
But my best memory of
my visit with her in Buenos Aires
is of two days. In one we sat comfortably in her den to listen to some talking
books I brought for her from Vancouver.
As healthy as she is, she is blind in one eye and sees poorly with the other. Spoken
books are her ticket for pleasure. There were two books that she particularly
appreciated. One featured short stories by Agatha Christie and in particular
The Last Séance read by Christopher Lee. Then we listened, for over an hour a
memoir by Diane Keaton (and read by her!) Then Again. We listened to these
books after a nice lunch at a table (not too large) with beautiful china.
The other day I
invited Inesita to have a pizza at Pizzería Burgio on Cabildo near Juramento. She
told me she had never ever been in a pizzeria in all her life and that she was
looking forward to it. We took a cab. Our driver was an Italian. It didn’t take
long before he and I found out we were fans of Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano
and that we had seen the whole Italian series based on Camilleri’s novels. Our
driver told us that he had eaten pizza at Burgio and was impressed that we knew
of it. Inesita enjoyed her pizza, she had several slices and an orange Fanta. She commented she liked the crispy under crust of the thinnish (but not too thin) Burgio pizza.
From Burgio we decided
to walk to the corner of Juaramento and Cabildo (about five blocks) to have ice
cream at Freddo’s which is in the La Redonda complex. This church is my
favourite Buenos Aires church, the one that I
used to go as a boy and it also happens to be the one where my godmother goes
for Sunday Mass.
I was shocked to find out that because of her age she sometimes attends TV Mass
and that somehow the Catholic Church accepts this a way of fulfilling one’s
From our ice-cream we
walked 8 more blocks (and she is 90 and elegantly walks like a woman of 40)
past her apartment to one of my favourite spots in Buenos Aires. In a little known area of the
park that is called Barrancas de Belgrano, there is a miniature reproduction of
the Statue of Liberty. I took some snaps of Inesita and we then retired to her
apartment for tea.
Tea with the cousins
Fundación Mítica De Buenos Aires
Friday, October 11, 2013
mítica de Buenos Aires
¿Y fue por
este río de sueñera y de barro
proas vinieron a fundarme la patria?
Irían a los
tumbos los barquitos pintados
camalotes de la corriente zaina.
bien la cosa, supondremos que el río
entonces como oriundo del cielo
estrellita roja para marcar el sitio
ayunó Juan Díaz y los indios comieron.
es que mil hombres y otros mil arribaron
por un mar
que tenía cinco lunas de anchura
estaba poblado de sirenas y endriagos
piedras imanes que enloquecen la brújula.
unos ranchos trémulos en la costa,
extrañados. Dicen que en el Riachuelo,
embelecos fraguados en la Boca.
manzana entera y en mi barrio: en Palermo.
entera pero en mitá del campo
las auroras y lluvias y suestadas.
pareja que persiste en mi barrio:
Serrano, Paraguay, Gurruchaga.
rosado como revés de naipe
brilló y en
la trastienda conversaron un truco;
rosado floreció en un compadre,
de la esquina, ya resentido y duro.
organito salvaba el horizonte
achacoso porte, su habanera y su gringo.
seguro ya opinaba YRIGOYEN,
mandaba tangos de Saborido.
cigarrería sahumó como una rosa
desierto. La tarde se había ahondado en ayeres,
compartieron un pasado ilusorio.
una cosa: la vereda de enfrente.
A mí se me
hace cuento que empezó Buenos Aires:
tan eterna como el agua y el aire.
(by Alastair Reid):
The Mythical Founding
of Buenos Aires
And was it along this
torpid muddy river
that the prows came to
found my native city?
The little painted
boats must have suffered the steep surf
among the root-clumps
of the horse-brown current.
Pondering well, let us
suppose that the river
was blue then like an
extension of the sky,
with a small red star
inset to mark the spot
where Juan Diaz*
fasted and the Indians dined.
