Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crazy Indios of Cafayate

Yes, this is one dramatic welcome to say the least. This ain't no happy Jesus.

And this one is just up the road. Like I've said, I like the Mary shrines better, much more pagan, much more peaceful and sacred, sort of like the space found in meditation or the yin to the J-man's yang.
But what's particuraly interesting about the below Mairan highway shrine is that it's set in a pile of stone and brambles reminiscent of the stone circles of Ireland that Isaac and I went hunting for outside of Cork. Which just proves my pagan point:  It's about the rocks and plants and earth!
Note: the circles were not always 'constructed' especially in non-urban locales or where there weren't large concentrations. In those cases, they could be 'found' in fairy 'mounds'.

There are lots of animals just walking around in Tafi...horses and donkeys on the side of the highway are certainly a hazard, but it's very Argentinian to go around them and just shrug. There are llamas at the estancia I'm staying at which is very charming. One of the little ones likes to follow me around. There are also dogs and cats.

Now and again I drop a few more bills to get my own bathroom or just to have respite from the hustle and bustle of hostels or the cheaper places. This place was still only $50 bucks a night, which is the most you ever need to spend here, though you can always drop 100s if you want of course. Hostels can be as low as $10-12 in a dorm, $15-$20 for your own room w/shared bathroom or a bit more for a single with bath. Budget hotels are about $30/night.

I took a long snaking bus ride through the mountains on my here from Cafayate, with the local indigenous people getting on and off, razzing each other, cracking jokes. When we left there were two very drunk Indios with their sober girlfriends trying to talk sense to them: 'escuchame!' (listen to me). Very sad and reminiscent of what you can see in the States. I think the Indian population here is much more lost in that in-between space of their culture gone and yet they're not really getting any of the rewards of the new one. Up above Salta, it seems more chill, at least for the older Indians who live very much like they always have in towns that are their own, following their own traditions about pachamama (the earth story of which is that young people live together for two years before they get married to see if they're a match...good idea and pretty much what we've all adopted in modern society, though it's certainly presented probs for the Catholic church which like most places is sythesis of the indigenous religion with Catholicism). I don't see much tension socially between whites and Indians though, everyone seems to treat each other very respectfully and on the level--at least here or from my outside viewpoint. I've heard that Argentines use the term 'Bolivian' as an insult word (you can be Argentine, Mapuche, Peruvian, but they'll still call you a Bolivian) and if you see my early posts, a man told me Indians have no culture. But he was a 'Porteno' (Buenos Aires resident) and they're often noted for their old-fashioned Euro-centric views. And ghetto kids will be ghetto kids: there were three Indian boys on the bus in the usual ghetto-fab cool of Argentine (soccer style sweats, high end nikes, curly cues of hair on the crown or at the back dyed blond), beautiful to be sure, but playing their music on the bus (an annoying reality in both Chile and Arg...people using cell phones as boomboxes....a tinny sound with zero to recommend it) and basically wilding. The bus driver did nothing and as a foreigner it always feels inappropriate to say anything as I feel I'm a guest here. Fortunately on the next bus, the driver asked the guy to turn his cell phone at 6 am...argh, get a clue. People live in their own friggin worlds. These people seem to have no sense that it might be inconsiderate, which is interesting, because one often assumes people know they are being annoying. A lot of times they don't. A lot of people live with tons of other people for instance and are accustomed to a lot of noise and have an ability to shut it out, which is likely the case for these kids. It's been very good for me to not let myself go to anger as I would in the US in similar circumstances.
(also reading an interesting novel by Vargas Llosa ... ....about the Michaguenga people of the Amazon..they believe anger is the worst thing and upsets the balance of the universe). When one tries a different tack, the results are encouraging: My practice has been to note I'm annoyed, then to think about what I'm grateful for, how lucky I am, how short this trip is, how it's a learning experience -- including this noise-- and the anger tends to fall a way. Not asking for too much is really what this is about. I ask for too much back home because I feel on some level I have a right to it, that I've been conditioned to ask for it. But that's why Americans are an increasingly angry annoyed people as I see it. Hope I can hold this thought back in LA traffic! So, gracias annoying Indian boys, and thanks for at least being handsome about it :) There's always a silver lining somewhere...find it!

