“When I was a child, I could see my father walk home from the station. We had an unobstructed view from here,” my neighbour Mrs. Berruezo told me once, reminiscing about old times. She had grown up in the house in the south-east corner of my street, about 600 yards from the train station as the crow flies. It was impossible for me to imagine open fields peppered with one-story houses where there now were high rises, houses, shops, crazy traffic.
We moved to that street in the western suburbs of Buenos Aires in 1981. I was 8. My siblings were 6, 4, and 2. The street was named after Emilio Mitre, a renowned Argentinean engineer and journalist. It runs from east to west, like the railway tracks. The country’s first railway ran through here and a station was built in 1858. The current building, late Victorian in style, dates from 1906 and is a Historic Landmark.
The history of my family is firmly rooted in this street. My maternal grandparents moved in on the 100 block in the mid-sixties. My mother used to walk past my father’s house on her way to school. He fell for her pretty freckles and her red hair. He admired her walk past many times until he screwed up the courage to ask her out. Here I am, writing their story a few decades later.
The street changes with the seasons. Lined with plane and jacaranda trees, it comes alive every spring with the cheerful colour of geraniums and the sweet perfume of gardenias. A russet, golden, and amber blanket covers it in the fall and it smells of burning dry leaves. Sundays have a distinctive smell all year round, the mouth-watering aroma of grilling meat.
The street, like the seasons, kept changing relentlessly. Neighbours came and went, some to other places, some to the afterlife. New houses went up, old houses were renovated. Some neighbours made a collection to build the little shrine to Our Lady. Mom-and-pop businesses opened and closed in the south-west corner (I hope the current incarnation, a green-grocer, is more successful than its predecessors. I like the hard-working owners, a young couple from Bolivia.)
Just like we used to walk to our grandparents’ house, now, my nieces, who also live on Emilio Mitre Street, walk to visit their grandparents. My parents never moved away. My husband and I will eventually move into our house on that same street. He says we should rename it with my family’s last name.
This street represents the past and the future of my family. I think we ought to rename it.