I lived in Buenos Aires in the 1970s for nearly 4 years. Those were memorable times in both my life and in the history of the country. In 1974, Peron died, and his wife Isabel succeeded him as president until 1976, when the military junta took over the country and she was placed under house arrest. One day I wish to make a feature film about my family’s experience in those years, especially about my father, who saved the lives of many Jews (including his own family) by helping them escape to Uruguay.As I wandered the streets of Buenos Aires as a guest of the Jewish Film festival, I thought about those dark years. My uncle Miguel took me to see the house where I lived then. As many people who go back to their childhood homes know, this is an emotional experience. “Press the button,” Miguel said. He gave me the courage to do so, but as I spoke with the anonymous woman on the other side of the intercom, telling her that I lived in her house many years ago, and that I would like to see it again, her answer was one of suspicion and refusal. The only way to shake off the feeling of rejection was to have a cafecito and a media-luna with my beloved uncle. Why would she open the door to me, a stranger with a foreign accent?The three screenings at the Palermo Theater was more than anything I ever expected. The audience, engaged and welcoming, warmed me with their comments and poignant questions. One was from a man named Eduardo Newark, who later posted it on our Vitch web site’s guestbook. I appreciate the audience reaction. I appreciate the conversation.The most meaningful screening for me took place after I left, at the reconstructed AMIA building, the Jewish community center that was bombed in the 1994 terrorist attack that took the lives of 85 people.At this time of the year the city is blanketed with the purple blossoms of the Jacaranda tree. Some of the corner cafes I remembered have been replaced by shiny Starbucks, and Wi-Fi can be found almost everywhere, including the subway. People no longer eat meat two times a day, I’m told, and the Palermo neighborhood now has areas with new names, such as Palermo-Soho and Palermo-Hollywood. Still, there is no erasing the authenticity of this city, the one lives on in my childhood memories and the one I witnessed today.“Mi Buenos Aires Querido,” sung by Carlos Gardel, was one of my grandparents’ favorite tangos. I heard the melody while walking through the very streets Gardel sang about. Wondering, as the song says, “Cuando yo te vuelvo a ver,” when will I see you again?
Gardel singing his love song to Buenos Aires: