Rio Bang Bang by Matias Viegener

BOMB 32 Summer 1990
032 Summer 1990

Juan Perón had two wives. First was Evita, who lived like a queen and died like a dog, and then there was Isabel. After Evita died, nothing Perón did was right: the country mocked him if he was too serious and hated him when he was too frivolous. He left Argentina in a shambles, a kind of broken socket without electricity. When he was ousted in 1956, he skipped across South America in borrowed propeller planes, from Montevideo to Rio to Caracas. Nothing was right. Finally he settled in the Hotel Colòn, overlooking the Panama Canal. From his room, Perón could watch the many boats travel along the wide canal, and it was here that he formulated the plans for his political resurrection.

At the Gala Gala Theater, all the girls were in an uproar: Perón came backstage to give a rose to Isabel María Martínez, who was a rising star in José’s company. During the show, all the girls watched Perón, half convinced that he was an imposter. He sat at a table with his advisors, all in black suits and all drinking blue margaritas. It was the night of “¡Olé Paris!,” not the “Amore Tropical” show, as has often been said.

Backstage, Juan Perón was surrounded with pink feather headpieces being carried into storage. He was healthy and tan, and he had not yet begun to lose his dark hair; he wore sunglasses with black frames, the kind the whole world would be wearing in two years. “¡He is so handsome!” one chorus girl whispered. “And that bitch Isabel should get his rose …” “¿How could he think she’s pretty?” a fat woman said. “¡She’s an ice princess!”

After he gave Isabel the rose, Perón shook her hand and left her in the dressing room. His five advisors, all in identical suits, were waiting in the limousine and they returned with him to the Hotel Colòn.

“¿What does he want from me?” Isabel gasped. She was having her hair set by Pierre, the general manager of José’s company, before going to Perón’s room.

“He isn’t sure,” Pierre said. “You must be strong, Isabel. Remember, he must be a profoundly unhappy man. He has lost a nation. Give him your entire body, but reserve a piece of your soul for yourself. Don’t give him everything he wants.”

Pierre was Isabel’s closest friend in the company. They always shared a room, so Isabel was spared the crowded quarters of the other dancers. In addition to his considerable skills in coiffure, Pierre was an astrologer. He stayed up all night casting Juan Perón’s charts, calculating how Perón’s and Isabel’s charts corresponded.

“The future will be remarkable,” he said, putting Isabel’s new tutu back in its box.

When Isabel came to Perón’s suite, the valet, Heinrich, took her satin cloak. Heinrich was a bald man with a sharp nose and strong bony hands. Taking one end of the cloak and then the other, he picked it up, whipped it above his head and wrung it like a wet towel. Isabel glared at him. She said nothing.

“Very good,” Perón murmured from the next room. “Very good.” He watched them through a crack in the door.

I do not like that man Heinrich,” Isabel said to Perón. In her hand she had a martini. The onion inside was pink. Perón stretched out on the chaise longue. Isabel perched on the edge of the French chair across from the dictator. She wore a red satin dress with a large bow on the back, twice as wide as Isabel’s very thin waist; she could not sit back without fear of crushing her red satin bow.

Heinrich peered through the door behind Isabel. Perón shook his head “no.” Heinrich left without closing the outer doors to the suite. Isabel moved one inch further into her seat. Perón got up. He walked to the hi-fi, leaned over, and put on a record. It was “Shall We Dance,” from The King and I. Perón tripped over the leg of the sofa. He stood up slowly, pretending it hadn’t happened.

“My work takes me all over the world,” Isabel said stiffly. “You may see only feathers and flesh, but each of us has labored many years to dance for Jóse. My family means nothing to me. Argentina means nothing. There is only the theater. I am an artist.”

Perón nodded. He walked to the window and looked out over the glittering canal. On the table next to him were stacks of articles from newspapers and magazines. Perón’s photograph, always with sunglasses, was in the center of many of them. There were photos with sidebars from Evita Perón’s funeral, two years earlier. The articles said Evita’s body was stolen by the anti-Perónistas; people said her desiccated arms were cut off and hidden in a second hiding place.

“No one detains you here,” Perón said. “You are free to leave.”

“Am I? You want nothing from me?”

Neither of them spoke. Isabel took a cigarette from the gold case on the table. Perón leaned forward to light it, putting his left leg between Isabel’s feet. She leaned all the way back into her seat. Their eyes locked. There was a crackling of the starched satin bow being crushed into the chair.

“Merci, Señor,” she said. Perón fixed her with his eyes again. He growled from his throat, half between a “grrr” and a “meow.”

Upon hearing the dictator’s growl, Heinrich ever so quietly shut the door, locking the couple inside. He sat down in the hall, watching the elevators as he did every evening until the night guard came. He wore a holster with a black Colt Automatic. All three of Perón’s assassination attempts had occurred at night. “If the assassins come on one elevator,” Heinrich once said, “I will kill them. If they come on both, they kill me.”

From the suite, the other side of The King and I was played. Then the album from My Fair Lady. These were Juan Perón’s favorite new films. He did not like The Ten Commandments or Lust For Life. Since Evita’s death in ’52, while his power base crumbled, Perón had watched two new films a day. He had miniature cars brought to his estate outside Buenos Aires; he used them to entertain the girls from the Boca Juniors volleyball team. Argentina tumbled under crippling inflation and the National Assembly cried out for economic leadership while Nelly Silberstein, of the Boca Juniors, massaged Perón’s aching charlie-horse.

“First I thought he was a bully, but then he was a kitten,” Isabel told Pierre. He was combing out her hair. “¡Perón rubbed my feet!” she said. “If my mother had seen she’d have died. ¡The president of Argentina! And he talked mostly about Evita: ‘Since Evita died … dum dum dum’ or ‘when Evita was in her first film, tra-la-la …’”

“It must still be very painful,” Pierre said.

“Yes. The mask of tragedy is upon his face,” Isabel said.

The next night, Perón did not come to the “Amore Tropical” show, but he was seen at “El Ritz Hot” the night after. “There is more here than meets the eye,” Perón murmured to his advisors. “It is the culture of the people. It is their way of explaining the world to themselves.” At the bookstore in the Hotel Colòn, the clerk received a request for six copies of the best book on the musical revue.

“Six copies of Hola Hollywood?” he asked.

“For research,” Perón’s advisor answered.

For the first time in his exile, Juan Perón began to leave his suite during the day. People saw him in the halls, humming to himself. Most often heard was “Que Sera Sera.” People saw him walk by himself through the portico of the hotel to the canal. Perón was able to count three oil tankers gliding past him. At the Miraflores Locks, ocean liners were lifted 85 feet from sea level to the level of the canal. There were little electric locomotives that pulled the boats East or West. Perón heard the moaning of the steel gates as they opened or shut. He stood near the enormous sluices and watched the water from the Pacific meet the water from the Atlantic.

The next day he brought Isabel with him to the canal, the first time she had ever been there. She was entranced: the boats with all their foreign names and flags and their strange cargo. Boats carrying coffee beans, steel, and rubber, boats bound for California and Japan, Korea and Vancouver. It was the thin ribbon at the center of the world.

“And think,” Perón said. “There was almost no canal here at all. It might have been the Nicaragua Canal. But, had Teddy Roosevelt said yes, we might not be here together today.”

Just then a banana boat passed them, pulled along by the little locomotives. The steel gates groaned shut, a long moaning noise like an enormous animal. They stopped to look at the banana boat; Isabel remembered that banana boats often carried loads of tarantula spiders which were only killed by fumigation. After the banana boat, there was a carrier heaped with soybeans.

“From the Atlantic to the Pacific,” Perón said, “the chief cargo is oil, coal, grains, soybeans, and phosphates. In the opposite direction, it is oil, metal ores, lumber, bananas, iron, and steel products.”

“Oil in both directions?”

“Yes,” Perón said. “It depends on the market. It always flows from the cheaper hemisphere to the more expensive one. Isn’t it democratic?”

Perón and Isabel were seen at Colòn’s one grand cinema, El Royale, both wearing sunglasses. They were seen at lunch by the pool of the hotel, with Heinrich and the five advisors at a neighboring table. The dominant color of their romance was pink. More often than not, one of them wore something in this color. One of the dancers saw Isabel and Perón at dinner. She reported seeing Perón’s hand tremble as he held the creamer. It was after dinner and the table was littered with cups and glasses of red wine, water, Coca-Cola, champagne, and Panamanian coffee. Perón’s hand shook. Despite himself, he poured cream into the red wine, which turned it pink. Everyone pretended not to notice.

Only Heinrich was an obstacle to their courtship: he never spoke to Isabel unless she asked him a question, to which his answers were always vague. When Perón was at the pool, which was rare, Heinrich implied that he was on the roof. When Perón went to the American consulate, Heinrich suggested that he was at the pool. Isabel knew this. After she asked, the last place she went for Perón was where Heinrich told her to look.

“He hates me,” Isabel told Pierre.

“Put this under your pillow,” Pierre told her, giving her a cloth doll and several words to chant every night.

Perón had all the filmed material on Evita brought out of his cracked brown leather suitcases. “My library,” he told Isabel. For many nights they sat and watched Evita’s films, interviews, and newsreels. “Like you, Evita was an artist,” Perón said. It was widely conceded that her finest dramatic work came just before Perón was elected, when she played Maria Conchita de Escobar, heroine of San José. Unfortunately, Perón only had a poor tape recording of the film; they sat in the dark, listening to Evita’s voice exhorting the masses not to yield to the tyrant, Don Pedro. Over and over she shouted “the people, united, will never be defeated.” Her voice dissolved in the riotous cheers of the crowd.

“Evita wore her hair differently,” Perón said. He stood up, walking behind Isabel. “It was more like this,” he said, pulling her hair back. Then he hesitated, noting the precision of Isabel’s tresses. “Who does you hair?” he asked.

“Pierre, the manager of José’s company.”

“It is masterful,” Perón said. “Very well crafted. I can tell a great deal from how a man does a woman’s hair. This Pierre might have been a fine military strategist.”

Although the first television sets had been in Argentina for two years, there were none in Panama. Perón was happy that there were at least ice cube makers, although they didn’t always work. Alberto Noriega lent him an ice shaver, and with this he was able to make many new and exotic cocktails. Since the widespread marketing of curaçao liqueur, blue margaritas were the rage in both South and Central America.

Perón listened to the BBC. All the news was filled with reports of Fidel Castro landing in Cuba to fight against President Batista. Perón got excited because he heard an announcer say “Castro has the vigor of the young Perón.” He read all the major newspapers and clipped articles. For a few days, he did not shave. He came to Isabel one morning and said “¿Well?” Isabel shrugged. Perón got exasperated.

“Haven’t you been reading the paper?” he said. “You don’t know this Castro?”

“A common name,” Isabel said. “One Castro is like another to me.”

Soon all of the papers were filled with the marriage of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. “Boring,” Perón said, but this time Isabel clipped articles herself. King Paul and Queen Fredericka of Greece visited Bonn. Perón giggled all night. “¡Fredericka!” he said. “What a name for a queen!”

Isabel was fascinated with titles—“Just like Evita,” Perón said. “Oh how she wanted to meet the Queen of England, but she didn’t. The Queen said no.”

“Yes,” Isabel said. “I read about it in the papers.”

“I’ve never been impressed with titles,” Perón said. “They’re all inbred; genetically, they’re exhausted. They hated Evita because of her beauty and vitality—they said she was coarse. But she knew one thing they didn’t: she knew clothes.”

