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Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.
Letter From Buenos Aires…

July 27, 2005

From a haunted place…

It is impossible to really understand a place in a few short days. One can get a sense, a feel, a touch of a place. So it was with me and Buenos Aires. I had in five days a scent of the place.

Once settled, I hired a driver from the hotel who spoke good English, Eugenio, and asked him to drive me around Buenos Aires, which he did, unfailingly polite while pointing out to me all the sights he felt were interesting.

Argentina has been through all kinds of financial crises for the last four decades, with one of the worst ones happening in 2001, when the economy melted down and the government devalued the peso. Good for us. One peso equals about 33.3 cents, and one peso buys about what one dollar does in the States which means that Argentina is one of the few countries where our currency has an advantage.

It was winter here so it was cool, not cold but cool, very cool.

Eugenio took me around Saturday afternoon, through a city that has been described as the Paris of the South. Indeed, the city and its architecture evoke Paris; with touches of British, Italian, and German influences.

To us, Evita is the subject of a musical; here Evita is an icon to be called upon to evoke a cause, as is being done by two women of Argentina currently. One is the wife of the current President of Argentina; the other is the wife of a former President. Both are competing for a Senate seat for Buenos Aires Province. Think Laura Bush versus Hillary Clinton. Both these women are claiming the mantle of “Evita” and holding competing rallies in her name.

Ignancio, who runs the Discovery Ad Sales office here, told me that the country has been roiled by one crisis after another since 1960. And as the country reels from one crisis to another, various individuals bring out the ghosts of Juan Peron and Evita to attempt to convince the current population they can do as much good as these two iconic characters, in every sense, from their past..

I don’t think Juan has a museum of his own but Evita does; a place I visited on Sunday afternoon. You walk into a darkened room and are confronted with scratchy black and white film that fills the space and the imagination; all of it demonstrating the anguish into which Argentina was plunged with the death of Evita.

In the black room, mirrored on three sides so that you are surrounded by the mourning for Evita, it is a bit overwhelming.

Ride the streets of Buenos Aires; walk the streets of Recolleta, the central district, and you feel a place that has endured the Perons, several military dictatorships, ongoing financial crises, a volatile union and political scene.

You see the worn faces of people who have endured their times and still stand but are weary from the effort. There is, on the faces of most people in their forties and above, a visible exhaustion that has come from surviving these crises.

Until I walked its streets, Buenos Aires was the stuff of legend, the musical, a place I read about, a city of mothers and grandmothers who still march to find out what happened to their offspring who are “the disappeared.”

It is a beautiful city, worn by its times and troubles. With a population of twelve million, a third of the country’s total, greater Buenos Aires seems to be emerging from a stupor, seen in the construction cranes and the young faces who are working hard to have a future different than the ones before.

Out of the crises of the peso devaluation, and debt default, there is slowly rising a new Argentina, less chaotic than the Argentina before. It is a country still haunted by its past, by those who disappeared under the dictatorship, by the ghost of Evita, by the spirits of all that could have been but has not been. It is a city that wants to hope, that wants to be re-born but feels afraid to hope for too much…