Marcia Luyten – Máxima Zorreguieta, Motherland
When Queen Juliana’s fiftieth birthday was approaching, Henriëtte de Beaufort was asked by her publisher, De Bezige Bij, to write a biography of the monarch. After ‘some serious heart searching’ she told them she couldn’t accept the assignment. ‘Anyone seeking to write a biography that gets to the heart of their subject must delve deep into that person’s innermost world,’ she said later. ‘Without being grossly indiscreet, a biographer can never conjure up a still living human being, least of all a reigning sovereign.’ You might call it the first law of biography: your subject should be well and truly dead. The turbulence of that existence has died down, the lives most closest entwined with it have become more loosely connected, and the stories that are told no longer affect personal ties with the subject. That law applies even more when the subject is a king or queen. The monarchy might have undergone some changes over the past two centuries, but discretion continues to exist and the prestige of a connection with the royal couple is as great as ever. When, in late 2016, my publisher proposed that I write a biography of Queen Máxima, I had never heard of Henriëtte de Beaufort. At the time, there were still five years to go before Máxima would turn fifty. I didn’t have to think long. I wasn’t interested. Royals weren’t my thing. I’d never filled albums with clippings about them or collected commemorative biscuit tins. Had never bought gossip magazines to read about the Oranges. And, most importantly, I didn’t see myself lurking in the bushes in the palace grounds, notebook in hand. Because if the Dutch royals make one thing clear it’s this: their privacy is sacred. Without access to primary sources, you couldn’t write a book like that. So I said thanks but no thanks. But Francien Schuursma didn’t give up just like that. Suppose we could talk to people in the Queen’s circle? Suppose the royal family didn’t object to a book about Máxima’s life, as long as it was good and as accurate as possible? After all, there was a special birthday coming up.
The arrival from New York of the Argentine Máxima Zorreguieta in 1999 changed the Dutch royal family. The partner of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander mingled with all levels of society, with apparent ease and visible pleasure. She made the royal house livelier, jollier and more urbane. But to what extent did Máxima also change the monarchy? What influence did she have on the way the royal family functions? And what did she achieve with her work in the international arena? Past experience has taught that the life of a monarch’s partner isn’t easy, but Prince Willem-Alexander’s spouse seemed unbothered by that law of nature. Which immediately prompts the question: How did Queen Máxima become who she is? In what kind of environment was she raised, 12,000 kilometres away, in a Latin American country? Who influenced her? What values did she grow up with? Which characteristics from her youth can we see in today’s queen, and which did she have to unlearn? What gave her pleasure? And where did life put her to the test? De Bezige Bij felt this portrait should be painted by a contemporary of Máxima’s. A person of the same age, an economist who, like her, had travelled around Africa, someone who was also a working mother of three and a keen party-goer. Francien peered at me enquiringly. I promised to look into the possibilities.
Around six months later, the Dutch Government Information Service (RVD) let it be known that there was no objection to the proposed book. I would be allowed to interview relatives, friends, fellow students and ex-colleagues, if they were willing. The scope of the book was limited by two conditions. First: as a writer I would be independent, and free to talk to whoever I liked. Second: the book would not be authorised. That meant I would have no access to members of the royal family, as they fell under ministerial responsibility, which would make authorisation necessary. The royal household and the RVD would not see the manuscript in advance. That was the formal framework, the parameters of this project. Once inside the inner circle, I soon realised that Henriëtte de Beaufort had been right. Even with this unique access to primary sources, the information was limited. I was now playing with a double handicap. First of all, people who were prepared to be interviewed were very cautious. Their loyalty lay – understandably – with their daughter, sister, friend, colleague or employer. As a female friend put it: ‘Why should we risk a friendship of almost fifty years for a journalist from whom we have nothing to expect?’ And that was in Argentina, where there was much more openness than in the Netherlands. There, family ties and old friendships are for life, irrespective of job or rank. Moreover, those conversations were about ancient history, about a period of Máxima’s life that lies in the past. In the Netherlands, everyone took account of the subject’s social position. For one thing because associating with the royal family confers social prestige. Take the story about friends of Willem-Alexander and Máxima who thought they hadn’t been invited to the royal wedding, and quickly booked a holiday in a distant location for the date in question. (The invitation arrived later.) That prestige breeds discretion. Another reason why close friends were tight-lipped was the knowledge that revelations about the royal couple’s private life would expose them to the public gaze. That made the conditions under which a book like this could be written very clear. During my research I was able to interview 132 people, of whom 89 specifically for Motherland, all on the basis of confidentiality. This meant that they couldn’t be quoted and would remain anonymous. For my part, I seek to be open and accountable about the sources of my material. In an age of fake news it is important that the author of a biography can answer to their readers – especially in the case of royal families, about whom much is claimed and invented. It is in my interest to differentiate this book from gossip, rumour and fiction, so the text features notes. In the book, all references to conversations are reduced in these notes to ‘Interview’. However, in order to be able to account for my sources, my full notes have been deposited with De Bezige Bij. They are not to be made public. They may only be consulted in exceptional cases of uncertainty about interpretation.
This working method made it possible for me to speak to Máxima’s best friends and members of her family. To do so I made various trips, including three to Argentina. In this way I was able to get very close to the young Máxima. I am grateful for the trust placed in me by those who spoke to me despite their initial unease. The second handicap was the restricted availability of written sources. The portion of the Royal Archives that is devoted to Queen Máxima is still closed to public access, as are her personal archives. I didn’t get to see the sources dearest to a biographer – ego documents like diaries and letters. This limited my ability to enter the subject’s ‘innermost world’. For that reason, this book cannot be a fully-fledged biography. In the case of a queen in the bloom of her life, a biographical portrait is the most that can be achieved.
On 31 August 1999, a newspaper report that she was the girlfriend of the Dutch crown prince changed Máxima Zorreguieta’s life dramatically. There is a life before and a life after the telephoto lens. The fact that she has been screened off since then was also reflected in the material for this book. There are fewer anecdotes about the period after 1998, people spoke less freely. That made a stylistic shift inevitable. For that reason, it was decided to tell the story of Queen Máxima’s life in two books: the first is set in her motherland, the country of her birth and upbringing. The second is set in the country where she found a new home, in line with the Latin saying: Ubi bene, ibi patria: ‘The land where I prosper is my fatherland’. Máxima Zorreguieta grew up in a country that was experiencing its most turbulent years. After the loss of a glorious future, in the early 1970s Argentina was heading for financial and moral bankruptcy. The Zorreguieta family found itself in the eye of the storm. Thus, the private domain of Máxima’s youth is intertwined with Argentina’s history. The first book shows how much Máxima the queen was formed by her motherland. By the mentality of Italian and Basque migrants. By a longing for Europe. By family and close friendships. By a deep-rooted wish to do something meaningful with her life.
Enough fairy-tales have been told about an ordinary girl who becomes queen. This history is not romanticised or dramatised. It contains no dialogue that has been invented or padded out. Each scene really happened. Sometimes, as in all works of non-fiction, a grainy image had to be cautiously brought into sharper focus. But only in order to sketch a portrait of a complete individual. Of a life as it is lived.
In 1965, Jorge Zorreguieta had become a father for the third time. He and Marta López Gil now had three daughters. But their marriage was struggling. Their lives had developed in opposite directions. After obtaining a PhD in philosophy, Marta was teaching at the university and researching the position of women. She would publish a series of books and become a well-known progressive philosopher. Jorge Zorreguieta, by contrast, had never shown any real intellectual curiosity. He was not a reader but a talker, a born diplomat. And he thrived in Argentina’s most conservative circles. Not long after the birth of their third child, Dolores, he and Marta separated.
María Pame was an excellent manager, running the office with scrupulous efficiency. For her, order was as natural as breathing. She was professional in every way – except that she fell in love with her boss. Between the business of import and export, a romance began that was more than just a passing affair. Jorge Zorreguieta discovered that he had not married the love of his life. Divorce was not an option, though, at least not officially. Besides being strongly condemned in Catholic Argentina, it simply wasn’t legally possible, nor was it recognised by the church. But the lovers were in no doubt. María Pame knew exactly how her parents would react. Her younger sister, María Rita, had set a precedent. She had fallen for a man she met in Buenos Aires and was adamant that she could never love anyone else. He was a divorcé, 22 years her senior. When María Rita had gone to Pergamino to introduce him to her mother and father, all hell broke loose. Tata had told her: ‘Never ask me to love him. I will hate this man for the rest of my life!’ María Pame’s lover was also much older than her – sixteen years to be precise – and the fact that Tata knew him very well was not a mitigating factor. On the contrary. His good friend and polo buddy, the very man he’d asked to give his daughter a job, had gone off with that daughter. Coqui had betrayed their friendship. Worst of all: he was married and the father of three children. It prompted Tata and Carmenza to reach once again for the nuclear option of southern European family culture, the ultimate sanction that hurt everybody involved. When María Pame and Coqui announced their engagement, her parents said: ‘If you get married, we never want to see you again.’ For a time, things were very difficult. María Pame and Jorge stopped paying weekend visits to Pergamino. In April 1970 they travelled to Paraguay to marry there. Their marriage might be unlawful in Argentina, but it sealed their love. They bought a modest apartment in Recoleta and for the next 48 years would rejoice every day that they had defied the law and Carmenza.
Eventually the dust settled in the Cerruti family. Tata and Carmenza had banished two of their daughters because of their choice of partner, only to clasp them in their arms again after tempers cooled and the pain of separation became too great. Although Tata had vowed to hate María Rita’s husband until he died, twenty years later he stood at his grave in tears. His daughter was 42 and a widow. The rift healed much sooner in María Pame’s case. Four months after their secret marriage, she came to tell her parents that she was pregnant.
Any child born out of clandestine, hard-won love was blessed. That was the firm belief of Leonardo da Vinci, himself a bastard and a love child. In one of the little notebooks in which he recorded his observations in mirror writing (left-handedly from right to left) he wrote: ‘The man who has intercourse aggressively and awkwardly will produce children who are irritable and untrustworthy, but if intercourse is had with great love and desire on both sides, the child will be highly intelligent, witty, lively, and lovable.”
In the Argentine autumn of 1971, on the early evening of 17 May, the girl was born who would mend the cracks in the Cerruti family bastion. As if scripted by a film director, she arrived on Carmenza’s birthday. It was one of those evenings of golden twilight and an early chill in the air; a time when Argentines look forward to a mug of hot chocolate with churros, fried sugary sticks of dough that stand up in the thick drink. The birth wasn’t easy. Jorge Zorreguieta sat, stood, paced about and waited for long hours in the clinic’s corridors. Fathers were not allowed in the delivery room. María Pame’s first baby was big, weighing in at 4,100 grams, but at twenty to eight in the evening the little girl finally arrived. If Da Vinci was right, this child was blessed. The family tree and naming customs dictated that the baby be called María del Carmen. Many of her friends would bear the names of their fathers or mothers, but Máxima’s parents had already defied every convention with their love. Coqui wanted to name her after the grandmother who had shaped him. The woman who in less emancipated times had decided to bring up her children by herself, and who had taught him patriotism and discipline. He believed that he owed his success to her. Much has been written and speculated about Máxima Bonorino’s ancestry. Her mother, Máxima González y de Islas, was said to be related to Don Justo José de Urquiza, President of the Argentine Federation. A pedigree that would automatically give Jorge Zorreguieta and his children a place in Argentine history, as belonging to the dynasties that produced presidents. Another claim is that one of Máxima González y de Islas’ distant ancestors – born in 1668 – was a man called Peter Halbach. Peter’s brother, Gaspar Halbach, was an ancestor of Prince Bernhard. That would mean that King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima were distantly related. But both assertions are wrong. The Halbach and Bonorino family trees do intersect, but in a different way. The brother of Máxima Bonorino’s grandfather (Martiniano Bonorino y Barbachano) had a daughter called Robustiana. In 1883, in Buenos Aires, she married Pablo Halbach, a distant descendant of Peter Halbach. In other words, it was Máxima’s great-great-grandmother’s cousin who had children with a Halbach. So there is absolutely no bloodline between the Dutch king and his wife.