Juan Perón believed that his entire career had materialized in a single moment, when Evita told him to take off his jacket. It was 1947, at a torchlight rally. A moment of hesitation passed through the workers after Perón spoke. “Take off your jacket,” Evita whispered, “the people will love it. Wave your bare arms.” The crowd went wild. All the newspapers featured Perón on the front page, the ‘champion’ of the ‘shirtless ones.’ They carried him on their shoulders, breaking windows and knocking over parked cars. From this moment on, no one could stop him.

Since 1947, Perón had always been preoccupied with jackets. He looked at them all the time, the way they were cut, how the fabrics hung. Different jackets, Italian jackets, English jackets, jackets from Fifth Avenue. Perón was fascinated with the way jackets slipped on and the way they came off. He was absorbed in a quest for the perfect jacket.

“As a lover, he satisfies you?”

“¡Pierre!” Isabel said.

“Oh, excuse me,” he said. He went back to the hot curlers.

“Well,” Isabel said. “I’m not sure.”

“What do you mean you’re not sure?”

“You know me. After one martini … ¡Yes Pierre!” she said to him, “¡massage my neck!”

“After one martini …”

“He likes me to wear stockings. And nothing else. Sometimes he asks me to stand on the chair. Well, you know, I really don’t have much romantic experience.”

“Yes …”

“Sometimes he holds me from behind and rubs back and forth until we are both covered with sweat. The air conditioning is so primitive … now, please, rub my shoulders … usually there is no penetration. You know, anyway, how Evita died, that horrible uterine cancer. People say it smelled so terribly. After that, you can imagine a person would be sensitive … And the air conditioning—the floor of the room is freezing but above the level of the bed you are covered in sweat. It really is disgusting.”

“Hmm,” Pierre said.

“Now you tell me something. I’m a little unclear about the politics, as they say. What exactly was Perón’s political position?”

“Let me think,” Pierre said, turning back to the hot curlers. “Something about a third position, neither communist nor capitalist. Once someone in a bar told me that Perón flirted with the Left but always slept with the Right.”

Outside the Hotel Colòn, Juan Perón and his five advisors were seen headed toward the American Embassy. They were driving in two cars, the second of which contained two large boxes of files, charts, and photographs. There were witnesses throughout the route; their scattered observations included bundles of clothing, a stack of papers tied together with a black telephone cord and bundles of paper wrapped in plastic, no doubt because the dampness of the climate caused all water-soluble ink to slowly soak the entire page; a Panamanian shop-owner reportedly recognized Noriega’s cocktail shaker and his wife was certain that the second car contained a sacrificial chicken—this has since proven to be spurious. Before Perón arrived at the Embassy, the car turned off toward the Papal Nuncio. At the gates they were met by two men who strongly resembled Nelson Rockefeller and the brother of Dwight Eisenhower.

“Where is Isabel?” Perón asked Heinrich the next day. “I’m going to look for her at the casino.”

Heinrich shrugged. Perón gazed lovingly at his ice shaver. He sat down and began to scan Life magazine. “¡Nothing! The world forgets Juan Perón.” Perón was very unhappy with the magazines. “You don’t buy Look anymore,” he said to Heinrich. “I know why. They haven’t mentioned me in ten months.”

“You must eat,” Heinrich said. “You have not eaten.”

“I am not hungry. Where is Isabel?”

Heinrich called room service and they brought a club sandwich. The bacon was still sizzling. “What is this?” Perón asked, tearing it with his teeth.

“A Club Sandwich, my President.”

“Ahh. Superb. Something they never had in Buenos Aires.”

“Yes, they did.”

“No they didn’t.”

“They did and you didn’t know. You never went anywhere.”

“You didn’t let me,” Perón said. “You said the streets were dangerous.”

“You thought you knew everything about Buenos Aires that there was to know,” Heinrich said, wiping a silver tray. “This was not true.” Heinrich walked to the window and saw Isabel’s hat walking into the portico of the hotel. He tried to get Perón to the barber, but the dictator wanted to sleep. “¡Your nails!” Heinrich said. “Filthy. You must get them trimmed. You have an appointment with Lieutenant Noriega at 5:00.” Perón walked to the elevator, frowning. The doors closed behind him when Isabel arrived through the second doors.

Isabel walked through the suite without saying a word. Heinrich watched her with his left hand on his hip.

“¡Ink!” Isabel said. She leaned over the desk to write a note. Heinrich carried the inkwell on the palm of his hand. He stood beside her until she finished, his palm in the air. Isabel folded the paper and put the inkwell back in his hand upside down. The black ink dripped down Heinrich’s arm and into his sleeve. Isabel walked toward the elevator.

“Tomorrow I leave Panama,” Isabel spat at him. “José’s company has been asked to Havana.” Isabel clenched her fists on her bolero jacket. “And Perón will be yours alone,” Isabel shouted as the doors closed again.

The newspapers that day were filled with rumors that Perón would flee to Miami. The State Department issued a disclaimer. In Palm Beach, society hostesses already planned Argentine dinners; Florida zoos were deluged with callers asking if they could borrow an ostrich for just one evening. Fearful that he would return to Buenos Aires, the Argentines set marksmen on the roof of the airport. They once again publicized that all the streets Perón had renamed were back to their original names.

That night, during the “Top Hat” number, Isabel dropped her hat. In the finale, the Can-Can, Isabel’s breasts fell out of her dress. “That pig,” someone whispered backstage. “It isn’t as if he hasn’t seen her breasts before.”

“¿Oh no?” An older voice said. “I always heard he liked boys. You know he never fathered a child.”

“She loves him,” the other voice said.

“No,” said the older voice, “she is indifferent.”

Isabel left before the final curtain call, but Perón caught up to her in the alley outside the theatre. “Look,” the chorus girls said. “¡This will be mayhem!”

“¡You cannot leave me!” Perón shouted. “Evita too said she was an artist first. You cannot leave me!”

“¡My career!” Isabel shouted back. “I will not leave the company. Soon I will choreograph, and soon I will have my own company.”

“¡You will!” some of the chorines shouted. They were clustered near the air vent, which sucked air from the alley into the theater. No one standing outside heard them.

“I know what will happen in Havana,” Perón shouted. “You will walk right into the arms of this rebel Castro. And anyway, what can you choreograph?”

The chorus girls hissed. The stagehands cheered and one said: “Don’t leave him. You’ll be sorry. He’s a world leader.”

“Already,” Isabel spat out, “I have plans. First there will be ‘El ABC de Amor,’ and then, ‘Rio Bang Bang!’”

“¿Rio Bang Bang? ¿Rio Bang Bang? With me you could become queen of the Argentines, princess of the pampas. I too have plans. But they are in the theater of life, not in the life of pink feathers.”

In the middle of the night, Isabel and Perón turned toward the canal. They did not wear their sunglasses. People noticed them peering over the concrete battlements, pointing out the floodlit control booths and counting oil tankers. Perón began to yell out statistics: two boats passed through the 50 mile canal every hour, 50 a day and over 12,000 a year. Isabel climbed up to the watch tower and Perón shouted up to her. Soon Perón was on the tower too and their voices were booming across the canal.

“Isabel—Is a puzzlement!” people heard him yelling in the wind.

The next day, Isabel was fired from José’s company. She and Pierre moved into a suite on the floor below Perón’s. They lived adjacent to the sister-in-law of Lieutenant Noriega, whose uncle owned the hotel.

“José only fired me because he was afraid of the anti-Perónistas,” Isabel told Perón. “So remember, I’m staying here just two weeks—until the publicity blows over.”

When Pierre and Heinrich saw each other on the elevator, their eyes locked. “Our floor,” Isabel said to Pierre. She kicked his ankles. He did nothing. She pulled his collar, but he stayed in place. Heinrich snarled. When she left they were still staring at each other: Pierre and Heinrich went up and down five times until Perón pulled Heinrich out to get his lunch.

“Come shopping with me,” Perón said to Isabel. “Let the servants have the afternoon off. They’re acting funny.”

“First: Pierre is not my servant,” Isabel said. “We are equals. And second: I cannot accept anything from you.”

