Yes, I know, I know, who cares about Argentina? Who cares about petty stories full of sociohistorical drama and nostalgic memories? But please bare with me because I don’t know where to start from, so I should start from the beginning of it all. Please don’t misunderstand me; I know it’s senseless to try to organize chaos and justify everything historically. There is surely a great amount of randomness and gratuitousness in my life, which could only be accounted for by Karmic laws or by what religious people call so well: free will. But for the sake of building up tension and make you understand some, if not all, of my actions, please let me provide you with the same amount of information about myself that I possess. Let’s start by my family history.
Teodora was born in a small town in the north of Argentina. She was the first of a a total of four siblings. She grew up during the 60’s in what back then was a backward country which had drastically declined in the last thirty years. A series of coup de etats had sold out the country to a few Argentinean landowners, until a colonel called Domingo Perón took power, paradoxically by democratic means, and became one of the most popular presidents in the history of the country. He followed the lead of the Christian Democrat Organization of America and promoted a “third way” between the savage capitalism promulgated by Americans and the non-democratic alternative proposed by Russia. Perón respected the rule of law and remained in power simply because of his populist regime. However authoritarian his government may have been, he allowed the creation of labor unions and modified the Constitution with a solemn declaration of the Rights of the Family in 1949, the same year that higher education became free. He advocated for a fair distribution of wealth and therefore implemented a welfare state that intervened strongly in the economy of the country. He also added Rights to Education and Culture and Rights of the Child to the Constitution and implemented a plan of industrialization. His wife didn’t fall behind in this socialist outburst; Eva Duarte created a foundation that, with an annual budget of fifty million dollars, created new schools, hospitals, retirement houses and offered scholarships.
However, the bonanza wasn’t meant to last long and, in 1952, a severe drought and an economic recession deals a hard blow to the Argentinean democratic dream; more than eighty thousand workers lose their jobs. There is capital flight; the private investors flee from the rampant inflation and the industrialization of the country is cut short. In this year, Teodora’s father lost his job. Decades later he’d tell the story of the day the sugar factory he worked for was shut down to his grandchild. He’d mentioned big cranes, maybe the product of his overexcited imagination or of Machievelian plans, which lifted the machinery high up in the air just to drop it and make it unusable. But the situation in the country went just from bad to worse. In 1955, mercenaries from the army, supported by the Argentinean aristocracy and funded by the American government, bombarded the main square in Buenos Aires, called the 25 May Square in honor of the date of the revolution against Spain. These feat by the people who were supposed to be defending our nation left three hundred deaths and sent a clear message to the population: “The military has no historical awareness nor conscience”. The Liberating Revolution, as it was called, forced president Perón into exile and reppressed the emerging socialist movement, which lead to the radicalization of humanitarians. These radicals forced the military to concede elections and brought Perón back into power in 1973, but only till his death less than a year later. In 1976 the military resumes power and establishes the most brutal regime in the history of Argentina; by 1982, when the last Argentinean dictatorship was over, thirty thousand people had disappeared and the liberal policies and corruption had brought Argentina into underdevelopment and had accumulated a massive amount of illegitimate debt, which the IMF later forced the country to honor.
Teodora’s father could never find a new long-term job, although he tried his luck on many trades. Her mother was forced to support the family, which left Teodora in charge of the domestic duties. She did a conscientious housework, something a modern girl would be unable to, but she had also yearnings for experiences and thirst for knowledge that were not met by her countryside life. Who can blame a person for aspiring to more than the calmness and stillness of a small town? She read as much as she could and traveled imaginary as far as it’s possible, but the soul needs real experiences to develop, although it can be well informed by literature.
She’d taken care of a small sister and two small brothers and now it was her time to spread her wings and go to the city to explore a world of opportunities. Her first thought had been medicine, because she cared about people and journalism wasn’t a real career back then and just few people felt inclined towards it. Although at the beginning of the eighties meritocracy wasn’t still the order of the day, people in Argentina studied to ascend in the social scale, and medicine and law were the obvious choices. Later she’d give up on medicine to take kinesiological studies, which which had more to do with helping people and less to do with social position
She studied and worked in a relatively big city. There were no online social networks back then, so she didn’t have the luxury of picking the handsomest guy in town to go out with. Her social network was limited to the shop she worked part-time in and the aisles of the university whose lectures she attended to. Twenty seven years later, her son would meet a girl through the internet and abandon her poor mother just to go to another continent that spoke a totally different language and settle there as easily as she’d done in this city, just a hundred kilometers away from her parents. But she couldn’t conceive of such an idea yet, not so much for the fact that her son would successfully learn a Slavic language and be able to get a visa to that out-of-the-way country but for the fact that he would be as ungrateful as to go to a far-away place where she wouldn’t be able to see her grandchildren at least once a month. But she wasn’t aware of many other things. Although she’d lived through the terror of not knowing who to trust in the street and of avoiding any activity that would be deemed as suspicious by the people in power of her country, although she’d once been taken to a police station where she cried, filled with the certainty that she was going to be taken out, she could’ve never conceived the level of desensitization mass media would provoke on people and how overwhelmed by options her future son would be. Girls from Algeria, Saudi Arabia and China talking to him, all at once, through his computer. A girl from Poland sending him pictures of her otherworldy features, celestial eyes and snow-white skin, who made him wonder whether the sun ever rose in those confines and whether she could be brought to a country such as his without being instantly vaporized by the sunlight. And that is the reason why this ungrateful son would one day be born from his mother’s pain just to go and seek happiness in the ethereal spheres of this ex-communist country.
