I met Marité some months after Norma and I had separated. At first our relation stayed at the “friendship” level. She was also from Argentina and we had long conversations sharing our experiences, both as immigrants and as people that had been hurt by their partners. She, by her fiancé and me, by my wife.
We both enjoyed classical music, books and wine. So, a bond developed and after a while I found out that she also enjoyed traveling.
Our first trip together was to Watkins Glen, in upstate New York, where there was a Formula One International meet each year. I was marginally interested in car racing and Marité had a friend whose husband owned a Ferrari and who followed car racing as well. They invited us to watch the race with them. It was the first time I stayed at a private house, which opened its doors to tourists and fans who came to watch the race. We arrived there at a late hour (probably around 1 am) and we found the door open, and a light on at an upstairs room that happened to be (we found out the next day) the family’s daughter’s room. Coming from NYC, where nobody would dream to leave an outside door open, we wondered how trusting these people were. The next day we found out a couple of reasons why. Near the entrance, there was a display case full of different guns and at the outside there was a patrol car parked, which was used by the owner of the house, who was a town policeman.
We had mostly a good time, although someone nicked my camera. It happened at the Ferrari tent, where one would assume people that owned a $ 70,000 car would not be tempted to steal a $ 200 camera. Go figure…
By end of 1973, Marité and I had become best pals and lovers. We both planned a trip to Argentina, although we went our separate ways. She stayed in a rented apartment and I in a hotel. We met several times while in Buenos Aires and had a grand time. I got to know some of her siblings and she met my boys. I, of course, visited my mother in Villa General Belgrano, (a town about 500 miles, northwest of Buenos Aires) and she spend also a lot of time with her family and friends.
I returned to New York, early in January 1974, but Marité stayed sometime longer. When she came back we decided to live together. It took another three months to find a place which we liked and we moved to an apartment in the Upper West Side of NY.
In the early fall of 1975 we traveled again to Buenos Aires. Marité stayed with her family and I, again, in a hotel. (Her mother didn’t know then that we lived together.) Then we traveled to visit my mother and spend a couple of days in the city of Córdoba, where we met one of my best friends, Jorge Rioboo.
One night we met Jorge for dinner and then we went to a “Peña Folklórica” (an Argentinean folk show). After the show, already past midnight, we were walking unconcerned through the mostly deserted streets of the city, when we heard an awful boom, which made us jump in different directions. Jorge explained that it had been a bomb explosion. It was our first “encounter” with the state of terror that was starting to grip Argentina and peaked with the military dictatorship, which ruled over the country the next eight years, starting on the 24th of March of 1976.
Back in New York we became involved with a group that was fighting against the violations of human rights in Argentina, that were institutionalized by the military junta. (During the years of the regime it is estimated that close to 30,000 people were jailed, tortured, killed or simply disappeared, because of their political views.) As part of my involvement with this group I traveled for the first time to the West Coast, to San Francisco, to a meet with other people that were also concerned with the violations of human rights in Argentina and Chile. I didn’t have much of a chance to see the city, but the little I saw made me want to come back and see more.
The next summer, in 1977, my father lent me his car (living in NYC, I had no car of my own) and Marité and I made a trip to Canada. In our way we stopped in Lake George (beautiful lake views) and Fort Ticonderoga (site of the first Patriot victory over the British, in the Revolutionary War) in NY, and drove up Mount Mansfield in VT (unique panoramic views).
In Canada we visited Montreal (the most European city in North America); Quebec City (the only walled city north of Mexico and where French is the language de rigueur); Ottawa (the capital of Canada, and perhaps the most British city in North America) and Toronto (the most cosmopolitan city in Canada). We liked most Montreal, especially Vieux-Montréal, the historical old City Center) and enjoyed the French centered food we had in some wonderful restaurants.
We ended our tour with a visit to Niagara Falls, which we saw from both sides of the border.
The following year, in May, we visited the island of Puerto Rico, where we had friends who had been part of our human rights group in the past. We stayed with them in the town of Juana Diaz, and they drove us around, visiting many beautiful places like Vega Baja Beach and picturesque towns, like Ponce.
The same year, in August, I made another trip, with a friend, on behalf of our human rights defense group. This time our destination was Paris, where delegates of different countries and representing different organizations got together and tried to work out some common strategies to make the world aware of what was happening in Argentina. I had some working connections with a Spanish travel agency, so we got cheap tickets to Madrid, where we were supposed to connect to another flight that would take us to Paris. However, as it occurs frequently in Europe, there was a labor strike involving flight personnel and all air travel had been cancelled. So, we had to take a train from Madrid to Paris. It was the height of the summer season, and we could not find seats on the train. So, we had to seat mostly on top our baggage or in the floor of the corridor; although sometimes we exchanged places with other passengers and when we could, sat in the dining car. A 20 hour long and uncomfortable trip. However, we were young and didn’t mind too much. The train passed through some very beautiful places and I specially remember the afternoon crossing of the Pyrenees.
In September I visited San Francisco again. It was a working trip, but I didn’t have to work much and had time to wander around the beautiful city by the Bay.
A couple of weeks later, Marité and I moved to Queens, as my son Marcelo came to stay with us for a year. It was a remarkable experience to be a full time parent again. He and his brother had visited us for short periods of time, during the last few years. But that was vacation time. Now we had to oversee the life of an adolescent day in and day out. However, things worked out well and we strengthen our relation as a family.
At the end of the school year, Tony came also to visit, and the four of us traveled once more to Puerto Rico. First we stayed in El Condado, in a beach front hotel and later we went to visit our friends in Juana Diaz. We had a wonderful time.
Marcelo and Tony, went back to Argentina. Marité and I where by ourselves once again. And, then wanderlust stroke once more… But, let’s leave that for another time.