“No,” Perón said. “¡Shopping for me! I want to look at jackets.”

Perón and Isabel walked downtown to Independence Plaza, where they were told that the best stores were in the lobby of the hotel. They walked back and found the men’s store, Sir George of London & Panama, Ltd. There they found suits and ties from all over the world: Sulka, Pucci, Oxxford, and Gucci. “¿Haven’t I seen you?” Isabel asked the owner. “You’re the woman next door, the sister-in-law of Lieutenant Noriega.”

“No,” she said. I’m her cousin. Noriega is my second cousin.”

“Hmm,” Isabel said, still puzzled. “Nice store.”

“¿What do you think of this?” Perón asked, holding up a big white suit. “It’s a Zinno.”

“Shark skin,” the owner said. “Very big in America.”

“No,” Isabel said firmly.

Perón went back to the row of suits. “Isabel,” he said. “I have a question. I have often wondered if when wearing, let’s say, a blue suit and black shoes—although I wouldn’t do such a thing, usually—the blue suit, I mean—but when wearing this hypothetical blue suit with black shoes, would one wear blue socks or black socks?”

It was at this moment that Isabel Perón saw her future in Sir George of London & Panama. She realized that Perón did not want to possess her. He wanted her to tell him what to do, as Evita did. He wanted to have her shape him. Pierre knew it right away: Perón wants you to tell him what to do, he said. Isabel understood now what it meant when she and Perón play-acted to the album of My Fair Lady in the bedroom. Perón wanted her to be Henry Higgins, not Eliza. Perón wanted to be Eliza Doolittle.

“Black,” Isabel said. “For you, always black.”

“Yes dear,” Perón gasped, overjoyed at her answer.

Isabel and Pierre spent the next day in their room, talking. Isabel was seen taking Pierre to the canal, and it was remarked how pale the former manager of José’s company looked beside the lovely future Mrs. Juan Perón. They walked to the biggest lock and peered over the edge; they pointed out the dirty lines marking the different water levels. Pierre seemed to be taking notes with a golden pencil on his little pad. Isabel pulled a long string from her turquoise dress, tied the golden pencil to the end and lowered it down the side of the canal. When it touched the water, Isabel made a knot in the string and pulled it back up. Pierre shook his head in disagreement and they went back to the Hotel Colòn.

When Isabel tried to walk into Perón’s suite, Heinrich stopped her. “El Presidente is resting,” he said. “No one may disturb him.” The next morning the same thing happened. Heinrich was gone but the door was bolted shut. When she tried to call, only Heinrich picked up the telephone.

“¿What could it be?” Isabel asked Pierre.

In the bottom corner of the newspaper they found a tiny notice, datelined Buenos Aires. Perón’s former girlfriend, Nelly Silberstein, had escaped from her family’s estate and was making her way north to rejoin the dictator. Nelly had been the captain of the Boca Juniors girl’s volleyball team, which so often played at Perón’s mansion after Evita died. Perón even had his photo taken with the girls sitting on his lap—on the lap of the “father of Argentina.”

All the Spanish language newspapers reported Nelly’s progress. From Buenos Aires, she reached Montevideo, from there São Paulo and by mid-afternoon, Rio de Janeiro. “Plump Nelly,” the tabloids called her. Plump Nelly kept finding propeller planes to take her further north. Her family, which had grown rich under the years of Perón, issued a statement: everything was forgiven, if Nelly returned. They held nothing against Perón, but they wanted their daughter to marry someone with more security.

“Hmf,” Pierre said, “such a big deal for a fat girl. They talk like she’s Lenin getting to Finland Station.”

“¿What?” Isabel said.

“This is serious,” Pierre answered. “I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands.”

Finally, Plump Nelly was stopped in Caracas, Venezuela, by an uncle who charted a flight with the Chilean air force. Isabel heard it on the Venezuelan news broadcast, but when she turned to Pierre, she discovered that he was long gone. She went to the lobby, past the dark windows of Sir George of London & Panama, past the cigar shop to the portico. It was beginning to get dark and she heard the green parrots screeching in the jungle at the edge of the small city.