But for sure a thousand
men and other thousands
arrived across a sea
that was five moons wide,
still infested with
mermaids and sea serpents
and magnetic boulders
that sent the compass wild.
On the coast they put
up a few ramshackle huts
and slept uneasily.
This, they claim, in the Riachuelo,
but that is a story
dreamed up in Boca.
It was really a city
block in my district – Palermo**.
A whole square block,
but set down in open country,
attended by dawns and
rains and hard southeasters,
identical to that
block which still stands in my neighbourhood:
Guatemala – Serrano – Paraguay
|Belgrano - La Redonda|
A general store pink
as the back of a playing card
shone bright; in the
back there was poker talk.
The corner bar
flowered into life as a local bully,
already cock of his
walk, resentful, tough.
The first barrel organ
teetered over the horizon
with its clumsy
progress, its habaneras, its wop.
The cart-shed wall was
unanimous for YRIGOYEN***.
Some piano was banging
out tangos by Saborido.
A cigar store perfumed
the desert like a rose.
The afternoon had
established its yesterdays,
and men took on
together an illusory past.
Only one thing was
missing – the street had no other side.
Hard to believe Buenos Aires had any
I feel it to be as
eternal as air and water.
|Ferrocarril General San Martín|
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Petrona Carrizo de
Gandulfo or Doña Petrona as she was affectionally called by her many fans, was Argentina’s
foremost cook. She was born in the province
of Santiago del Estero in
1896 and she died in 1992.
While staying at Nora
Patrich and Roberto Baschetti’s home in the Buenos Aires outskirts of Bella Vista I heard
some noises in the middle of the night. I got up to see where the noises were coming
from when I was confronted by this apparition who no doubt must be the ghost of
Doña Petrona. Nora Patrich is a wonderful cook and my only explanation is that
somewhere in her house she must have hidden a dog-eared copy of El Libro de
Roberto Baschetti - Sociólogo, Investigador Histórico - Amigo
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Roberto Baschetti - Sociólogo, Investigador Histórico - Amigo
“El rebozo que
dejaste aquella noche fue testigo de momentos tan felices…” bien podría decirse
parafraseando al bolero del
portorriqueño Tito Rodríguez, aquel
inigualable cantautor de los ’70.
Alex con su
curiosidad siempre latente y su magia escondida detrás de un lente
fotográfico hizo el resto. Me hizo posar
para la posteridad con ese manto sagrado y me sentí parte de una historia sin
saber muy bien cual era esta, de donde venía y hacia donde iba.
visual que me acompañará el resto de mi vida porque resume y evidencia diversas
Una: estar en la
plenitud de mi vida intelectual que se traduce en libros y artículos editados
de mi autoría, en charlas y conferencias sobre el tema que me apasiona y en el
asesoramiento a los más jóvenes que se introducen en los laberintos de nuestra
historia argentina contemporánea.
fotográfico que se condice con un momento feliz en mi pareja, donde Nora se
vuelve paradigma de amor, honestidad y empuje frente a un futuro, que a su
lado, ya no parece tan incierto.
Una más: el que
me apunta con la lente para obtener esa instantánea es Alex Waterhouse-Hayward,
que siento que me privilegia con su amistad y con el cual he construido un
canal de diálogo, afecto y complicidad que no es muy común se manifieste en dos
personas con más de tres cuartos de sus vidas hechas. Sus sentimientos –que él muchas veces trata de ocultar- afloran, desbordan,
enriquecen, cada una de sus acciones, haciéndolo un ser humano irrepetible y único.