In early June 1971 Máxima Zorreguieta was baptised in the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), just outside Recoleta in the centre of Buenos Aires. It was a festival of reconciliation. Máxima wore the christening robe that her mother and all of Carmenza’s other children had worn before her. Her mother’s second sister, the talented polo player Marcela Cerruti, had been asked to be her godmother. Coqui chose his good friend Roberto Favelevic as godfather. They had both studied chemistry and spent many evenings together enjoying food, music and good company. Favelevic was a jazz aficionado who liked to drum along to the records he played. Years later, he and Coqui would also encounter each other through their work: he as the boss of the country’s largest employers’ association, Coqui as representative of the sugar industry. The priest who poured the baptismal water over the baby’s head was a friend of Tata’s. Somewhere during their history of migration, Argentine Catholics had dropped the custom of naming a child after its godparents. Until the beginning of the previous century, ancestry was expressed by placing the mother’s surname after that of the father, as in the case of Jorge Horacio Zorreguieta Stefanini and María del Carmen Cerruti Carricart. Máxima Zorreguieta was not given a baptismal name, nor was Cerruti added to her father’s name. Máxima Zorreguieta, that was it.
It is a word that wasn’t often mentioned in Zorreguieta circles: plata. Dinero, money – it just wasn’t done to speak of it in the upper echelons of Buenos Aires society. You could fret about whom to invite, what to wear, where to find new staff or a suitable marriage partner, but not about something as banal as money. It was just there. Argentina owes its name and its existence to its supposed wealth. Argentina is Italian for ‘land of silver’ and Río de la Plata is named after the Spanish word for the precious metal. Around 1900, Buenos Aires owed its glory to wealth that was not based on silver, but on grain and beef. But its steady economic growth came to a halt in the mid-twentieth century, after which Argentina plunged into one crisis after another, culminating in the dramatic nadir of Videla’s military junta. At that point, the country was not only financially but also morally bankrupt. After Jorge Zorreguieta stepped down as Secretary of Agriculture, the family income came largely from the Cabanillas-Zorreguieta customs office, supplemented with the money Coqui received for his board positions and his share in in Las Escobas. Sometimes they had a bit more to spend, sometimes a bit less. Nevertheless, Máxima’s parents moved in circles where luxury was the norm. Their outgoings were high – fees for exclusive schools, a month’s summer holiday by the sea, skiing every winter, the opera subscription. So money needed to be managed prudently.
María Pame, the capable organiser of the family, ruled over the household budget with a firm hand. When Coqui finally got his wish to have a private cabin built in the mountains, construction had to be halted. The two youngest children were sent to a less expensive private school in the neighbourhood. Juan had just started at St Andrews, following in the footsteps of his older brother, but after the second year, when Inés started school too, he switched to Palermo Chico. It was a school with a good reputation, but the fees were only half those of Northlands and St Andrews. Once Inés was going to school full time, Máxima’s mother could go back to work again. Not for a museum or a charity – María Pame needed to earn good money. Now in her mid-40s, she got a job with La Anónima, a supermarket chain belonging to the Braun family, who were friends of the Zorreguietas. She worked in the procurement division, overseeing the purchase of such items as work clothing. Which led to her asking the fashion designer Graciela Naum to create new uniforms for the shop staff. Some of the family’s best friends had money worries. In August 1984, not long after skiing together on Cerro Catedral, Máxima and her best friend were told that Valeria would have to leave Northlands. After the summer holiday, in March – the start of the next academic year – she would go to another school. Now that they were divorced, the school fees had become too expensive for Valeria’s parents. Thus, at a young age, Máxima became aware that a lot depends on money. And how great the consequences of a lack of it can be.
