|Yuki, Bella Vista, Provincia de Buenos Aires
In the beginning of this century I had a joint show with Argentine artists Juan Manuel Sánchez and Nora Patrich called Argentine Nostalgia. We would meet in Vancouver cafés or sip mates until the late hours of the night discussing and sharing stories of the country where we were born. Because this was all nostalgia it had to be rosy or funny or both.
Looking back at all this I must reconsider it. I left Buenos Aires in 1954 and lived in Mexico City (and other places in Mexico like Veracruz and Nueva Rosita, Coahuila). Then, after five years in Austin, I returned to Buenos Aires for my military service. I married my Rosemary in Mexico City in 1968 and moved with our two daughters to Vancouver in 1975.
What makes my nostalgia now different is that I must include my subsequent trips in this century with Rosemary to Buenos Aires. In two of those trips, in one we took our older granddaughter Rebecca and in the other the younger one Lauren.
It would seem that my nostalgia is tinged by more recent memories.
Suddenly I find that my nostalgia is no longer nostalgia. It is something more powerful. Nostalgia is a noun, it is a feeling. But to yearn (and in that beautiful word añorar) is a much more active verb. The feeling is now an action. It is an action that lacks the subject. I can do just fine with a rosy memory that is nostalgia but it is not enough. I need the very place and thing I am thinking about.
This idea cemented itself on Sunday when our eldest daughter Ale (visiting us from her home in Lillooet, BC) my Rosemary and I went to Chapters/Indigo on Granville and Broadway. There were books and books, but leather purses, and frames, and jig-saw puzzles and so much other stuff that I was overwhelmed. When we left (I bought nothing) I told my companions, “I yearn for a Buenos Aires bookstore that only has books.”
In Vancouver Pulp Fiction and Macleod Books almost qualifies for a sort of similarity.
But they cannot satisfy my yearning for books in my native language (maternal if we are going to be gender specific). I was pleasantly surprised that at Indigo in their reduced Spanish section of about 10 books they had two copies of Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela in the very edition that I am currently reading.
As I read Rayuela, written in 1963, Cortázar uses words in the Argentine lunfardo an ever changing Buenos Aires jargon, such as pituco. I had not seen or heard that word since I left Buenos Aires in the late 60s. It sort of means, sort of cool and posh. It can be used to describe a woman as pituca.
Seeing these words is more than nostalgic as now I have to bring in my Rosemary’s impression of the Buenos Aires we have now visited many times.
In 1966 I was invited by my nephew Georgito O’Reilly to spend the summer in his parent’s rented summer home in Pacheco which had a pool. We both had to put coins inside a large ashtray so that the alarm clock would jangle us awake so we could take a 6am bus (it was called the Don Torcuato) that would leave us at a train station and from there to our military job (he was a conscript in the army and I was in the navy). And his brother Ricardo who was doing his servixe in the police force.
Their step sisters (their widow mother, my first cousin and godmother, had married a widower with four daughters) kept playing a record called Misa Criolla over and over until I could not stand it anymore. How was I to know then that the composer was a man called Ariel Rámirez?
A few years ago I discovered through a friend a magnificent, perhaps unknown poet in our globalized-in-English-world called Alfonsina Storni. She was born in Switzerland but as a very young girl moved with her Argentine parents to Argentina. Of her I have written, here, here, and here.
And because of this poet I have come to love, adore a composition called Alfonsina y el Mar composed by Ariel Ramirez the man whose music I loathed back then.
This means that I cannot have nostalgia for Ariel Rámirez and his music. But I can have a yearning for his absolutely beautiful composition particularly if performed by Argentine folksinger (now dead) Mercedes Sosa.
What makes this song especially lovely are the lyrics by Félix Luna an Argentine writer, lyricist and historian.
And more so, as the song is an Argentine zamba (with a z not with the Brazilian S) so it has a quirky rhythm that makes me shed tears and particularly when I listen to any version (and I have many) of Alfonsina y el Mar.
While I have most of the books that Jorge Luís Borges, Julio Cortázar and Ernesto Sábato ever wrote I do not have a single volume by Storni.
I can safely and accurately state here that I yearn for a
Buenos Aires bookstore where I would find her books. And should they sell CDs I would pick up a copy of that damned Misa Criolla.
I cannot stop there without mentioning that my yearning is one I share with my Rosemary. Yearning in company is so much better.