‘La dulzura puede cambiar el mundo.” Sweetness can change the world.” I was sitting in a café on the coast of the Rio de la Plata in Colonia, Uruguay and, as I reached for a packet of sugar for my coffee, I noticed something very special about the wrapper. Written so simply, yet so clear, were these words that expressed my ideal- how I innately feel about life and its challenges. Mais, aux meme temps, je sais il faut avoir un interiueur d’acier survivre dans ce monde.
I had traveled from Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata and along the southernmost coast of Uruguay- Montevideo, Punta Del Este- then back again to Buenos Aires. I continued on from there to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. Travelling by air, bus, and ferry, I discovered and compared people, cultures and impressions. For example, the intensity of the Argentineans of Buenos Aires and the soft, gentle nature of the neighboring Uruguayans were contrasted by their strides and their countenances. Even the way in which they danced the tango- same steps, yet, totally different styles- marked their differences: The Argentineans, delivering a powerful, fierce and tempestuous dance technique; and, the Uruguayans, exemplifying a soft, flowing and cultivated execution.
From the sophisticated city of Buenos Aires to the somewhat stained Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, to the sweltering Iguaçu jungle, I traveled with Romanian friends, currently living in Chicago. The days were filled with the investigation of cultural sites- Theatre de Colon, Ricoleta Cemetery, gardens, museums, Casapueblo, Theatre de Solis, Itaipu Dam, Iguaçu Falls… and, the nights suffused with music, tangos, dinners along the coast, and late night conspiracies over wine with friends who had escaped from the Socialist Republic of Romania during the 1980’s, under the rule of Communist and Stalinist President Nicolae Ceausescu. As I learned the arduous and heartbreaking details of their previous escapes, we continued to plot future adventures across the globe. Alas, I am now affectionately known as “La Nina:” Daughter.Confidant.Comarada.
While continuing our sojourn, we found many commonalities: Affection for Cartagena, Colombia, the city of my introduction to South America and, where the Afro-Colombian slave trade began. There, all of us had been enormously impressed by the diversity of the city’s people: Short and tall; round and thin; black and white, with all shades in between; and, hair spanning the spectrum from kinky to straight.
Along the way, we matched our reading treasures and found a love for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature, who wrote about the beliefs, the idiosyncrasies and passions of his people. I’m drawn in as a kindred spirit. “He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” WOW, I’m destined to read all that he has written.
I’ve traveled to many places and learned a lot about life and cultural differences. So much of what I have seen has been stimulating, character-shaping, and, even poignant, especially during this trip. I have fallen in love with the Latin culture and its people and, I’ll always be affected by that one simple sentence that I found on the sugar wrapper in Colonia: “La dulzura puede cambiar el mundo.”