Over the course of the twentieth century Argentina’s finances grew erratic. Initially there was enough in the state coffers for President Juan Perón; he and Evita won undying popularity by giving workers better wages and pensions, and distributing valuables in the form of shoes and sewing machines. In the years of Perón’s first presidency, wages rose by 30% between 1946 and 1955. Perón introduced a minimum wage, regulated food prices and made affordable housing available. It was a period in which wealth was distributed more fairly. Yet at the same time Perón was quietly poisoning politics and the economy. He made access to social amenities dependent on support for his person. His party got into trouble when the economy faltered – Argentina had become cut off from world trade after the Second World War, causing it to miss the boat – and there was less plata to buy the goodwill of the electorate. Determined nevertheless to continue providing the same amenities, the state entered into debt, destabilising the Argentine economy. Whether or not the resources were there, those in power allowed the budgetary deficit to increase or resorted to printing money. The danger of inflation was ever present, the value of plata could evaporate just like that. And so rich Argentines preferred to invest in America rather than in their own country. As political analyst Sergio Berensztein asked, rhetorically: ‘Can you have a stable political system with that kind of macroeconomic pattern?’
When it came to managing the treasury, the regime of Jorge Videla turned out to be illusionists. Because the military enjoyed international confidence, they could borrow large amounts of dollars. The economy might be failing and industries languishing, but dollars flowed copiously – towards the powerful upper class. In those days, wealthy Argentines liked to go shopping in the US. They would fly to Miami with empty suitcases and return with full ones, because they could acquire Western luxury goods for a trifle. The practice was known as ‘el deme dos’: give me two. Finally they were once again riche comme un Argentin. The Argentines had always loved dulce de leche, now the upper class was enjoying la plata dulce. With that ‘sweet money’ the junta incurred loans that would be a millstone round the economy’s neck for decades to come. The democratic governments after the junta wrestled with an unprecedented debt crisis. Foreign investors departed, production plummeted, prices rose and scarcely any tax was collected. As a result, public institutions and the central government went broke. The latter asked the central bank to print extra money. This move, coupled with the towering debt, led in 1989 to an inflation rate of almost three thousand per cent. A quarter of the nation’s civil servants were made redundant. All 56 state secretaries lost their jobs, along with 80 under secretaries of state. The nation’s foreign debt had reached mountainous proportions and Argentina had not paid its creditors any interest in a year. A country in that position is tottering towards bankruptcy.
