The day my interview with Pablo Escobar’s son, who now goes by the name of Sebastián Marroquín and lives in Palermo, came out in the Herald, was the day I realised what my work actually entails.
My professional life took on a whole new angle, although it was the second time I had undertaken a “real” story. (The first was about a dental foundation in the slums of Buenos Aires’ northern suburbs where I met a timid pair of teenage siblings from Paraguay who were undergoing treatment. The second time I met them, their change in confidence and attitude totally blew me away.)
I’d spent a year and a half interviewing “celebrities” – musicians, artists, DJs – which was all well and good, and obviously great fun, but having an interest and knowing who Escobar was for much of my life (my mother was born in Bogotá) then interviewing his fugitive son was a huge deal. In 20 minutes, what do you ask Juan Pablo, son of the world’s most infamous dead drug lord, when you’re meant to be sticking to the script and having a meaningful discussion about the documentary, >Pecados de mi padre, he participated in?
It was a defining professional moment for me, being given a tiny amount of access to what he referred to his “other life as Juan Pablo” – and this is the story that came out in the Herald.
It turned out to be my swan song (yes, very dramatic), as later that day, April 22, I was informed I was being moved to the economy desk. Starting three days later. My happy little world of showbiz and ents came crashing down and adapting was hard.
As a friend said, when someone had asked her how I was getting along in economy, she reckoned I was clearly better informed about the country I live in. “Well, Sorrel doesn’t talk about what dress Beyoncé was wearing last night any more, but she can tell you how many cows were sold at Liniers market today.” Among other things…
The other story that has had the most impact on me is from the start of December.
A trip to the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Villa Soldati was heartbreaking. Hundreds of families, for so many reasons, decided to take over a park in order to stake a claim to some land and essentially start up a new slum, just metres away from Villa 20.
The most pathetic attempts at a roof over their heads was soul destroying – tiny little teepees made out of plastic sheets and palm tree branches with their “owners” stoically sitting inside them, sheltering from the rain – and the political buck passing was utterly shameful, from both city mayor Mauricio Macri and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. I still wonder how many politicians actually went there and saw that miserable, desolate sight with their own eyes.
I then spoke to Aníbal Salgueiro, brother of Bernardo. Bernardo was shot dead on the third day of the park’s takeover, and Aníbal was willing to talk to me despite the fact that his brother was lying in an open casket a few metres away from him.
So what 2011 has in store for me, work wise, who knows. Well, in fact, I do. There’s a presidential election coming up in October, so from January, I’ll be busy brushing up on my Peronist factions…