ARGENTINA

TOWARDS THE NORTHWEST: THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ANDES-

 

Each and every country has its capital. Each capital its center; its center has its "city" and this one, its skyscrapers from which one can watch the world in a quite different way... Buenos Aires. From there, where the avenues: Avenida Córdoba and Avenida Eduardo Madero are; where the American multinational companies have placed their towers in cheerful competition with the Spanish ones on the Mar del Plata, The Casa Rosada looks tiny down there.

Pedro de Mendoza, founder of the city of Buenos Aires in 1536, knew the silver objects used by the native indians without giving them special value. He surely took part in the Great Expectation of watching one day how the earth`s riches ( that is: silver) that there must have been up the river, would come down to the new city. The former river Solís, named after Juan Día de Solís and the discoverers and shipwrecked people of his expedition, changed to be called: Rio la Plata. This region was called Argentina from 1602, name that was officially adopted by the president Santiago Dergui in 1860 to designate the new independent country. And, all this, due to a mineral: silver or "argentium" of which there has never been a sign in Argentina.

Apart from anecdotes here we are, reviewing next to the calm waters of the renewed Port Madero if this country with its mysteries, the permanent search of a destination and their characteristics continues living in the illusion of the people from Buenos Aires, while on the other side, away from the great city, Argentina lives a normal daily life, calm in the immensity of its lands and landscapes.

Beyond the capital, the county, 600 km of diameter sprinkled with cities and towns. La Plata, Lujuán, Dolores... 11 million inhabitants. We leave Buenos Aires and its suburbs leading up the Rio de la Plata, north direction, an horizon without end sprinkled with consecutive lakes next to the green fields, with meanders and turns in brown. Now called: river Parana, it is navigable all along its course and connects Buenos Aires with some of the main Argentinean cities: Rosario and Santa Fe, geografical, fluvial and economic key places in the north half of Argentina. We are in the Pampa, a plain without end that Argentian people has transformed and adapted especially to the cattle use, with appropiate pasture and forests. Some of intensive use: pine and eucalyptus; others more adapted to the place with trees such as low ombu. Thanks to its huge crown of more than 30 m a large number of animals can be placed in the shade.of the ombu. Territory also of deer and foxes, capybaras and skunks and a rich fauna linked to the water: herons and flamingos; enormous fishes such as pejerrey. To sum up, a landscape that we can travel around from the air enjoying a magnificient view, thanks to our pilots: Nahuel and Alex, at the control of the Cessna that gently flies along the course of the river.


 

And sprinkling the endless plain, left caressed by the water of the river, the witnessing of hints of an American- like city, the perfectly orthogonal drawing of San Pedro, Ramallo, like so many Amercan cities as examples of an ordenation of royal jurisdiction, given soon by Carlos I in the Laws of Indias. He wanted to regulate the perfection for the new world, without big names behind the urbanistic planning, just orthogonal, but somehow adapted today in a natural way to the endless plain and its long straight routes.

We come down back to Earth, to the road that will lead us from Santa Fe to Santiago del Estero, across the most western part of the old region of "chacu" ( = hunting land in Quechua language), a neverending plain, where the indians used to make their living from hunting and fishing. Nowadays it is the boring Route 34, a straight line without end, decorated with marshy areas in the rainy seasons; dry and hard in summer. Cereals, cows and an horizon, that seems to escape from our wish to reach it. And down there, on the other side of S. Miguel de Tucumán, at last the beginning of the foothills of the Andes.

Tucumán repeats in its sorrounding area a too widespread landscape of shanties and poverty, that proclaims the reality of the current Argentina, an urban belt common to the main cities. It may be even more attractive here, as Tucuman is an economic and cultural reference place in the northwest: active, densely populated and increasing...Traditionally dedicated to the cane of sugar, introduced by the jesuits, recently diversfied into tabacco and other products. It does not avoid people living in the countryside from running away from time to time and arriving in here, joining in the shanty towns. There are also flourishing periods, in which the town comes alive again with cheerful life at night, famous in the song book, mainly around the Urquiza Square.