Y esos sentimientos me llegan, y me potencian y me motivan “ad infinitum”. No
25 de octubre de
Georgina Elizabeth Isles
Author/Lawyer/Assistant DA Travis County TX
Brother Edwin Charles Reggio, CSC
Mentor & Teacher
Raúl Guerrero Montemayor
Yeva & Thoenn Glover
André De Mondo
- Real Estate Agent
Johnna Wright & Sascha
Director/Mother - Son/Dreamer
Decker & Nick Hunt
Cat & 19th century amateur
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Statesman, Flag Designer
Vancouver Sun Columnist
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
As Invisible As Claude Rains
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
|Photos by Nora Patrich on her iPhone 4|
For close to three weeks I took the train, the San Martín Line,
from Bella Vista, Provincia de Buenos Aires to Retiro and back. Anytime any of
my relatives or friends found out about this journey of mine they would warn me
about taking anything valuable with me. They told me not to pack cameras or my
aging laptop. They almost made me feel paranoid.
But I had a spade up my sleeve, a very good
Ace of Spades. I mimicked Claude Rains in the Invisible Man to perfection. Part
of the invisibility package had me wearing my dark sunglasses.
Within days I fit in. I would be reading a newspaper, a best-seller,
Marcos Aguinis La Furia de Eva Perón
or taking out my phone and making as if I was checking something just like
everybody else in what must be one of the most wired (unwired) cities on earth.
While I would have never tempted fate and snapped with Nikon FM-2 or my
brand new Fuji X-E1, my iPhone enabled me to take a few pictures unoticed.
I am happy to report
that in Buenos Aires
this erstwhile porteño somehow still looked like one and nobody ever did give me
more than a passing glance.
Eva Perón El Mito - Eva Perón The Myth
Monday, October 07, 2013
In this three week trip to Buenos Aires from mid
September to October I noticed a few parallels that until then had been
unbeknownst to me.
As a roundabout introduction to the above I
must mention a phone call I had some months ago with my first cousin Willoughby
Blew (cousin on my father’s side) who lives in Florida. I happened to mention President
Kennedy and that led to a long stream of nasty comments on what a terrible
president and horrible man Kennedy had been. Willoughby caught me completely off my guard
and I was speechless.
| Juan Domingo Perón & Eva Duarte, Numa Ayrinhac, 1948|
No matter when you go to Buenos Aires, Porteños will always tell
you that things have never been worse. This cannot quite be true as things were
worse during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Thousands
disappeared. Some of these were thrown out of airplanes or helicopters over the
My native country is polarized between
those who see and saw Juan Domingo Perón (October 8, 1895 – July 1, 1974) as
a saviour or a villain. Those who consider him a villain tend to be part of the
upper crust aristocracy and the very Roman Catholics.
My stay in Buenos Aires see-sawed between the homes of
those two camps. You can also say that what holds true about Perón does too on
opinions on his second wife Eva Duarte de Perón (7 May 1919 – 26 July 1952).
|Evita bust in Nora Patrich's garden|
My knowledge of Eva Perón (who lived with
Perón between 1944, until she died in 1952, they were married in 1945) is from a
young boy’s experience. I saw her once in person when our school bused us to a
tree planting ceremony. In the early 50s we lived next to some Peronists who
always turned on their home radio to full blast during the speeches that Perón
and wife would give during national days like 25 de mayo and 9 de Julio. Her
voice is embedded in my brain.
Another view on Evita is the fact that on
January 6, the feast of the Three Wise Kings she distributed toys to children.
These toys were wooden (very valuable now if you kept them). I hated them,
preferring Meccanos and Erector sets.
When she died in July of 1952 the
incredible outpouring of grief introduced me to the Beethoven and Chopin’s
funeral music. The place where her body was placed in state was called with the
dramatic name of capilla ardiente (flaming chapel). The long funeral cortege
which I saw in the newsreels at the movies is still in my memory.
