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Shannon Wianecki | Photo: Nina Kuna | May 2, 2013
Thanks to one pair of adventurers, Maui’s North Shore is now home to Hawai‘i’s latest and, perhaps, chicest group of émigrés: the Argentinians.
Meet two of the best neighbors to have on Maui: world champion windsurfer Francisco Goya and his wife, fashion icon Tamara Catz. Big dreamers and savvy entrepreneurs, they build sturdy foundations under their castles in the sky and then invite everyone over to share in their success. Since Catz and Goya met on Maui, these truly trendsetting porteños, or natives of Buenos Aires, have become the anchors of a growing community of dashing Argentinian expats.
It all began when Goya was just 18 and followed the wind to Maui in 1989. The windsurfing scene was exploding, and the sandy-haired athlete wanted nothing more than to ride the best waves on the planet. Back then, he says, he was one of only two Argentinians on the island. Then, in 1993, he met Catz. It’s hard to imagine now, but the talented, young clothing designer had difficulty adjusting to island life. “I came from a big city with 10 million people. I was not a country girl in any way!” confesses Catz. “I hadn’t yet discovered the power of nature to inspire me.”
Goya didn’t need convincing. “For windsurfing, it doesn’t get any better anywhere else in the world. You can’t duplicate the wind and the waves here on Maui.” Capitalizing on this perfect environment, Goya opened a sail loft and factory in Ha‘ikū—mere minutes away from the prime surf spots where he could test his equipment in the elements. His two brands—Goya and Quatro—feature some of the sport’s most cutting-edge and creative designers. And while Goya’s loft is closer to jungle than city, it has all the luster of an artist’s studio in Soho.
Eventually, Catz got into the Maui groove, too, launching a fashion line to meet the needs of stylish islanders. Before long, her designs made their way off the island and right into the pages of Sports Illustrated, Lucky, InStyle and Vogue Latinoamérica. In 2005, she opened her flagship boutique on Hāna Highway.
“People asked me, ‘Really? You’re going to invest in Pā‘ia?’” Catz recalls. At the time, Pā‘ia was a hippy surf town that had plenty of charm, but lacked sophistication. That all changed after Catz transformed her storefront into a stylish enclave. Other shop owners followed suit. In fact, next door to Catz’s boutique, her brother-in-law, Alejandro Goya, opened Paia Contemporary Gallery. Though small in space, it packs an aesthetic punch, regularly showcasing museum-quality modern artists.
Nestled between the boutique and the gallery, a palm-shaded courtyard serves as the site for artists’ receptions and sample sales. Unknown to many, this quaint oasis has also become Pā‘ia’s de facto headquarters for Argentinian émigrés. Among them is Goya’s friend, Patricio “Pato” Giliberto, who, like the world champ, came to windsurf and never left. “I love the ocean, the weather, the people and how safe it is,” says Giliberto, a custom welder whose three-day workweek eventually caught the attention of his older brother, Juan Giliberto, back in Buenos Aires. When Juan finally came to visit Pato in his new home, the elder brother completely fell in love with Maui. “Three times I came and left crying, until I finally moved here,” Juan explains. An architect and artist, Juan has also found a niche in his new home. His work has been featured in the island’s prestigious juried show, Art Maui. Unlike his fellow countrymen, his water sport of choice is outrigger canoe racing. He’s already crossed the Kaiwi Channel with Lae‘ula O Kai canoe club six times.
One thing’s for sure: Maui’s Argentine hui knows how to have fun and look good doing it. Each year the Giliberto brothers participate in the flamboyant Hana Relay. Back in 2001, Team Argentina dressed as ABBA in skintight gold pants, wigs and female cohorts in white knee-high boots. Naturally, they captured the prize for Most Spirited. It’s clear that Goya and Catz are sharing this same kind of irrepressible enthusiasm with the next generation. Their daughter, Luna, and son, Teo, spend half the year attending Haleakalā Waldorf School and the other half accompanying their globe-trotting parents on adventures. Perhaps, the Argentinian wave in the islands has only just begun.