As an Argentine

2016 on a wall in Buenos Aires — Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

My multilingual mentor and friend Raúl Guerrero Montemayor identified himself as “híbrido”. At the time that he told me this in the late 60s it did not create much conflict in my head nor did it clash with my idea of nationalism (perhaps patriotism is a better fit here).

The fact is that I was born in Buenos Aires; my mother was from Manila and my father was and Englishman born in Argentina. In 1954 my mother and grandmother moved us to Mexico City and I received later a high school education in Austin, Texas. During my college education in Mexico City I was drafted into the Argentine Navy. I lived in Buenos Aires for three years. I married my Canadian wife in Mexico and we had two daughters who were born in Tacubaya, a Mexico City neighbourhood. We moved to Vancouver in 1975.

I have a family in Buenos Aires of Irish or English heritage who are mostly very Roman Catholic and whose political views drift to the right.

In Vancouver I worked for many years taking photographs for the left leaning Federal and Provincial NDP.

My wife and I both are extreme fans of Rachel Maddow on the lefty MSNBC.

Politically I would define myself as a pragmatist who believed that there is no difference between the corruption of the left and that of the right.

As an Argentine, and I feel very Argentine as I have come to understand that one suffers/endures/loves nostalgia for a place one is not in at the time. As an explanation if I were to see a beautiful woman in Venice I might approach her and say, “You are most beautiful. I would like to photograph you under an umbrella to show my nostalgia for my native city of Vancouver where it rains lots.”

As an Argentine I have pride for that which is Argentine. I am proud of our pope, of Messi, of Julio Cortázar, of Jorge Luís Borges, of Astor Piazzola, of our wine (even though I am not a connoisseur) and most recently of writers I did not know anything about like Alfonsina Storni.

As an Argentine who participated in a coup (my excuse is that I had to obey orders) and knowing Argentina has a terrible track record with military takeovers and their infamous disappearing of people, I have mixed thoughts on that other Argentine of not, Ernesto Guevara.

As an Argentine who understands that politics in Argentina is far more polarized than even in the present US I can appreciate and brag that someone like Mario Vargas Llosa (who abandoned his loftiness as he matured to be an old man) wrote the most exquisite prologue to a recent compilation of all the stories of Julio Cortázar. Among the stories is one where only in the last page do you find out that the protagonist is non-other than the Che himself. That a novelist of fame from the right could possibly write such a glowing forward to a writer who hated Perón and adopted all things Cuban/Che is marvelous.

As a photographer I have my lists of the most striking photographs of the 20thcentury. One of them that shocked me from the very first time I saw it was that of a dead Che Guevara on a slab in Bolivia. There is a most interesting account here on how Guevara died.

Few might know that Guevara was a medical doctor who must have had conflicts with his Hippocratic Oath during his revolutionary career.

Recently I read a one-page essay by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano called Nacedor (one who is born):

¿Por qué será que el Che tiene esta peligrosa costumbre de seguir naciendo?

Cuanto más lo insultan, lo manipulan, lo traicionan, más nace.

Él es el más nacedor de todos. ¿No será porque el Che decía lo que pensaba, y hacía lo que decía?

¿No será que por eso sigue siendo tan extraordinario, en un mundo donde las palabras y los hechos muy rara vez se encuentran, y cuando se encuentran no se saludan, porque no se reconocen?

Why is it that el Che has that dangerous custom of being born over and over? The more he is insulted, manipulated and betrayed the more he is born. He is the one who is most born of all. Could it no be that el Che said what he thought and did what he said? Would it not be then that he keeps being extraordinary, in a world were words and deeds rarely connect and when they do so they do not greet each other as they do not recognize each other?

My translation

Originally published at

Latin American & Spanish Literature in any language

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Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:

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