Of the woman I knew nothing except what my
grandmother would tell me. She said that Evita was a nasty Robin Hood who stole
from the rich aristocracy and gave this to the poor as being hers. After she
died there were stories of people complaining at the butcher shop that there
was not meat to buy. The stories continued with accounts that those who had
complained were arrested or disappeared.
|San Martín, Rosas & Perón, Alfredo Bettanin (1972). Museo del Bicentenario|
I have no way of ascertaining if those butcher
shop stories were true. When I questioned my friend Nora Patrich and her
husband Roberto Baschetti (a Peronist scholar at the National Library) the
expression used was, “It’s a myth.” To the question if Juan Perón was a
right-wing dictator who admired Mussolini, the answer again was, “It’s a myth.”
The Argentine reality in 2013 is that most
politicians call themselves Peronists even if they are from all sorts of
splinter groups. Those in power now call themselves Kirchneristas. The
president, Cristina Kirchner inherited her husband’s, Nestor Kirchner, when he
died. So you have left-wing and center and center right wing Peronists. They
are all Peronists.
|Evita's death mask at Museo Evita|
Juan Domingo Perón was booted out by the
armed forces September 1955. By then my family had moved to Mexico City. When I returned for my military
service there was a freely elected president, Umberto Illía (October 12,
1963 – June 28, 1966). That June 28 I was present on the coup d'etat that
took him down. Until I left in December, 1966 Argentina
to return to my home in Mexico,
we were subject to constant mobilization to our barracks because of the rumors
that Perón was coming back from his exile in Spain.
|With Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena at Museo Evita|
I am now making up for lost time on
information on what happened to my country when I finally left it for good that
December 1966 by reading as many books as I can on the subject.
Of late I finished a novel; by noted Argentine
author Marcos Aguinis called La Furia de Evita. It is a beautifully written
book in the first person that is similar to Jerome Charyn's The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson. When Charyn published the book last year he was criticized by many for taking the liberty of attempting to be a woman in the first person. His book was defended by no less an author and a woman, Joyce Carol Oates.
Of Aguinis’s book my friend Nora Patrich
told me not to believe anything in the book (she has not read it) as it is a
novel. I have read countless essays on how novels sometimes circumvent the
subjective view of non-fiction writers to actually tell many truths.
|My Eva Perón lunch|
I did not attempt to tell Patrich that
Aguinis paints Evita in a very good light and makes her an intelligent person
who had many talents including one of knowing what to say to people while
standing behind a microphone. If anything Evita comes out as the more
politically savvy, almost ruthless in comparison to her husband Perón.
But going back to my initial paragraph,
Perón and Evita seem to me to be almost a Kennedy and Jackie kind of celebrity
cult. They are seen as being part of rosier times even if the reality of those
times does not quite jibe.
Nora Patrich is curating a show in 2014 in
the Evita Museum. She is placing in the show some
extensive work of her own. I have seen some of it at a very strange but interesting
store called Los Octubres of which I will write a bit more below. Let’s first
visit the museum.
I went to the museum and met for lunch with
Nora Patrich, her partner Roberto Baschetti and my first cousin Jorge Wenceslao
de Irureta Goyena. The Evita
Museum has a fine dining
restaurant. Everybody was most happy
with their food and the excellent Malbec that Baschetti ordered. I was
intrigued by something called “The Eva Perón Lunch”. This was a breaded veal cutlet twisted to resemble a cow’s
tongue. And the veal cutlet could have easily replaced one of the soles of my
shoes! But the dessert a “flan completo” (a flan served with sweet whipping
cream and dulce de leche on the side, was awesome.
The museum is nicely
staffed and well-organized. The house is one that Eva Perón used to house young
women who might have “gotten-into-trouble” Upon leaving I purchased an Eva
Perón postcard with the idea of writing something in Spanish and sending it to
my granddaughter Rebecca but unfortunately the wells stocked museum did not
have postage stamps. The young man with the bad news looked like Colin Firth
might have looked like when he was 19!
|Museo Evita - kitchen|
If the museum was done
in absolute good taste in homage of a woman who is in the hearts of many
Argentines a little store (on a second floor) in the still fashionable Palermo
Viejo area of Buenos Aires
was different altogether. They had everything you could possible want, not want
or imagine related to Eva Perón and her husband but I did spot a few Che
Guevara postcards. At this store, called Los Octubres (perhaps because in 1945,
on October 17, Perón gave a most important speech that is now called El Día de
La Lealtad) I found a beautiful silk scarf with Evita exactly as she now looks
on some Argentine Peso bills which I bought for Rebecca. They also had some
striking postcards that are reproductions of Nora Patrich’s paintings of Evita.
But in one room I found some paintings that are of questionable bad taste that still
made me smile.
Another very nice museum, El Museo del Bicentenario
is tucked to one side of the Casa Rosada, downtown by Plaza de Mayo. It was here that I found the romantic painting, seen in the beginning of this blog of Juan Perón and Evita. A second painting, one showing three important men (and many others) in Argentine history, the liberator General San Martín, the powerful 19th century dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas (a friend of Darwin) and Juan Domingo Perón led me to ask one of the very young guides why it was that Evita was not in the painting. With a big smile on his face he showed me that she indeed was there standing on the hand of the very naked and most suffering woman who represents Argentina!
It would seem that
Juan Domingo Perón and his wife Evita are similar to the US’s President
Jack Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. Both couples are seen in a regal manner.
The similarity ends because Perón did not die at the height of his popularity
When Perón eventually
did return to Argentina in 1973 and there was a terrible massacre of his
followers at Ezeiza airport, few now mention (even avowed Peronists) that he
came with a third wife, Isabelita and that when Perón died in office she became
Argentina’s first female president who was done in by a General Jorge Videla in
1976 and which ushered in the repressive military juntas that climaxed with
President (General) Leopoldo Galtieri taking las Islas Malvinas (I will not
write here their other name, after all I am still sort of an Argentine).
One way or another
Perón and wife will dominate Argentine politics, culture and literature for
many years to come.
One writer who wrote a
most strange and very short story called El Simulacro was Jorge Luís Borges. His
story, one of my favourites reads Gothic. Here it is in English with an
analysis below it by Margaret Schwartz. In case you don’t know, Borges never
did see Perón or his wife in favourable light.
Borges, Jorge Luís.
Collected Fictions. Translated by Andrew Hurley. New York, New York:
Penguin Putnam Inc., 1998. 301-302:
One day in July, 1952,
the man dressed in mourning weeds appeared in that little village on the Chaco River.
He was a tall, thin man with vaguely Indian features and the inexpressive face
of a half-wit or a mask. The townsfolk treated him with some deference, not
because of who he was but because of the personage he was portraying or had by
now become. He chose a house near the river; with the help of some neighbor
women he laid a board across two sawhorses, and on it he set a pasteboard
coffin with a blond-haired mannequin inside. In addition, they lighted four candles
in tall candleholders and put flowers all around. The townsfolk soon began to
gather. Old ladies bereft of hope, dumbstruck wide-eyed boys, peons who
respectfully took off their pith hats — they filed past the coffin and said: My
condolences, General. The man in mourning sat sorrowfully at the head of the
coffin, his hands crossed over his belly like a pregnant woman. He would extend
his right hand to shake the hand extended to him and answer with courage and
resignation: It was fate. Everything humanly possible was done. A tin
collection box received the two-peso price of admission, and many could not
content themselves with a single visit.
What kind of man, I
ask myself, thought up and then acted out that funereal farce — a fanatic? a
grief-stricken mourner? a madman? a cynical impostor? Did he, in acting out his
mournful role as the macabre widower, believe himself to be Perón? It is an
incredible story, but it actually happened — and perhaps not once but many
times, with different actors and local variants. In it, one can see the perfect
symbol of an unreal time, and it is like the reflection of a dream or like that
play within a play in Hamlet. The man in mourning was not Perón and the
blond-haired mannequin was not the woman Eva Duarte, but then Perón was not
Perón, either, nor was Eva, Eva — they were unknown or anonymous persons (whose
secret name and true face we shall never know) who acted out, for the credulous
love of the working class, a crass and ignoble mythology.