In the Super Import/Export Souvenir shop, she walked straight into Juan Perón. “¡Isabel!” he said. “¡My darling! Heinrich has been missing for several hours. I am afraid he has fallen in the hands of my enemies.”

“Oh Juan,” Isabel said.

“He was maneuvering Nelly’s return. I’m sure he was. I’m thankful that her uncle finally caught up to her. But where can Heinrich be?”

They passed the last Spanish-language newspaper of the day. Anastasio Somoza, the Nicaraguan president, had been assassinated near Panama City that afternoon; his son was preparing to assume office. Perón blanched. Perón was distraught and Isabel herself felt uneasy. What did this mean? They decided to stroll towards the canal, which had always been a source of inspiration. Before they left, Isabel wanted a scarf from her room. The door was unlocked. “¡Listen!” she said to Perón, “I hear noises of struggle inside.” Very cautiously, they peered inside the room to see two sets of male feet extending from Pierre’s bed. On Isabel’s bed was Heinrich’s unmistakable black jacket.

“¡Oh!” Isabel said.

“I understand,” Perón giggled. “Many of Evita’s friends, you know … in the theater.”

“Shh,” Isabel said. Neither of the men noticed them. Very quietly, she found the scarf and they left for the canal. It was very dark by then and quiet; all the jungle birds had quit, and they could hear the squeaking of the mattress springs past the portico of the hotel. Closer to the canal, all they heard were the muddy wavelets smacking the side of the canal.

“Four hundred million dollars, this canal,” Perón said.

“So expensive!” Isabel said. “And look!” She pointed to the water, where a dead crocodile floated past them, belly up. They walked towards the Miraflores Locks; as they passed an outcrop of the jungle, they began to hear strange insect noises.

“¿Do you believe, as I do, that all things are destined?” Perón asked.

“Perhaps,” said Isabel. “There are more things on heaven and on earth than musical revues. Of that I am sure.”

“¿And you will marry me?” Perón said.

In her hand, Isabel had some white gardenias that she had plucked from the hotel garden. Yes, she nodded. The swollen water of the canal was swirling violently. Perón took her hand. Together they tossed the flowers, one by one, into the water where they looked like cotton candy. “¿Which way will they go,” Isabel asked, “east or west?” The white flowers made no noise as they plopped on the water’s surface. “How giddy they look,” Perón said. The flowers spun around in a circle, caught in an expensive whirlpool of water half Atlantic and half Pacific.

Matias Viegner lives in Los Angeles and teaches critical theory and writing at CalArts. He has most recently been published in Paragraph, Jacaranda Review, and Dear World, and has work forthcoming in Men on Men, Mirage, and Fiction International.

Signor Hoffman by Eduardo Halfon
Related
Malcolm Lowry in the Supermarket by Daniel Saldaña París

There are cities more present in the warp and weft of literature than others; that’s clear. The literary prestige of New York, Paris, or Mexico City is both undeniable and well-deserved: certain books, once read, transform forever the faces of those cities, superimposing a layer of fiction on their sidewalks and traffic signals.

Born on October Fourth by Armando Suárez Cobián

We dreamed of meeting in a European city on her birthday.

Big Faces: The Cool Kids of the Russian Avant Garde by Kevin Kinsella

Throughout the early 1920s, Aleksandr Rodchenko took many photographs of his friends and colleagues. Some were snapshots, others author photos for book covers, and still others would be used in his propaganda collages for the Russian Telegraph Agency.

Originally published in

BOMB 32, Summer 1990

Featuring interviews with Barbet Schroeder, Roberto Juarez, Blue Man Group, Jeanne Silverthorne, Angélica Gorodischer, Richard Nelson, Ed Lachman, Lola Ehrlich, Angel Estrada, Alain Kirili, Griselda Gambaro, and Deb Margolin.

Read the issue
032 Summer 1990