Local charity event organiser shares the love of Argentina

Guadalupe-LacollaInterviewed by Jo Reynolds

How long have you lived in the area?

Only one year, but it seems like all of my life.

Where were you born and raised?

Buenos Aires (Argentina's capital). It is a big city, but my neighbourhood was like Chiswick, big houses with big gardens. I studied law at university and I am trained as a lawyer.

I love to help people

Most Argentines are Roman Catholics. Are you from a large family?

We are a typical Argentinian family of four, my parents, me and my younger brother. I have grown up as a Roman Catholic, although we come from a Jewish family named Goldman. My great-grandmother was originally from Poland. During the Second World War, her family emigrated to Argentina, a trip that nearly cost her life. For reasons I am not aware of, my great-grandmother baptised her daughter, so she was the first generation of Catholics from my mother's side.

Do you have a large family?

We are five, fairly large. Sebastian (my husband) and I have three boys, all born in different countries. Bautista, like John the Baptist, is 13. He was born in Puerto Rico. Borja, who is 7, was born in Spain. And Balthazar, who is 2, was born in Camden Town. His name comes from one of the Three Kings (Wise Men) in the Bible. I wanted them all to start with a B and Balthazar is like my third king.

Why did you leave Argentina?

Because of the career of Sebastian. He works in banking.

You're a long way from home. Did your family try to stop you?

Completely the opposite. They always encourage me to travel. When you are born in a country that is far from everywhere, it is good to have parents that do not hold you back. My parents wanted me to see the world, what I want for my children.

What was your first impression of the British?

I immediately noticed more shyness in the average Brit, but at the same time, they have initiative, and I think this is sweet.

Apart from being a wife and mother, you organise local charity events. How did you get into that?

My main goal is to help people. I love to help people. I make events to raise money to help institutions in Argentina. I have organised gala dinners for the Argentine Embassy in London. I think our new ambassador is doing a fantastic job making British-Argentine relations even better. In my country, there are not many charities that help people with disabilities so I help athletes, musicians and actors with disabilities. My charity is called British-Argentine Relations. There is a lot to do in this field, supporting great talents who want to explore opportunities outside Argentina. Without a bit of help, it will be impossible for them.

What events?

We have done three events so far this year. A big barbecue at the Wasps Rugby Club for 700 people. We entertained the Argentine guests with English games like croquet. Everybody loved it. I dressed up as Alice in Wonderland. We also did a series of yoga sessions that used Argentine music. I also helped with the organisation of a polo event. Money raised through these events will be used for funding rugby tours but also to support talented disabled musicians from Argentina coming to the UK.

What gave you the confidence to go to a new country and organise such ambitious events?

I'm a confident person. I get it from my mother. She makes me confident because I know that she loves me. Helping people comes from my heart. I am not a material girl. The Catholic Church teaches you that it's lovely to share. I find happiness in sharing.

Argentines famously love their meat. What national dishes are popular for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Argentina?

At breakfast we usually have something sweet to eat like medialuna (half moon in English), that is like a small croissant. If our sweet tooth wants something else, we spread it with dulce de leche (caramel spread), another treat that I cannot miss in my family fridge. Lunch is often a piece of grilled beef. We love meat with salad. On Sundays, it is common to have either asado, Spanish for barbecue, or pasta, since we had vast immigration from Italy. Italian food is part of our tradition as well. We also love empanadas, (savoury) pastries. Our national drink is called mate, a kind of green tea that is served hot in a small cup, and we drink it by a metal straw. Traditionally it is drunk by more than one person sharing the same cup.

What British customs are unusual to Argentines?

Punctuality is a British gift that we unfortunately don't have. We also kiss each other when you get introduced or when you meet someone on the street. In the UK that normally is not the case.

What do you miss from home?

I miss my country a lot but especially my friends and family.

What would be your dream job?

Representing my country abroad.

Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falkland Islands in 1982, or the Malvinas as Argentines call them. Has anyone here ever given you a hard time? Not at all. No one has given me a hard time in the past, and I don't think it will ever happen. I believe that our president, Mauricio Macri, and our ambassador are trying to begin a new stage of dialogue and friendship between the 2 countries, reaffirming the strong relationship that we have historically.

If you weren't living here, where would you like to live?

I want to live here. This country has given me and my family more than I can get from money. It has given me respect. Respect is a basic rule here. It is a fair country.

How do you relax?

Gardening. I'm in love with plants. When you put your fingers in the ground, you feel a connection with the earth. Gardening gives me time to focus on how to help my next project. I'm a very lucky person. I have the perfect family. It was my dream to have a family. Now I help other people with their dream. I have to give something back. For me, it is a pleasure.

Thank you, Lupe. It's been a real pleasure to meet you.

Interviewed August 2018

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