So it happened a certain day in which she was attending to her business, that is, whiling away the hours that separated her from freedom from the cash register in front of her and from non-nourishing products all around. Her co-worker was finishing washing the floors before his shift was over; he always left this task for the last minute because it reminded him of his neo-liberal slavery to that modern slave-owner whom he called Don Pedro and from whom he received a meager salary of four hundred dollars or, in Ernesto’s eyes, four millions one hundred Pesos. While he was mopping the floor rhythmically and lusciously, as if recalling his remote black ancestry, he summoned up all the Indian blood that ran through his veins and addressed the slim, pale, big-eyed girl in front of him with a collected expression, although he was as afraid as an Indian in front of some old-world wonder.
“Are you free after work, Teodora?” he asked. To which she answered simply that she had no plans other than going home and reading through her notes to be ready for the morrow’s lecture. He asked her whether that task could wait, to which she answered that studying can always wait, as getting a degree and being part of the system wasn’t a goal that filled her with joy. He smiled emphatically and invited her to a family party: “Just to have some nice homemade food for a change,” he said “and then we can go to dance to a nearby club that plays good music.”
Teodora envied the fact that he lived in the same city he’d been born and raised, specially since it was a beautiful city, full of nightlife and nice architecture from the colonial period. Corrientes was one of the oldest cities in Argentina, founded in 1588 in the convergence of seven river currents and protected from floods due to its exceptional elevation. It was situated in a province that used to be the capital of the federalist resistance to the hegemonic ambition of leaders from Buenos Aires, back in the nineteenth century. She was upset at him because he was well fed by his mother’s milanesas, which he sometimes showed off on a lunch break at work, while she contented herself with cold meat and sausages that she sometimes stole from the shop they worked in. But this was her chance to get even with him. It wasn’t her fault that her natural curves had taken full shape and that her features had blossomed into radiancy and sweetness. The things that lured him to her were her deserved payment for years of emotional confusion and body discomfort, which he, as a man, knew nothing about. It was natural for her to make use of this asset of her to get what she wanted. But what did she want from this poor guy who was forced to lowered himself to her position to be able to pay for his studies? Was he as different from her as she thought, a city dweller that didn’t know anything about dirt roads, non-drinking water and hen houses? She was decided to find out, so she accepted his invitation.
“Money can be recovered, but time cannot,” was Teodora’s reaction when she got fired after being “late for the twelfth time in a single month.” Those had been her employer’s exact words, with a timely emphasis on the word “single,” which highlighted the fact that in only one month, made up of twenty working days, she’d already been late twelve times, and there were still five working days left, so she might as well be late “every single day,” for practical matters. She’d cut short his sermon by kindly remarking that if he didn’t like her ways, he was in his right to shove the job up his ass and find a new pawn he could dispose of as he wished. Needless to say she wasn’t given her deserved payment for the month, but she knew she was in no position to do anything about it, as she didn’t have a proper contract. Resigning herself to the fact of having wasted whole days on unpaid-for labor, she decided not to waist another “single” minut, mentally emphasizing the word that had been previously been used against her, and adding the maxim she’d learned from her mother:“Money can be recovered, but time cannot.”
By then, Teodora and Ernesto had been dating for six months and they were already planning to rent a flat together. Her brothers had come to a nearby city to study. Resistencia was one of the youngest cities in Argentina, founded less than eighty years before when the Argentinians could defeat the last tribe of hostile Indians; therefore its name. This city was strategically built just fifteen kilometers away from the already blossomed city of Corrientes, so as to profit from its glamorous aura, but it hadn’t been planned from the geographical point of view, since it was built beside the legendary seven currents whose nefast floods threatened whole civilizations. Therefore Resistencia became the target of mockery by dwellers of Corrientes, who felt sorry and contempt for their unskilled neighbors.
As Teodora and Ernesto didn’t make enough money to rent a flat by themselves, they went to live with Teodora´s brothers. Ernesto had quit his job at the supermarket too; not out of ideological conviction but out of bare need because they were moving to another city and he couldn’t possibly commute fifteen kilometers to work every days. However, he had lectures only twice a week, so it wasn’t a great inconvenience for him to live a little further from his University. Besides he as happy to finally move in with the potential woman of her life.