Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cordoba 2.0

Two weeks now in Cordoba, and I love the river that runs through the city. I've been heading into the Sierras on weekends and was in La Cumbrecita last week.....

Those mushrooms were amazing, hundreds of them, and the size of salad plates. There aren't a lot of trees as you can see. Argentina is not big on trees, though there are lots of little squat trees....there are a bunch of weird little German-themed towns up here, and one, Villa General Belgrano (founding father, creator of the flag and also gay--mystery of why the flag is so pretty finally solved!) was actually started by survivors of the Graf Spee,, a German battleship in WW2 that had been reeking havoc in the Atlantic and got cornered and pursued by the British in the River Plate delta, where it was damaged and then sunk, suicide-style (scuttled I guess is the word...can one scuttle one's life?) by the proud German captain. Anyway, all the architecture is German, pines have been planted everywhere and there's lots of cervezas artesanales. Very touristy and kind of odd... Solvang, CA-style.
Anyway, stuck in the bus station for a connection to La Cumbrecita, I was once again faced with a common situation, where there was no food to be had (other than media lunas--pastries aren't food!), but always absolutely perfect coffee.
Which brings me to Fernet, the Cordobese drink...a fermented herb which is something like 130 proof and served mixed with coke. Very tasty and intense (you can see why the coke is's a very intense mate-like herbal flavor and supposedly good for the digestion.

I've been watching the stray dogs who are legion here, and everywhere in Argentina. I don't know, on some level it's more humane than our system in the US where they're euthanized, but now and again they form packs and get kind of aggressive. I got confronted by a group of beasts in the park, and while they scare easy, it's still a little unsettling. They scare easy I'm guessing cuz they don't really have territory to defend, so they're kind of just neurotic about their aggression, it's not really based on anything vital like a dog with territory. I'm not an expert, just my observation. I like having them around though, they just come up and lay down next to you at cafes. But some are clearly ill and one can't sentimentalize the situation. But it is funny how comfortable they are, they just sort of lay down on major thoroughfare sidewalks and go to sleep and everyone just steps over them. People are nice to them, they're like cows in India I guess.
I met an older woman today in a cafe who told me she knew Che as a kid and was also a friend of his girlfriend, Chichina (she's the one in Motorcyle Diaries who turned him down). Chichina went on to marry a capitalist and ended up very rich. I didn't know whether to believe her, she looked 65 max and Che would be in his eighties. Who knows? What was interesting was that she was clearly a wealthy woman who leaned right politically, but when she talked about Peronism and Che she wasn't strident like I'm used to in the US when meeting rightwingers. She just said, I'm not a Peronist, but it's a very interesting movement and they have a lot of power. She is the first person to tell me she doesn't think Cristina will win. She says the primaries will bring in new 'horses'. Everyone else seems to think Cristina's re-election is a foregone conclusion.

Spanish is hard, it's just soooo structured, and I am not a very structured person, so I am having to work on it. Music helps...., courtesy of Gaucho Federico courtesy of the fab Tucumanos, Pablo and Haity  courtesy of magical Milagros
My addiction to reading in English for pleasure is a constant struggle. I read the paper and some books in espanol, but at my level, it's not terribly exciting, whereas my English books are engaging on my level (I've finished all my Argentine books and I'm now reading George Orwell's essays, which are awesome. His essay, "Inside the Whale", about Henry Miller and English lit between the wars was really enlightening and I'd say a must-read for all writers. He's such a smart down-to-earth thinker, and yet one wonders what he'd make of how things played out economically/politically. He didn't think liberalism/capitalism would survive, and I suppose it won't, but he thought it would die faster. "Looking Back on the Spanish Civil War" is really good too, he's soooo refreshingly objective that one realizes it really is about humanism, not politics. Which brings me to the state of Argentina....people are frustrated certainly, they've taken huge economic hits, but there's also a hopeful feeling...27 years of democracy is a huge, huge thing in Argentina, and the younger people, of which there are many, have lived their whole lives in that system. One realizes that unless you're over 40, the dictatorship is not part of your experience, though its echoes are certainly there in the shadows...the disappeared are remembered on murals and in this week's 'feriado' (holiday in memory of the disappeared, courtesy of Cristina) and the Museo de la Memoria, which is disturbingly 20 feet from the cathedral and on the site of the actual location where people were arrested, held and tortured in Cordoba, which was a hotbed of subversion (the dictatorship's word, not mine....half the people I work with would be dead if they'd been here in the 70s...the bar for 'subversion' was pretty low). The museum recounts the stories of countless individuals, mostly people in their 20s, who vanished without a trace. It's very weird and really sad, like an entire generation was just rounded up and killed (but even worse..disappeared, no one took any responsibility), while the Catholic church's bells tolled 20 feet away. So much for religion. The creepy fascist logic of the generals believed socialism was a mental disease and infected those who were around it, which is how they justified stealing the children of the disappeared and adopting them out to rightwing people who would 'prevent the infection' and instead instill the children with 'proper thinking'...these children are a big issue now as there is an investigative body that is attempting to DNA-match all the children with their real parents, which, of course, is running up against some resistance. This process was spearheaded by the grandmothers of the disappeared, an outgrowth of the mothers of the disappeared weird for these children. It makes you think about how devastating and unsettling the 60s were, what a huge social upheaval occurred and the different ways different countries dealt with it. A guy I know here told me a person from New Zealand asked him if he were ashamed to be Argentine. He was offended and said ''No, I'm proud to be an Argentine". It made me think about that sort of Anglo-Saxon arrogance that seems to believe other cultures are somehow more barbaric than theirs. Did my friend ask the kiwi about the Maori? I don't know. Americans often seem to think the same way (we are so Anglo-Saxon, which is more and more apparent, everyday I'm here), and while no, we have not been subject to a military dictatorship, we did sacrifice 60,000 of our young people in Vietnam and killed millions of Vietnamese (and Native Americans), and never even hesitated vis-a-vis Iraq and Afghanistan (next stop Bengazi), but shame seems to never get mentioned. It could also be argued that Bush2 was a coup and a military dictatorship, but in that oh-so-subtle Anglo Saxon way. It's all about making it look OK, not too heavy-handed, even though the results are the same. A lot of the horrors that happened here happened in the context of the Cold War--the really irrational fear of all things even remotely socialist--which still exists in the US today--and which was and is consistently exported by the US, more or less through economic blackmail, military hardware and training. What happened here was western civilization doing what it does--crushing its shadow--so we're all guilty, including kiwis. One day Guantanamo will be a museum.
I've done it again, preached to the converted. OK, well I do love the US still cuz I can actually say these things, and I love the food in the US, and I love the mts and the optimistic conscientious can-do creative innovations that my peeps are known for! There is hope! And on that note, my search for hummus has once again been successful. The below pic is for Stella!

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