Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mercedes, Maoists and a Midsummer Nights Dream

The below four photos are from San Pedro de Atacama, two weeks ago in Chile, but my friend Eric just sent them to me, so I share them now...biking in the valle de la luna and soaking in the geyser pools at 6 am

This one's very it really a middle-aged humanoid or just trick photography?

Below is a canyon in Valley de la Luna....brush off that orange dirt and this entire mountain was solid crystal...

A village south of San Pedro...I'm walking with a French guy who is a wine buyer, visiting Chile to select vino, etc....Esteban, the charming Chilean lurks, stage left...

I thought this statue was one of those real people posing as a statue that you see at street fairs and such...but no, it's a imitates life imitates art imitates itself, or something...
It's Mercedes Sosa, una tucumana, in her more native guise...she is part indigenous...more info in a previous post from Cordoba/March and, of course, her most famous song....
more about her interesting life....

My favorite trees, the palo borrachos, are back!!

Argentines are always building fires...this one by workers behind a museum in Tucuman's large city park. I've seen fires at bus stops along the highway at 6 am, on sidewalks with grills draped over them for asado (Argentines are always barbecuing meat), out in fields, in restaurants, in front of churches, pretty much anywhere it gets cold...something sweetlly communal about it

Argentines also fill their parks with reason this country suits me so well is that there are literally cafes anywhere you could wish for one...a true embarrassment of riches for a wandering writer/reader such as I...this one in Tucuman's central park... 

This high end cafe was at the end of a road leading up into the lovely Parque San Lorenzo trails outside Salta...

A soccer statue, of course.....Some Argentines complain that nobody cares about politics, only soccer. It's definitely a huge part of Argentina's nationalism and apparently many people coped/slept-walked through the dictatorship by following their favorite team... the entire country basically shuts down on Sundays for the many games. Speaking of nationalism, several Argentines resent Chile for helping the Brits during the Falklands...I find this a tad hard to understand. Pinochet of Chile was a brutal can you hold Chileans responsible for his policies. On top of that, the Falklands war was a boondoggle by the Arg dictatorship and they should be blamed for everyone who died was poorly planned and disingenous to distract from their failed economic policies. They sent untrained young conscripts to absolutely corrupt and unethical govt....Why would anyone support them? But nationalism is what it is and as people died due to Pinochet's help in sinking the Belgrano, it's understandable that there are some hard feelings.

The weird Spanish expression of 'God's-on-our-side' military victories depicted in churches.....

I visited this sugar cane  museum

 Tucuman was one of the first industrialized sugar producers (thanks to the priest Fr. Colombres..... of course the Jesuits who introduced the crop here. Interesting, all these catholic priest businessmen....which is why the Spanish shut them down..they'd obtained too much power and money and threatened the crown...Colombres was also a founding father, involved in the early congresses, etc.
The sugar industry, being labor intensive, was along with cotton, a big driver of the slave trade in the Caribbean and Brazil and of course here the wages were incredibly low. It's no wonder it became a center of marxist organizing pre-dictatorship..

There was one heartbreaking photo of a group of young ERP guerrilla recruits...all handsome young Argentines with those big eager open smiles... I've never seen revolutionaries...and certainly not communists..look so sweet and looked like a school field trip.
I met a really nice guy, Ariel, in a bookstore...nice name.
We spent a nice evening together, eating authentic local cuisine (humitas, tamales, empanadas, vino) and speaking Spanish. 

These are humitas....they're like tamales but bigger, and they can be served this way or as a soup. The corn is bigger and chunkier than a tamale and there are different spices in it and it's often sweeter.

Anyway, Ariel is a painter, but makes his living as a photographer, thought he used to work at a hostal in Patagonia. We had an interesting discussion about foreign travelers as he spent years with them. He likes the French the best...lots of Argentines really identify with the French and maybe they are the French of South America. I didn't particularly agree as I perceive the French as kind of living in their own little French world and often unwilling to make eye contact. Having said that, I also met some nice French folks, and like Argentines I can say they are generally almost always clued-in, which makes them nice to have around. Myself, I like Scandinavians and Argentines...Scandinavians are fun and game for whatever and Argentines are just really friendly, down to earth and helpful and open. Sadly, Israelis came in last...we both agreed it was probably their living in a constant state of war, and almost all Israelis do their traveling after their military service which, of course, is brutal and hardening. I met a really nice Israeli last year, so generalizations are just that, but I also met the aggressive/cold ones who have a bad rep among hostals. It all just makes one feel really sad about the middle east and what it does to people (ditto with neoliberalism...Israel, along with the US, and increasingly Chile it appears, are pursuing the same no-holds-barred brutal capitalist model and it clearly does harden people and reduce their ability to empathize and connect...I may be going out on a limb here, but it feels like a thick one that could support a lot of weight. Of course, like Israel, the US is more or less in a constant state of war, though its further afield...and war eats the soul and is of course a very large part of the neoliberal model....war  and violence and theft as integral to economic growth, really a hideous state of affairs.). Ariel thought Germans and Americans were the most critical of their own countries and that British girls were into volunteerism but the men strangely never were. He felt Australians, Brits, Canadians, Americans were all generally respectful. He also mentioned that it was really easy to meet girls as an Argentine or latin don't even have to write poetry, you just have to show up and the foreign girls are yours :)
He also had lots of interesting things to say about's like Gotham he said, a very surreal place, all the opposites up against each other (rich/poor, very intellectual/very uneducated, agri/urban) and the place where everything in Argentine is tried first....if it works, it spreads, if not Tucuman just takes the hit of a bad idea. I like it a lot as I like all Argentine cities...they're really perfect little cities in terms of liveability and full  of vitality and soul.
I'll try to find him on facebook for a pic. I would have photographed him today but he had a sudden work call and I'm leaving tonight, so it ain't gonna happen. Since his name is that of an angel..Ariel...perhaps he is one and isn't real and thus I can't see him again!
anyway, buen rato (good time)

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