Myriam Vanegas of Bogotá, Colombia

One of the events of my life I often think of concerns Myriam Vanegas of Bogotá, Colombia.

In 1972, I made friends with a player in an international chess tournament organized by Bill Goichberg at the Marshall Chess Club. His name was Luis Busquets. He was born in Cuba, but you would never know it because his parents brought him to the United States in BC (Before Castro).

After I had known him for a few months, Luis came to my office on Liberty Street, near where the World Financial Center is now located, and asked me for a loan.

His reason was that he lived in Miami and had met a girl at the University of Florida who was from Colombia. He liked her and she liked him, so they had gotten married. They had now been married for a year or two, and she wanted to go back home to see her parents, whom she had not seen in a long time.

The problem was that Luis Busquets did not have any money for an airplane ticket.

At that time, I was a Big Time Operator on Wall Street and the owner of a stock brokerage firm named Samuel H. Sloan & Co. I had lots of money. According to my recollection, I loaned Luis $300, chicken feed for me at the time, but he remembers it as being $3,000 (three thousand dollars). In any case, I loaned Luis enough money for an airplane ticket for him and his wife, Claudia, to fly to Bogota, Colombia.

A few weeks after they left, I called Luis on the telephone. "The most amazing thing has happened," Luis said. "My wife is a millionaire."

Luis explained that he had had no idea that the father of his wife was one of the richest men in Colombia. He had only discovered that after he got to Bogota. Had he known that his wife was rich, he would never have asked me for a loan.

But, Luis added, his wife has a younger sister, aged 16, and very beautiful, and why don't I come down and marry her?

This was a Friday afternoon on July 4th weekend, 1972. As soon as the stock market closed, I headed for the airport and caught a flight to Bogota, Colombia.

At that time, a United States citizen could still fly to Colombia and many other countries in South America with only a USA driver's license. A passport was not required. As I did not have a passport, I bought a ticket at the airport and flew to Colombia with only my drivers license.

Luis met me at the airport. As it happened, there had been a bomb attack on the American Embassy just the previous day. I wanted to go to the US Embassy. Luis insisted that I could not go there, because this was a Saturday. I said that there would be no problem and insisted that Luis take me to the embassy.

When we got to the US Embassy, I buzzed on the speaker and spoke into the microphone. The embassy buzzed me in.

According to Luis, who remembers this incident better than I do, that convinced everybody that I was either an FBI or a CIA agent. First, I came to Colombia without any passport. Who had ever heard of anybody doing that? Then, without difficulty, I had entered the US Embassy on a Saturday when it was closed, just after a bomb attack had been launched against the embassy.

After I finished in the embassy, Luis took me to see the object of my visit, the sister of his wife Claudia, whose name was Myriam Vanegas.

Myriam Vanegas was stunningly beautiful. Just delectable. Just perfect. Luis had considerably understated her virtues when he had described her.

There were several sisters. We went to see the next older sister, who was 18. She was married and had just given birth to a child who was now two months old. We sat in her living room with her husband, as she bounced the baby boy on her knee.

Then, we went to see Luis's farm. His father-in-law had bought him some land outside of Bogota. Luis had big plans to open a chicken farm on the land.

On the way, Luis described how his father-in-law had made his millions. The father, Julio Vanegas, owned two television stations in Bogota and several radio stations as well. He had bought a TV station from a man, and then sold it back to the same man for a profit. Then, he bought the same station back again for less than he sold it and then sold it again to the same man for more. Julio Vanegas had bought and sold the same TV station to the same man three times, each time making a profit. This had made him millions. Julio also had two families, one including Claudia, Myriam and the other sisters and then there was a mistress or second wife with a bunch of children on the other side of town.

Finally, I got to meet the MAN, Julio Vanegas. Luis Busquets took me to the Vanegas Mansion. I was taken to the master bedroom. It was a most unusual interview, because Julio Vanegas lay in bed in his pajamas with his wife beside him while he interviewed me for the position for which I was being considered.

Julio Vanegas asked me questions about my business. I was a market maker in over-the-counter stocks and bonds. He wanted to know how much money I made, which was a lot at that point in time.

Luis left me in the mansion and went home, because another sister of Myriam named Adriana was there and she promised to drive me to the apartment of Luis and his wife after we finished our conversation.

When my conversation with Julio Vanegas was finished, Adriana took me and Myriam out the door through the car garage. It was pitch black in the garage. We fumbled our way passed the parked cars, without any flashlight.

It did occur to me that this was slightly strange. Myriam was right next to me and it was completely dark. I could have put my arms around her, kissed her and who knows what else. I have often thought, was it set up like that? Did Adriana take me out that way just hoping that I would do exactly that.

However, I did not do anything. I pretended not even to notice.

After leaving the Vanegas mansion, we did not go straight to the apartment of Luis and his wife. Instead, the three of us went to a small restaurant and had coffee. There, Adriana popped the question. "Why don't you marry Myriam?", said Adriana. "I will tell you what. Stay a few days longer here in Bogota, get to know each other better, and then you can get married."

I explained to Adriana that I had a really big business in New York (as I really had). Every day, I had to receive deliveries of securities and pay out about $50,000 in checks and nobody else but me had check signing authority, so I absolutely had to be back in New York City by Monday morning.

Myriam Vanegas wanted me to come live with her in Bogota. I explained that I could not possibly do that, because that would require me to give up my stock market business in New York, where I was making a lot of money, much more than I could ever make in Colombia.

So, nothing was done. I flew back to New York the next day. Soon thereafter, the Fischer-Spassky match for the World Chess Championship started. I got a passport and flew off to Iceland.

I never forgot Myriam Vanegas, but I never went back to Colombia again either. She wrote me once or twice and I probably answered but I cannot remember. I do remember one letter she wrote me that she was going to travel around Asia.

A few years later, Luis Busquets got divorced from his wife, Claudia, and came back to America. He said that the main reason he did this was the level of violence in Colombia and he was afraid he was going to be killed. He said that his father-in-law had cooked some food for him and had tried to poison him. Luis's life had flashed in front of his eyes as the lay on the kitchen floor, retching and thinking he was dying, while his wife Claudia screamed at her father, "You killed my husband."

As for Myriam Vanegas, Luis said that she had started having romantic involvements right after I left Colombia.

According to Luis, had I stayed in Colombia, there is absolutely no doubt that I could have married Myriam Vanegas. It is obvious that Luis himself had described me to her and her family in the most glowing of terms and that they were anxious to have me as a son-in-law.

According to Luis, had I stayed in Colombia, I would right now have many children, I would be rich, and I would also be dead.

Luis says that several chess players who I knew in Colombia have been killed.

Still, I cannot help but often think how different my life would be now, had I taken up the offer for Myriam Vanegas.

As for Julio Sánchez-Vanegas, he is still one of the richest men in Colombia. His company is Jes Vanegas, or Producciones Jes Ltda. Every Colombian knows of him. His son, a younger brother of Myriam, is now a famous TV star, which is not a difficult thing to be if your father owns the television network.

Sam Sloan

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