I first noticed Alejandra poolside at the hotel in Colonial. You could tell she was a woman of substance just by looking at her. She was just lying in her swim suit under the umbrella in the 35 odd degrees watching the half dozen guests that were tanning themselves and slipping in an out of the pool generously slapping SPF70 sunblock on her pale skin at regular intervals. She hates sunburn following a brush with skin cancer in the 1990’s, and so she imports the high-grade product from Brazil and applies it religiously. He skin was lily white so its obviously working for her!
I’m always curious about peoples back stories and she was no exception. She wore beautiful heavy sliver chain around her neck and wrist, and had the biggest knucklebuster of a ring I have ever seen on someone. She was no spring chicken; 68 in fact I was to learn later , and she made her presence felt without saying a word. What a treat we were in for when she did open her mouth! I spent a few hours around the pool in an effort to relax on the last couple of days of our holiday and over that time I realised that she spoke good English despite being a native from Argentina so loved to talk with her.
Boy was she one sassy old tart! Incredibly passionate about her political views and general opinions on life and living. When you listened to her, you knew that even if she was wrong, you had to believe she was right because her delivery was so filled with such passion. I want to be exactly like her when I get to that age and have that much fire in my belly still. I could categorically say she would take no prisoners if you got on the wrong side of her or held a different point of view. She was a woman on her own, who had been married for over 30 years before divorcing the father of her only daughter Veronica and going her own way. She was an only child herself born “Maria Alejandra”(she was quick to point out that her first name was Maria – like the virgin!) to older parents back in 1950. Her father was 53 and her mother 39 when she was born, but despite their ages, she never felt they were old as she was growing up. They aged well, looked young and it appears prepared her well for life from a very early age. At the age of 5 when her father took her to school for the first day, he looked her in the eye and said, “if you behave properly in life, you will always have a choice”. So, when she was a teenager wearing heavy makeup (painted like a door are her words!) and miniskirts and short shorts, he was more relaxed than most parents of that era and encouraged her individuality by continually telling her how beautiful she was. He encouraged her to be a free spirit, to be independent and to think for herself. He brought her an apartment in the flash suburb of Rocelleta in Buenos Aires when she was born to secure her future. She lives in that 7-story building today, enjoying views of the surrounding area from her patio thankful for the foresight of her father. Her parents gave her a spending allowance at the age of 12, and while other children were spending their pocket money on cigarettes or beer, she was travelling abroad and using her stashing away savings to accumulate wealth. She went on to purchase a couple of other rental properties at a young age and has been managing those rental properties since she was 18 years of age . Shes thankful for her prudence all those years ago as these days they provide her with the means to live the lifestyle she does. Because she married early and has only worked for about 5 years in total as a tax payer over the whole of her life, she doesn’t have the luxury of a pension to rely on so the income from those early investments allow her to continue to live on in the manner to which she has become accustomed to .
She has traveled all her life. Firstly with her parents and then throughout her married life with her ex-husband and daughter Veronica. She doesn’t consider the 4 trips to Uruguay she makes a year from Buenos Aires travelling. They are necessary shopping trips in her view. The clothes are expensive in BA and only made for skinny people so she takes the two hour ferry ride and her passport across the water to power shop on these trips. The morning we spoke she had purchased 4 pairs of trousers, 3 pairs of shoes and a couple of kimonos as a pre-curser to Veronica’s arrival later that afternoon. The girls were going to go shopping for a few days and replenish their wardrobes as one must.
She travels to Cardiff twice a year to visit a friend she has known since a teenager and to Australia once a year to spend time with her oldest friend – as girls they formed a firm friendship as their mothers pushed perambulators around the town square back in the day. While she is traveling, her cats Bonita and Lulu are looked after by a neighbour who lives in the building. She pays him in Mate- the traditional herb drink the country is obsessed with and everybody is happy as hell.
She’s had to put her Cardiff trip on hold until later in the year. She is adamant that she will remain in Argentina until after the general elections in November. She needs to vote to do her part in keeping the current President Mauricio Macri in office. He was sworn into office in December 10, 2015 and his four-year term is due to end. She says he is popular figure in Argentina following a career as head of the football team at La Boca ( a suburb of BA) and she believes he is the answer to the economic and welfare woes of Argentina following the 12 year combined reign of his predecessors. Cristina Kirchner is the woman who held the Presidency between 2007 - 2015. Prior to her election, her husband held office for 4 years and Alejandra believes that’s where all the countries problems started. She is disgusted with Cristina’s actions while in power and made no bones about that. She went on to say that her first term of office started with a conflict with the agricultural sector, and her proposed taxation system was rejected. After that she nationalized private pension funds and fired the president of the Central Bank. The price of public services remained subsidised, the country lost its self-supply of energy and her government implemented measures such as the application of universal allocation per child, the re-nationalization of pension funds, a new media law, and legalizing same-sex marriage. According to the World Bank, the middle class doubled in Argentina during her term!
Several corruption scandals took place and she faced several demonstrations against her rule and currently, she is a Senator for Buenos Aires Province and intends to run for the Presidency again in November. Over Alejanadras dead body she will get in if she has anything to do with it! She is sick to death of people that know nothing about nothing running the show so she will remain until after the votes are counted so she can enjoy her holiday knowing the Presidency is in good hands – hopefully.
I loved her spunk, her sense of style and the old-fashioned principles she displayed loudly and proudly, regardless of where she was. In the street where I met her dining on a delicious omelette kerbside, by the pool or in the breakfast room at the hotel, she was always as sharp as a tack, charming and thoroughly comfortable with her own company. I could resonate with all that and think she must be my soul sister from another continent.