The hyperinflation of 1989 was the next trauma for the Argentines. An episode that Máxima and her friends experienced more consciously than the violence and human rights violations under the military junta. Back then, they were children. And once they were older, the state terror was like an ugly, bloody accident that people were anxious to skirt round. To the extent that anything was said at home about the military dictatorship, it was that the army had needed to take control in order to combat terrorism and prevent the creation of a communist state. In 1984 CONADEP, the national commission set up to investigate the fate of victims of forced disappearance, recorded almost 9,000 such victims in its report Nunca Más (Never Again). A year later, the Alfonsín government put the leaders of the junta on trial. But despite all the media attention focused on the report and the legal proceedings, little was said about these matters at home. Only that Máxima’s father had acted patriotically by working so hard to promote export. Otherwise, the adults at Calle Uriburu were silent about those years. The girls were eighteen when an invisible storm wiped out Argentines’ savings like a chalk sum from a blackboard. It was a surreal, frightening experience that money could lose its value just like that. People everywhere lost their jobs. Even people with a job became poor; the moment their wages were paid, the money became worthless. The worst hit were the small savers, people who lost their jobs, people who saw their salaries evaporate in front of their eyes. Supermarket shelves were empty. Furious Argentines took to the streets. There were protests and looting. It was the year in which the upper class saw the thing it feared most approaching: social chaos. Paradoxically, the wealth of the richest Argentines had increased as a result of hyperinflation; they had stashed their money away safely in dollars, in foreign bank accounts. By all accounts, it seems that Jorge Zorreguieta and his family were exposed to both threats of hyperinflation. A man without a great deal of capital, he had his own modest business and drew a salary from the Centro Azucarero, an advisory body for sugar producers. So he was hard hit by the currency devaluation. At the same time he had a lot to lose from social chaos and a Peronist revolution. His fate was intricately bound up with that of the large landowners. He had even been part of a government that had caused this economic catastrophe. Máxima was eighteen and had just started at university. She would have known how matters stood at home.
Long before Máxima got her diploma at Northlands, she knew what she wanted to study. Art history, ancient history or French – subjects that were popular among girls from wealthy families – were not an option as far as she was concerned. Both at school and at home she had been taught that she should contribute to society. She wanted to do something meaningful, like her father, like grandpa Cerruti and like her great-grandfathers, a doctor and an administrator. From the smallest to the biggest entity of which Máxima was part, from family to state, finances were a tricky issue. ‘The economy’ became synonymous with a dangerous kind of unpredictability. And if there was one thing Máxima Zorreguieta couldn’t bear, it was insecurity. Her mother had taught her and Martín to be prudent with money, to save. In a social environment in which pesos seemed to flow from a natural source, they were made conscious of the value of money. As soon as Máxima heard about a course of study that focused on how money was earned and spent, it was clear where her future lay. The best weapon against the capriciousness of money is to understand the nature of the beast. Máxima was determined to become an economist. Her parents approved of her choice. It didn’t need to be stated because it was obvious: coming from a traditional family that went to traditional schools, Máxima and Martín were expected to follow traditional careers.
‘Laura’s Angels’ is what the Argentine business periodical Apertura has dubbed them: the nine young women in the photo, all but one dressed in white. They are the team that has been specially set up by Boston Securities in Buenos Aires to analyse securities and advise clients on investment. Female financial specialists, in a male-dominated banking world. That’s how they got that name, a reference to the trio of gun-toting girls, the private detectives from the American TV series Charlie’s Angels in the early 1980s. ‘Charlie’ in this case being María Laura Tramezzani, the team’s leader. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the woman in the centre, the tallest, with wind-tousled blonde hair, the only one who doesn’t look conventionally angelic. She’s not dressed in white, but in a dark sleeveless dress, made bohemian chic with long bead necklaces that would not look out of place on Ibiza. She also stands out from the group because of her pose, a model in a photo shoot, the only one wearing make-up, her thoughts somewhere else entirely. Her appearance is not the only thing that makes Máxima Zorreguieta the most striking member of the Boston Securities team of analysts. It is the early 90s. Banks are sexy. Argentina is recovering from the dramatic crash that followed the hyperinflation of 1989. Now that it is called an ‘emerging market’ it is gradually regaining access to the international capital market. It is a time when investors with a cowboy mentality – somewhere between smart and reckless – are investing in economies whose growth is uncertain. All over the world, banks are floating ever higher on the thermals of liberalisation initiated in the 1980s. Under the influence of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the state itself had been labelled a problem – from now on salvation lay in market forces. And the banks are the heart of that new order. It is they who pump oxygen through the system.
