04 February 2010

Jesuits, Gauchos and Che, Oh My!

In our first two days in Córdoba, we wasted no time in seeing the sights. Carmela met us at the bus station after our over-night bus ride from Mendoza, which was 1.5 hours late. It was our third over-night bus ride in a row. Yah, what fun.

Anyways, after a quick stopover at her house, we were whisked away to the nearby town of Alta Gracia. We exlored a 17th Century Jesuit cathedral and estancia (another of many UNESCO World Heritage sites that we've visited so far. There are five giant estancia's that circle Córdoba which provided food and supplies to the central religious infrastructure back in the day. Apparently the Jesuits got too powerful and were expelled from the country. The buildings still remain.

A kilometer up the road, yet a world away, is Ernesto "Che" Guevara's childhood home. This inconspicuos home is tucked away in a quiet little neighborhood. There are photos, letters and family artifacts. Fidel Castro and Jugo Chavez were present at the grand opening several years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the museum/house, though it did present Che in an entirely positive perspective (if I get time, I'll write more about this later).

That night Carmela's dad, Raul, played the tango on his piano and then his accordian. 

The next day we drove through the surrounding hills, enjoying some fantastic chocolate fig ice cream along the way. Eventually we found the middle of nowhere, which has a small white church and a couple of dilapitated old buildings. The locals were celebrating their church's saint day. While we missed the holy activities (darn!), we were in time for a chaos-filled meat bonanza called lunch. We hung around for a few hours, chatting with people, picking Carmela's brain about all the places she's travelled, and even taking a short siesta underneath a big tree. Finally, around four o'clock, the highly-anticipated event began - gaucho competitions. Gauchos are the Argentinian equivalent of our wild west cowboys. And just like our cowboys, the present state of affairs seem to be composed of equal parts legend and tourism. However, in some secret enclaves (both in the US and Argentina) there is a population who still live this way.

Carmela had found out where these people live. There were no advertisements, public announcments or marketing effot. There was no entrance fee. No planning committee. Heck, there was almost no planning. It's as if the local citizens know that after the church procession, there would be a giant bbq,  and that people would bring their horses to enjoy some friendly competition. A competition in which there is no material prize.

(Remember this face: it's the Michael Jordan slam-dunk look of the gaucho world)

The gauchos dressed how they really dress. They meandered to the open field at about 4pm and made a semi-circle on one side. Towards the other side was a pole with two arms, each holding a red ribbon. Gauchos raced down the field in pairs, trying to nab the red ribbon in their "lane." The ribbon had a hole that was maybe as big as my thumb and the used small sticks to pierce through that tiny hole. It was apparently very hard to do but was great fun to watch.

(This guy was my favorite. After he raced, he pulled his little daughter onto the horse and they rode around, looking at things in the trees and such. Plus, you can't beat his killer 'stach)

So, within two days of arriving, we have bee treating to more culture than we have seen in the last month. We have more plans for this week in Córdoba - touring the downtown sights, shopping, tango, and the famous Argentinian parrilla (bbq).


  1. Danny - I just caught up on the last few posts - can't believe your toe - looks painful. You've visited more hospitals in the last 6 months than you probably did the past 6 years. Great pictures on the horse riding trying to put a stick through a red thing - sounds like a type of game we'd love!
    All is good here - Mia is crawling all over the place and pulling herself up on things to stand up...no walking yet, but we now have to watch her more as she's pulling herself up, but can't get down.


  2. I still fall down myself, so tell Mia not to lose heart. Glad all is going well. My toe is still puffy and black, but no more pain. In Iguazu falls now!

  3. Hey, Danny, Kristin...
    I´m very sad.... we were waiting for you in Banfield, Buenos Aires.... and as I can see, you are now in Rio !!!
    On the other hand,I´m very happy too because I can see you very happy.
    Sorry for my English, is not so good...

    Abrazo y Saludos.

    Chucky. (Do you remember us? We picked up you near chile...)

  4. A, another thing tHe correct word is GAUCHO ...not GUACHO...GUACHO is not a good word...
    Try to correct it...