14 Jun 2007

El Sur: Meanderings on the Southern Passage. Part I.

The plane drifts endlessly above the blue and white expanse on my southern crossing to the other side of the world. As it takes me further away from family and friends and my life for the last 9 years, memories of another great southern continent began to resurface. Memories of friends in Sydney where I spent 6 years of my life.

Looking back, my first “contact” with Argentina was in my first year of University. Her name is Marcela O. A tall girl with a ready grin, with dark brown ringlets bouncing as she talks animatedly. She was Aussie born. Marcela and Anna Nyugen, a Vietnamese girl, were benchmates next to us in Chemistry 101 class. My own partner was the coolest 5’8 blonde chick with brains, Sally D’Zwan, who has an Australian mum and a Dutch dad.

One day, Marcela mentioned in passing that her parents are not from Australia. They came from Argentina. She told me her parents were students who fled their country in the 1970s, because of their protestations against the government. This was my first knowledge of Argentina’s military regime during that period. Latter when tango entered my life, I learnt more of Argentina’s dark years and the scars that the horrors of the “Desaparecidos”, or disappeared ones, left on the psyche of its people till the present day. Every Thursday afternoon at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, the “Madres de la Plaza de Mayo” hold a march in remembrance. Their symbolic white headscarf denoting universal motherhood and anguish at the loss of their children and grandchildren who disappeared during the junta years.

Recently someone told me that the Argentine law has always favoured women in this country. For example, women are entitled to half of her husband’s assets in a divorce. Her assets prior to the marriage remains in her ownership. Suddenly, I recalled that the tragedy of Ada Falcon (see Música del Alma, Jan06 posting) came about because Francisco Canaro was unwilling to part with half of his fortune if he divorced his wife to be with Alda. This was back in the late 1930s. Canaro was fabulously wealthy.

Marcela, I am finally in the capital city of the country that your parents left many years ago. I don’t know if they were from Buenos Aires or another part of Argentina. I wonder if I have walked past someone related to you on the streets of Corrientes…

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