Speaking of being a guest, I present Nathan, one of the few Americans I've met down here (don't know where they all are, but we discussed that Americans seem to be less and less adventurous--plus they only get short vacations (we are the drudges of the first world), or when they are, they're high-end about it. You rarely meet them in hostels which is a shame as in many ways it's where the next generation is connecting across borders with each other--well the next educated, middle class generation anyway...but they are the people who end up decison-makers so it's worth noting. But like Nathan pointed out, if you're an American everyone rags on you for Iraq, Bush, etc. But that's always been so, it happened about Reagan and Grenada and his shameless drug dealing when I was traveling in Europe. The cost of empire I suppose, but it's really tiring listening to Europeans judge Americans when the US is basically their offspring, their protector and far less racist in my opinion. It doesn't help that Americans tend to have a weak grasp of history/politics generally, but we at least deal with racism....look no further than the suburbs of Paris or Berlin to see how Europeans handle the issue. Or the new film Biutiful from Spain which confronts the issue of African immigrants. OK, not to get all Estadounidense, but I find delusion disturbing. Latin Americans have far more reason to hate the US historically, but the smart ones all know it's a mixture of US pressure and their own internal dark side that has produced some of the horrors of recent history (both dictatorships here for instance). Anyway, back to Nathan...he worked for two months on a ranch in Patagonia, is from Alaska, and has worked on political campaigns from Siberia to Ukraine to Iowa. Very accomplished for his 25 years and heading to law school in the fall. His Spanish was interesting as he learned it while working as opposed to the usual method of studying in classes. I notice these type learners talk faster and just slam through, unconcerned by mistakes, which is great on one level in terms of confidence but has its drawbacks obviously. We had an interesting discussion about 'asking questions'. He asks tons of questions...why can't I use the bathroom? why are you closed, is it siesta? I find too many questions 'muy estadounidense' and feel it's best to accept answers given while traveling. Like why do you need to know why you can't use the bathroom? The case in point: the Indian mucama, or maid, was afraid of her boss finding out since the place was closed. I totally understand that, so I went next door. Anyway, it's this whole American thing of challenging everything, which is of course our strength and our weakness. Nathan said something funny:  I work in politics, it isn't about listening, its about talking. So true. Anyway, this is also my own pride. I don't like coming off typcially 'American' and you really ARE an ambassador for your culture when you travel, and I think it's a big responsibility--and can be fun...I like surprising the end, you do have to concede the US is a pain in the ass, but it's a better pain in the ass than the empires that preceded it...for most people anyway. We could certainly do better, and the disappointment in Obama is noticeable...I always say, 'he's intelligent, he's the best we have, and after Bush, you have to realize how important that is. He's not a butcher or an ideologue and he's up against a conservative, misinformed and easily manipulated population.' It's also a little sad to see what American culture is out here in the world:  Britney Spears, Coca Cola, Chevy, religious fundamentalism. There's all the rest too, but these are the most visible--or maybe just to me...we all see our through our own particuular lens. Sorry, that all must sound a bit curmudgeonly, but there is beautiful music in the world (right here), nice vino (right here) and Paso del Los Toros pomelo light soda!, cute Fiats and spiritual traditions with real depth (again, right here...Pachamama!). I suppose it's not just America, the world is going this way...and who knows what will come of it...maybe something good, you never know--but only if things ain't what they seem....which they aren't!!

Nathan and I hiked this canyon and got a ride back by one of those just wonderfully friendly and beautiful Argentine families who shared mate with us and showed exactly how to be a great ambassador of your culture. They should run workshops for everyone else on the planet! :)
This is anecdotal, but I hitchhiked for 20 mins in Chile with no ride, and in Argentina, I hitchhiked for 10 seconds, my thumb raised once and I made a whole group of new friends :) 

Viva Argentinos! Los Amables!
(Marco, in the middle is a mountain guide out of Mendoza)

Below is a beautiful old Jesuit church/estancia from the 18th c. Very chill or 'tranquilo' as they say here. I would definitely live there, and the bedsprings made from gut/sinew/tendons?? (someone tell me, I ain't no farmboy) were especially interesting.

Pachamama, or an indigenous version of Mary in the church in Tafi

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