From South America to Hangzhou, China
GILLES PAQUIN Journalist
In 1985, I brought my family to Argentina, but I never thought I would be back to this country so soon specially with my grandchildren and a Cirque du Soleil troupe. I am exaggerating a bit because it’s my son Guillaume who asked me to come over to Buenos Aires and watched him in the preparation of a new performance of the famous Montreal company. My wife and I were, this time, ordinary visitors happy to reconnect with this endearing city.
Having been making newspaper reports on several occasions over the years for the La Presse newspaper, I feel at home in this Argentina capital. In the circumstances, my son Guillaume is just as comfortable. As project manager, he arrived in Argentina accompanied by about fifty artists and technicians from Montreal to set up a performance in the next three months which will tour Latin America. This is quite a challenge for these circus specialists to team up with Latino musical stars of Argentina. The two teams have to learn how to work together before undertaking a one-year tour of some ten countries. This is what’s called a transfer of skills.
Léo and Noah, our grandchildren, are delighted to greet us, particularly after having been promised to go and spend a whole week by the sea with them and their mother Sara. Prior to taking the road to Mar de Plata, we will be visiting some Buenos Aires areas not yet discovered by them. Argentine schoolchildren are presently on vacation because this is summer, but our boys are faithful to the Québec school plan. They are getting courses from a Francophile teacher. So we respect the lesson schedule.
While Guillaume and his colleagues are working at Luna Park, a huge amphitheatre, where stages, trapezes and all kinds of installations are set up for acrobats and musicians, we are providing children with lessons in history and local geography. We visit, namely the old port, the Bombonera, the Junior Boca stadium, the most famous football team of the city; the museum of immigration telling the story of millions of Italians who came over to reach fame and fortune during the last century and finally an excursion at the huge memorial park explaining the journey dotted with paintings of the misdeeds of the dictatorship that has raged in Argentina for a decade.
It is often said that Buenos Aries looks somewhat like Paris with its long boulevards and Haussmann buildings, its proud historical monuments, its huge public areas and charming terraces. It is particularly true with respect to the heart of the city built during the last century. Pleasant walks can be made while admiring the architecture of the Belle Époque, artisan shops where one can buy all sorts of findings in the calm greenery of the many parks of the capital.
Like all the visitors familiar with Evita Perón, we also wanted to view the presidential palace before which she pronounced passionate pleas for the poor people. This is also the location where the fools of May Square, a group of grandmothers who claim the return of children kidnapped by the militaries. Upon returning, off the subway, a walk through the rich district of La Recoleta, where embassies and residences of great families are located.
Back to the apartment at the end of the day, we prepare the meal while waiting for Guillaume to return after having spent most of the day, opening crates to find missing pieces out of the three containers shipped from Montreal. It’s time for an aperitif with empanadas and a good glass of sparkling wine from Mendoza the region that produces the best wines in the country.
The following day, the five of us leave, in an old rented vehicle, heading for the Mar Chiquita beaches which is a small town on the Atlantic coast some five hours from Buenos Airs. A pretty house was rented prior to rush for a dive in the ocean after having dropped off the luggage in the rooms. What a delight, the beach is almost deserted and we can romp in the water until exhaustion. The week goes on with bike rides in the sleeping town, back and forth to the beach and hours of relaxing on the terrace of our refuge.
It is a bit short to summarize three months and three weeks of stay in Argentina in these few lines, but I admit that we have also brought back a load of images and unforgettable perfumes of this distant country.
We will also keep memories of these warm conversations with strangers, our impromptu visits to neighbourhoods, normally not frequented by tourists along with scenes of daily life engraved in our memories.
The tour of the troupe took place almost without a hitch, except that the circus trucks were stuck one day in the snow when crossing the Andes on the way to Chili. It goes without saying that Guillaume returned to Montreal tired, but proud to have completed the loop successfully. Two months later, he began to prepare for his next trip with the circus to Hangzhou in China, a simple regional metropolis of 14 million inhabitants!
It is unlikely that we will visit him this time, but we will be happy to be in contact with the magic of the internet.