The city has some of the symbolic elements of the Argentinian history as it was the birthplace of the Independence, declared on July 9th 1816 among the walls of the "Casa Histórica de la Independencia" (Historical Houses of the Independence), 151 Congreso Street. It was built in 1943 on the basis of the documentation of the original one with original furniture, weapons, ethnography and documentation. All together with the myth of those men who took part in that historic decision along with General S. Martin.This group is completed with a succesive good cared patios with the typic characteristics of an "hacienda" (country property). In the last one there is an immense collection of conmemorative bas-relieves (some of them by Lola Mora, Argentinean sculptress, a refecence artist that one must take into account). It all forms a curious backdrop to the light and sound shows at night.

 

Next to it, at 56 Congreso Street, is the "Museo Histórico Provincial Presidente Nicolás Avellaneda" after the name of the President who lived there in his childhood and led the country from 1874 to 1880. During this period of time Buenos Aires joined the Federation and became Federal Capital. It is not a proper palace. but a urban house with patio of the biginning of the 19th century (1835), in the late Spanish baroque image. It has a collection of documents, ceramic and furnitures of the time. In the room upstairs there is a short biography of the national myth: Lola Mora, with some personal objects and a curious collection of portraits she made to Presidents of the country.

Other interesting places to visit are the park: "9 de Julio", an inmense commemorative recess area of 100 hectares, nice example of arquitecture in its landscape, with the house of bishop Colombres, a colonial construction of the 18th century, nowadays a sugar museum; the Cathedral and the S. Francisco and La Merced Churches; as well as many references to another hero of the Independence: Belgrano General and the famous battle of Tucumán, history that one can hear once and again.

Salta, capital of the province with the same name, welcomes us with the sight of the mountains at its back. A beautiful rich and middle class city, whose streets and buildings show a good cared inheritance of the splendor of the 18th century. The mixing of race groups has brought out among its people the best of two original races.

Mountains, valleys and gullies form a splendorous and exuberant hall before the still of the Altiplano. Place with a rich variety of landscapes: amazing subtropical forest areas, in the so called: "Camino de Cornisa" (on the way to Cornisa) that leads to Jujuy; the mountain landscape on the way to S. Antonio de Cobres, with the well-known "tren de las nubes" (train of the clouds); the province of Salta, specially Cafayate and its sorroundings, that has the best vineyards of the country. It is serving such a prestigious wine in the international market, that there are already some spanish, french... wineries, that begin to produce in here.

Salta is an ideal place for adventure tourism: by train (ask for information about closed streches or under construction); in the so called: "Movie Track", a convertible lorry that has caused an enormous enthusiasm among people; or in a 4x4 with one of the many agencies one can find in the city. Destinations: towards the calchaquies valleys, the Puna or S. Antonio de los Cobres-Chile.

We come back to Salta-city: it was founded by Hernando de Lerma in 1582. The rich valley, where the city lies, is called after him.The colonial architecture is present all over the place both in the valley and in the city. The arcades in rural areas gives us a hint of the local richness and the vitality of the trade as well as the town hall in Salta of the 17th century; the rich burgeois buildings such as the "Centro Cultural América" (America Culture Center) a proyect by Arturo Prims and built by engineers Correa and Cornejo; the religious arquitecture with some pretentious examples with the clergy and the local fervor as the cathedral of the 19th century, a design that is not quite atractive by Riguetti and Soldati (Italians). It was finished in 1882 placing in the high altar an enormous monstrance that has become in the representative image of the temple; and finally, the religious architecture that reflects the power of the religious orders in the process of evangelization: the church and Convent of S. Francisco with its curious Neorenaissance exent tower of the 19th century and the temple by the Franciscan Luis Giorgi who also worked in the cathedral.

 

THE ALTIPLANO: LA PUNA

 

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