Rosario de Areco, July 2010
“I have seen the heart of Argentina. I am in the heart of Argentina. I am talking and eating and dancing with the heart of Argentina.
This is this country’s “West.” Gauchos are cowboys. Cow skin hides stretch luxuriously across the cold, stone floors. Horses walk, something between a stroll and a prance, claiming the slightly rolling ground. Pines and unfamiliar trees run in hedgerows and hug the low, adobe houses.
Pride of country exists here much like our own in America. The contemporary Argentine’s ancestry is a blend of European (mostly Italy, Spain, and Germany) and the native South American Indians.
Their colors of deep terra-cotta and vibrant garnet red thread like ribbons securing city to pampas. Wrapped in my red woolen shawl, I imagine myself a gaucho. And more, I am like a gaucho’s woman.
Argentine women are small and Italian-looking. Fine bones. Small eyes. Tawny skin. They walk like women, so they are all beautiful.
The men of the countryside, the pampas, are hearty, robust. Horse and polo men. Some tall, some short. Some dress in the country’s rural clothes, something like you’d find a hundred years ago: beret, loose-fitting pants stuffed into knee-length leather boots, buttoned shirts. Teal and tan and black. Handsome. Quiet. Stoic, but, when searched, a smile–shy and boyish–waits.
Francisco Guevara. Owner of Rosario de Areco. Our ranch, a two-day respite from a week in Buenos Aires. He is macho, handsome, and intelligent. Kind and father-proud. Engaged and admiring of America and its history and Argentina’s parallel story. He sings robustly. His gorgeous son (one of nine strikingly similar siblings) joins him as naturally as a river joins the sea. Confluence of heart, of heritage, of purpose. The harmonies like an accordion in the old musician’s hands. Jousting with the nylon strings of the guitar.
Francisco is like my father, and I am proud to tell him about Dad. He looks at the fishing brochure and finds my father even before I can point him out. “Ah!” he exclaims, “What a wonderful face, eh? What a fine face your father has?” I nod, my cheeks are hot and flushed. This is a moment I will try to recapture many times over and I know it as he speaks. I miss nothing: his eyes (aren’t they dark like my own?), his great head and hair, his thick, wide palms, his fruit standing nine deep, this great feast of beef and wine. He is at once a mirror and a gust of wind in my flagging life. “Great life and expression in his eyes,” he says, shaking his head. Smiling “He is happy, yes?” “Yes,” I say, mirroring his enthusiasm, eager to display my own before the moment is a mist. “Yes, he is happy.”
Dancers whirl, stomping feet, lifting proud chins to frame smiling mouths. A hand reaches for me. Yes! I will dance! I will celebrate and shed the layers of waiting. This is a moment in my life. An intersection of change where ancient ways converge with a childlike running. Hair flying, chin up, eyes half-slitted by a smile. I know I look like the North American Indian of my own lineage. I am a child again. Heart open. Wide open. Questions far and away. Endings are beginnings. Regrets are just regrets. Nothing more. Nothing less. Today. This place. This moment is perfect. It is the gift of this magnificent country.
p.s. Manual. Oh, Manuel. (I must explain: Manuel is one of his six sons–an identical twin, no less, and the object of every woman’s attention. Age means nothing when one regards a Guevara). How many ways to say the name Manuel? I have seen the most beautiful man in Argentina. Someday he will age like a fine, rich, priceless wine. Like his father. Like my father. Like this new country of mine. Argentina. I will cry, Argentina.