In early 1993, Máxima gets her foot in the door at Boston Securities, the investment bank of the Bank of Boston. A young female professor has given her a leg-up. Alicia Caballero is in her early thirties, petite as a Parisienne, with fierce, sparkling eyes. Like Máxima she wears accessories that express her character: cheerful, quirky earrings and high heels. In the early 1990s, Alfonso Prat Gay was one of her colleagues. Caballero teaches at the Universidad Católica de Argentina while also working for the Bank of Boston. (In Argentina, two jobs is a sign of healthy ambition.) She heads the department that supervises privatisations, listings, mergers and takeovers. She encourages her female students to get jobs during the course of their study. At her request, the Bank of Boston has created work training placements for her students. She urges Máxima and other female students to apply.
Máxima has seen something of the financial world at Mercado Abierto, so Mario Rossi, the director of Boston Securities, offers her a job. She starts as a junior member of staff, with a three-month induction period. First as assistant to a trader, then she’s given her own clients, for whom she buys and sells securities. Máxima finds this much more interesting than her work at Mercado Abierto. There she’d worked on software, here she’ll become a banker. The Bank of Boston might be a modest institution in a global context, but in 1992 in Argentina it’s one of the major foreign banks. Anyone wanting to work in finance tries to get a foot in the door at JPMorgan or at the Bank of Boston.
Mario Rossi is charmed by Máxima. He finds her relaxed and unusually direct, also where her emotions are concerned. He can tell straight away how she is just by looking at her. It’s plain to see whether she’s happy, angry or sad: usually she looks happy. Unfortunately she hasn’t quite mastered the task she’s been hired for. When it comes to dealing with clients, she’s excellent – she can chat to anyone, whatever their job, interests or background. According to Rossi she can easily put herself in the shoes of people in all walks of life. She can explain to them why one company is doing well and another isn’t, what the stock markets trends have been and what the forecasts are. But when it comes to giving clear advice, Máxima is more restrained. Investments can go up in value, but they can also go down. And it’s the latter that makes Máxima unhappy. She can’t bear the idea of someone losing their money because of her. Which is why she winds up with Laura and her Angels.
María Laura Tramezzani is a tall, blonde, elegantly dressed 34-year-old economist whom the Bank of Boston had sent to the Mecca of Wall Street for four months, to learn how to conquer this rapidly growing market. The Bank set up a brand-new department in New York, where analysts assessed the political and economic prospects of different countries, looking at currencies and government bonds, and screening listed companies to see what shares to invest in. That research would enable them to advise their clients better. María Laura Tramezzani has been tasked with setting up such a department for South America in Buenos Aires. She hires six analysts. If Boston Securities can produce good analyses, clients will be more likely to buy their stocks from Mario Rossi’s traders. But María Laura still lacks the right person to sell those findings. In 1993, Mario Rossi recommends Máxima Zorreguieta for that crucial role. He believes she’s perfect for the job. Whereas in her first role at Boston Securities her colleagues had nearly all been men, María Laura’s department is staffed almost entirely by women. Besides María Laura, they are Fatima Gobbi, Florencia Greco, Gabriela Ridelener, María’s assistant Laura Ford and the American trainee Tabitha Nash – with two lone men: Santiago Murtagh and Manuel Martínez. Máxima becomes the representative, ambassador, hostess, poster girl and above all the saleswoman of the work done by Laura’s analysts for Boston Securities.
Everyone notices that Máxima is the last to arrive each morning, but no one minds. It means they can spend the first two hours reading and calculating in peace and quiet. The reason Máxima is late is because after classes she often parties to the small hours with Tiziano Iachetti, her Italian boyfriend. She comes in during the course of the morning, her eyes sometimes stilled ringed with last night’s mascara. She boils water and digs sachets of instant soup out of her desk drawer. Worried about putting on weight, after breakfasting on coffee and a slice of toast she lives mainly on a diet of soup and yoghurt. She’s generous with her soup sachets, handing them out to her colleagues. Then, armed with piles of paper, she installs herself next to the phone. The peace and quiet is over.
Translated by Jane Hedley Prole