Ercilia Chiaradia says she could talk forever about Argentina. The wife of the Argentine ambassador to Japan comes from Buenos Aires, capital city that opens out upon one of the largest ports in the world. City born and bred, Ercilia has a wide background in Argentina, the wedge-shaped country that occupies most of the southern part of the South American continent. She knows and loves the dramatic scenery of the Andes mountains, high valleys, plateaus and extensive grass plains that support cattle, sheep and agriculture.
“Argentina is exactly on the other side of the globe from Japan, but we want these two countries to feel close together,” she said. “We would love to have more Japanese visitors. Argentina can make them feel at home.”
It happens that Ercilia’s family has only a short history of its own in Argentina. “Both my parents were from Spain,” she said. “They met in Argentina, where they found many opportunities. They had a beautiful life there.”
Ercilia has known her husband since her girlhood. “We met in high school, and were together in university,” she said. “He was one year ahead of me, a student of economics.” Until she married, she too was a student of economics. For a while then she worked in business administration, until she had her first child, Paula. When her husband entered the foreign service, “our new life began,” she said.
The young family went first to Switzerland, where Alfredo took up a post with the U.N. They went next to Germany. “Our second daughter, Marcela, was born there, so my memories of Bonn are very special,” Ercilia said. Further postings followed, to the U.S. and Canada. Two sons, Daniel and Esteban, were born to complete the family. “The foreign service has given us a beautiful life,” Ercilia said. “Our children benefited greatly too, from their experiences, other languages, other cultures.”
The ambassador and his wife came to Japan 18 months ago. “This is our first time in Asia, and Japan and Tokyo are very good places for us to start,” she said. “We feel very comfortable here. Tokyo is cosmopolitan, and I don’t feel any language barrier, as there are lots of smiles and people trying to make us feel at home. Not only in Japan, but everywhere I have been, I have tried to learn about the people. I have wanted to know how people live, how they feel, what they think about the past and the future. I look at and admire all the lovely things here, but for me learning about the people is most important. I try to find the coincidences between our culture and the cultures of others. I think there are many.”
In Tokyo Ercilia has made friends with the Japanese and non-Japanese women in the International Ladies Benevolent Society. She learned the story of this society, which was formed soon after the end of the war by 11 Japanese and seven non-Japanese women. Evidence of suffering was still very severe then among handicapped and underprivileged people. The concerned women set up a charitable organization to raise money for Japanese charities and for deserving non-Japanese nationals.
ILBS grew from that small beginning into a large, effective and continuing organization. Each year it raises impressive sums of money that it donates to hard-pressed institutions and individual people. It is staffed by only volunteers.
In joining ILBS, Ercilia allied herself with its fundraising campaigns. She accepted the position of chairwoman for this year’s Christmas Fair, an annual event that is regularly organized by ILBS. As chairwoman, she follows several other ladies from her part of the world who have recently headed the committee.
For the fair, which lauds the spirit of the season as well as raising money, ILBS ladies collect items suitable for Christmas gifts that they put on sale. They have spent their summer months making personal and imaginative contributions of their own. “The handicraft corner at the fair will be particularly impressive,” Ercilia promised. Holiday decorations on the day add a sparkle to stalls that sell toys and games, children’s clothing, cards and ribbons, and homemade baked goods.
Leading the prize list for the raffle that is being held are airline tickets and a Toko Shinoda lithograph. All proceeds from the fair and the raffle are applied to help those least able to help themselves.