New Argentine envoy uses sports, culture to bring unity

Argentina ambassador Gustavo Martinez Pandiani, at the Argentinian Embassy, Tatil building, Maraval Road on June 18.  - Photo by Jeff K Mayers
Argentina ambassador Gustavo Martinez Pandiani, at the Argentinian Embassy, Tatil building, Maraval Road on June 18. - Photo by Jeff K Mayers

Gustavo Martinez Pandiani, newly-appointed Argentine ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, wants to help build the relationship between the two countries through sports and culture.

Having arrived only two weeks ago, he said he already feels at home and is excited to connect with communities across the country.

This is not his first stint in the Caribbean: he was previously ambassador in Barbados, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia, as well as an undersecretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, among other roles.

He told Newsday he has already begun discussions on how the two countries’ 60-year-old partnership can grow.

He's met with TT Football Association (TTFA) president Kieron Edwards, as he believes there is a great opportunity for the exchange of skills and knowledge in the sport.

Argentina is the 2022 World Cup champions and has won the title three times.

“We started thinking about co-operating in (that area), as well as cricket, where it can be the other way around. We can help you with football and you can help us with cricket.”

Laughing, he said, “Believe it or not, we have a cricket team in Argentina. We lose most games, but we are learning and we need technical assistance.”

He said sports and culture are two of the best ways to transform young people’s lives, especially the most vulnerable.

“When you are a little kid in a very poor neighbourhood, you are surrounded by guns, weapons, drugs…All the bad things are right there around you, and sometimes sports or arts are the only way out from there.”

He said he is an example of that, as he grew up in a very poor family and was the first to go to university.

When it comes to the arts, he said he wants to do something similar to his time in Barbados: to open a space for local, up-and-coming artists to exhibit.

“I want to help give exposure to young people who may not have any other opportunities to get their work out there…The diplomatic world gives you exposure.”

He said his approach to diplomacy is a bit different from the norm.

“My take is that it is not only about government-to-government type of activity, but people-to-people. So I normally get involved a lot in the local communities. I don’t like the idea of a diplomatic (ecosystem) where you only talk to your diplomatic colleagues and operate in a circle. You never get into the real country you are a part of that way.

“Knowing diplomatic friends is great, but I want to be part of your society.”

Because he views himself as a “regular human being” above all else, you can find him at a local gym or grocery, or even “taking a sweat” on a field.

When he first arrived, all his luggage was lost. But despite this, all he wanted to do was play football. So he went to the mall, bought clothes for football training and visited Mandela Park in Port of Spain.

“You know like when you’re a kid and you just sit at the side and look at a group of people playing football, almost as if you’re saying you want to play, and then they invite you? That’s what happened.”

In addition to sports and culture, he hopes to focus on energy, tourism and agriculture.

He is in the process of negotiating with satellite imaging professionals from Argentina to visit TT to assist farmers. He also wants to help bring more visitors from South America to TT, and “better co-ordination in the energy sector.”

“Co-operation means a two-way highway…I can help you and you can help me, and in the process, we help each other.”

He said far too often, the concept of co-operation seems to be one-sided.

“I don’t like that. I prefer we work together.”

Argentina ambassador Gustavo Martinez Pandiani, at the Argentinian Embassy, Tatil building, Maraval Road, on June 18. - Photo by Jeff K Mayers

Two upcoming projects for the embassy are the screening of Messi's World Cup: Rise of a Legend on July 9, as well as a competition in which children will write a letter to the football legend for a chance to win a signed jersey.

Apart from official plans, he has enjoyed doubles, roti, bake and shark, and visited Maracas and Las Cuevas. Admittedly, he struggled a bit with the doubles, as the vendor put more than “slight” pepper.

“I want to work with the real people from the real TT and that’s what I’m going to do.

“I am a very creative ambassador. Even if I don’t have all the resources to do something, I have the will to do it and the right connections.”

He said he is also looking forward to Carnival 2025 celebrations and will be practising his dance moves for the rest of the year. And he also hopes to help more locals learn Argentina’s tango.

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