|Roberto Baschetti & Nora Patrich|
|At Los Octubres - Palermo Viejo|
describes a scene in the Chaco, in July, 1952, during the period of national
mourning for the first Lady of Argentina,
Eva Perón. A charlatan, a mountebank sets up an obviously fake casket, adorns
it with flowers and candles, and charges credulous country folk to pay their
respects to a blonde doll he
has used to represent
the corpse. Yet the question of credulity Borges’s narrator is addressed to the
charlatan, not to the crowds, although he notes that many paid more than once
to pay their respects to the fake widower. No, Borges’s narrator wonders, did
the charlatan believe himself to be the mourning widower
Perón? Was he purely
cynical, heartlessly opportunistic? He does not answer this question except to
simply assert that the story is not only true, but only a local variation of a
story taking place all over Argentina, in the provinces, while the people in
mourned. Here the
essay turns to the models for this sham, Eva and Juan Perón, and muses that
they themselves “were unknown or anonymous persons (whose secret name and true
face we shall never know) who acted out, for the credulous love of the working
classes, a crass and
contemporáneos son peligrosos”
Borges in Entredichos
Buenos Aires, August 1983
|At Los Octubres|
|At Los Octubres|
|At Los Octubres|
|Berenice Blanco & Gabriel Galimberti at Los Octubres|
Canadian Breakfast Tea With The First Cousins
Sunday, October 06, 2013
|Alex, Inesita, Diane & Elizabeth|
I knew weeks in advance that I was going to
have tea on Friday, October 4 with my three Argentine first cousins (on my
father’s side) in Buenos Aires.
It was to be at Inesita O’ Reilly Kuker’s apartment in Belgrano C. The
principal reason why I was going to travel to Buenos Airs was that Inesita,
also my godmother was going to celebrate her 90th on October 2. Our
two other first cousins, Elizabeth Blew and Diane Hayward did not want to attend the huge celebration to be held
at the highfalutin Club Náutico San Isidro and were opting for a more quiet
What was I to bring for the occasion from Vancouver? At Murchie’s I found
Canadian Breakfast Tea. This was a concoction that contained maple syrup. I
tried a sample and it wasn’t too bad. Most important it was Canadian.
When I brought the bag of loose tea a few
days before, Lorena, Inesita’s live-in nurse asked me how to prepare the tea. I
gave her all the necessary instructions including the heating of the tea pot
with boiling water and the drying of it (something that British author Anthony
Burgess always insisted was a most important part of the process).
The day of the tea we all sat down and our
foursome had an extra person. This was Dolly, Inesita’s friend. She is her last
remaining friend, alive. That is what happens when you celebrate your 90th.
The best part of the tea consisted in some
homemade alfajores (a sort of Argentine cookie filled with dulce de leche and
covered with dark chocolate) that Elizabeth
Blew brought and the wonderful sanwiches de miga. These are a typical Argentine
improvement over the English sandwiches made with bread with the crusts cut
out. The difference is that the Argentine variety is made from very large
loaves so that the sandwiches are not miniature finger ones.
The women seemed to enjoy the tea but I
noticed that as soon as we finished the first pot the usual Argentine (quite
good) Taragüí brand tea was used.
Perhaps the most amazing event of a most
pleasant afternoon is that the usually dour Diane Hayward seemed to smile more
than she has in the past. Some of us believe that perhaps of late she must have
gotten lucky. It is the formerly red-haired Elizabeth who told me that could be
the only explanation for that strange turn of events.
After giving our goodbyes the two first
cousins walked down the sloping park, Barrancas de Belgrano to the Belgrano C
station to return to their homes at the Olivos station going north. I took my
train south to Retiro where I changed from the Mitre Line to the San Martín
Line to Bella Vista and home with Nora Patrich
and Roberto Baschetti.