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pathways (guide)

Alberto Capizzano

A page of my past youth to an English youth of nowadays

I was born in a little peaceful village near to the shore of the Rio de la Plata, with a fine yachting port, in the neighborhood of Buenos Aires, whose name is Olivos (olive trees).

My home, a chalet surrounded by a wide garden, stood in front of a long avenue named 'Maipu' which divided two very different places: on one side the elegant English quarter with its typical Tudor houses, and on the other the humble suburb where lived the people who were employed by the English families.

My friends were boys from the two sides. Crampton, Doelling, Atwood, Hayward, Peacan. Their families came to Argentina with the railway companies, when the English railways spread over our country, or with the banks or other different enterprises. Willy, Eric and Douglas remain here still; Bob, Martin and Freddy departed in the 40's to the Second World War becoming R.A.F. heroes. My wife still keeps the badge of her uncle Robert Harrison who died in the sky of Germany.

They played rugby and danced jazz.

My friends of the back yard, Horacio, Raul, Antonio, Carlos, Juancito played soccer, danced tango and went across the avenue to hide themselves and spy, through the grove, the girls of Northland's College (of which my granddaughter Lucrecia is pupil now) playing hockey with their short scotch skirts!

But in our schools we learnt from childhood about the English invasion of 1806, when a navy commanded by Admiral Beresford landed at Buenos Aires, and was repelled by people throwing boiling oil from the roofs of their homes!

I still remember ourselves as children, watching proudly the English flags kept in Santo Domingo Convent.

And also we learnt that the Malvinas Islands are Argentine and had been snatched by England.

This innocent nationalism became adult.

In 1945, when I entered in the University's Medicine School, anti-imperialist bibliography filled the corridors. Railways were nationalized and the long Maipu Avenue became 'Presidente Peron'.

My soul was divided in two schizophrenic portions.

I am a son of a famous oncologist who taught me a deep personality cult. Certainly, I grew up in a family of Italian origin, with a strong fascist character, but when my father was censored in his own expression of ideas, he turned against the regime.

Then, the poor relegated people of the provinces, a long time ignored, came to Buenos Aires.

An old conservative politician described it as a 'zoological alluvium'.

Standing on a Buenos Aires' corner, near my father, we watched together the crowd marching with their naked torsos and the leader's image stuck on their foreheads. It was October 17 1945.

That very same afternoon I came back home, gave flags to Antonio, Carlos and Juancito and we went together to Plaza de Mayo with the 'unshirted' masses. I was a medicine student at the time when human pain wasn't yet classified and one thought that misery is an illness like a cancer.

In Rosario, a big city also, 300 km from Buenos Aires, another boy looked the same scenario and felt the same commotion.

He played rugby, was medicine student, and descendent of a traditional Argentine family. Guevara (Che is the generic Argentinian nickname) was born at the same date as I and graduated at the same time.

We both traveled the lonely corners of our huge country and stirred up our selves looking at the humble and marooned people in their hovels. But we never met each other. All I know about him is from Ricardo Rojo, his biographer and common friend.

He took the way of violence with its tragic end. I became old caring for cancer patients.

I entered a brief political phase. I believed Peronism would be the way for the recovery of indigent people. Then, my father died and I thought I should take his place. Ernesto found in Marxism his way and died seeking for his own place.

Many years later other Ches found their death on the South Atlantic's black fog pursuing a dream drawn first on the blackboard of their childhood.

Last year, a Sunday evening, I went across a long avenue named 'Web'. And while spying, I found a new English friend. His name is Geoffrey Klempner, from the Sheffield University, who teaches Philosophy, another Searching for Truth...and for Happiness.

And I went across the Avenue because in my Cancer Institute' s Lecture Hall, under my father's portrait, one can read one of his phrases:

'Humanity will reach its Health, when it understands that it is but one family,
which ought to be in harmony with itself and with Nature that surrounds it.'