Far out man
Interview with a colourful Argentinian immigrant
Ricardo cooking Ricardo cooking Grace Chipperfield

For a man with a history of getting himself into precarious situations, Ricardo Añasco is unassailably cheerful.

He is also the perfect interviewee who, having just come from a session at his local gym, greets me with warmth and a container filled to the brim with his homemade 'berenjena a la vinagreta'.

After a few photos are taken outside before the light goes completely, Ricardo, in fact, asks the first question of the evening: "Where do you want me to start?"

I tell him to start wherever he thinks the story gets interesting, and he doesn't disappoint.

Ricardo's experience of immigrating to Australia from Argentina has its beginning in 1973, when he was twenty-three years old and in his second year of studying architecture at university in Buenos Aires.

One day, while running late for an exam, he had to pass through a protest run by law students. It was there that Ricardo was hit by a water cannon being used by the police to disperse the crowd. He was thrown fifteen metres backwards and knocked unconscious. When he woke up, he was in jail.

He was held there for three days without being allowed to contact his parents. On the third day the chief of police returned from his holiday, a man who Ricardo recognised as a childhood friend. Ricardo explained to him what had happened, and was released.

"But that scared me, because if it wasn't for him... I wouldn't be here in Australia. I would have disappeared... and the fact that my dad had good contacts, very good contacts, and he couldn't find me in three days, that scared the hell out of me."

Straightaway, after his release, Ricardo applied to any country that was accepting migrants. Within four days, the Australian consulate contacted him for an interview, and two months later Ricardo arrived at the Westbridge Migrant Hostel in Villawood, New South Wales. From there, he followed work around Australia until he settled in Adelaide in 1975.

My interview with Ricardo continues for another hour and a half; he has many stories which he tells with his trademark character and humour, often starting them off with a bemused expression on his face and his catchphrase, "far out man..."

Still, though Ricardo has had a colourful history – being in many jobs where his co-workers "wanted to kill [him]" due to both his threatening efficiency and inability to put up with stupidity – he is resilient, and reflects on his past with the attitude that mistakes are the only, and best, way to learn.

When I ask Ricardo how he maintains his passionate and positive outlook on things, he attributes it to three simple rules by which he chooses to live his life: "Be happy, try to laugh as much as you can", "always treat the next person with respect", and "tell jokes... make other people laugh, and they will remember you always."

Ricardo Añasco lives in Adelaide with his long-term partner, Helen. Currently, he is self-employed and keeps himself very busy taking care of properties, doing renovations, maintenance and extensions. When he wins the lottery, he has secret plans to "create something" that will bring his own authentic brand of Argentinean culture to Adelaide. He says that people will be able to "smell the culture", and his creation will make people think of Argentina and the Spanish language. So cross your fingers and watch this space.

By Grace Chipperfield

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