|Rosemary in Chapultepec Park 1968|
Living in Buenos Aires as a little boy my knowledge of Canada was next to zero.
My grandmother would tell me the story on how when she became a widow in 1918 and because she was of a patrician family she could not find a job. She and her son and two daughters took a Japanese ship to a place with mountains and trees called Van-koo-ver. At the train station (it must have been the CP Train Station) they boarded a train to Montreal and from there to New York City where they settled in the Bronx
It wasn’t until my return to Buenos Aires in 1965 to do my military service in the Argentine Navy that at the Retiro Train Station I spotted a curious structure. It was a Canadian totem pole that had been erected the year before. It seems the Canadian government had sent it to Argentina as a gift.
In my Jorge Luís Borges – Atlas (1985 translation in English from 1984 book in Spanish) I have always known how Borges had no liking for Indigenous culture of any kind. He preferred Milton and Shakespeare.
I have found out that the original totem deteriorated and it was removed in 2008 and replaced by a new one in 2012.
When I left Buenos Aires to my home in Veracruz, Mexico in 1967 in an Argentine merchant marine ship (ELMA) called the Río Aguapey I was unaware that the Victory Ship that it was, had been built at the Burrard Shipyard in North Vancouver.
In the latter part of 1967 I met Rosemary Healey who told me all about a man called Pierre Trudeau and of a lovely city she pronounced as Kebec. I fell for her blonde hair, her legs and married her. With our two Mexican-born daughters we drove our VW to Vancouver in 1975. I have been a Canadian Citizen for many years.
It is paradoxical that the first totem Rosemary ever saw was one in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. Until yesterday I had not known that I had photographed her by the totem not only in b+w but in colour. A year ago when I finally finished Julio Cortázar's Rayuela, from front to back, and then to all of his recommended variations, I discovered that in wintry Paris he wore a plaid, flannel shirt that he called una canadiense.
As for Borges. I like Milton and Shakespeare but I also admire and respect Indigenous culture, too. He was a man of that other century and I am doing my best to be one of this one.