Things I Have Learned In Jujuy, Argentina

Things I Have Learned  In Jujuy, Argentina

‘Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.”

~Annie Dillard

The Train to the Clouds makes up one of the most important attractions in this area because of its distinct building and engineering.

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It is now closed but you drive along this route of unique beauty where the mountains touch the clouds.

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The Puna is part of the barren high altitude landscape that stretches across the Altiplano in Northern Argentina. It is around 4000 meters high.

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The Altiplano (high plain) is the most extensive high altitude plateau outside of Tibet.

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You don’t see much except wild vicunas and guanacos.

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The viaduct at La Polvorilla is the last stop of the Tren A Las Nubes at 4200 meters above sea level.

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Las Nubes means the clouds. It is a word you quickly learn in Salta and Jujuy (between 10-14,000 ft. above sea level most of the time.) There is the train to the clouds,  restaurant in the clouds, farm in the clouds, gym in the clouds, winery in the clouds,  hotel in the clouds, store in the clouds, etc. In other words, you are very high up in the Andes.

San Antonio de Los Cobres is one of the highest altitude towns on the Puna and is known because it is one of the stops on the Train to the Clouds. That’s about it.

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The cold wind rips through us and it turns out that it is the windiest day in thirteen years. We are at our highest altitude of 14,000 feet. The altitude headache is kicking in and it is freezing.  But I have been in a cozy restaurant drinking fresh coca tea, eating llama and lentils, and talking about the rainy season and mine exploitation.

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It is not a good day for a drug test when you are at high altitudes in the Andes chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea. The test is for coca, not the chemicals that turn it into cocaine.

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It takes about three hours on an unpaved dirt road to go from San Antonio  to Salinas Grandes.  When someone tells you that you are taking the road alongside the train to the clouds, it sounds so exciting, but  why do they forget to tell you it is unpaved and very rocky?

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A stunning natural phenomenon, these salt flats took about 22 million years to form the current topography. Salt deposits from a since-disappeared body of water cover the ground here, forming a durable surface that appears snowy from a distance and almost fossil-like up close.

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Salt  can have a big glare, when not in a salt shaker and laid out in salt flats of 8,290 kilometers.

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The pueblos of Purmamarca, Tilcara and Huamahuaca are on the main highway to the Bolivian border. (Pucara of Tilcara-pre Inca fort)

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This entire area is the Quebrada de Humahuaca . a UNESCO site for its villages and natural scenery.

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The towns are more interesting in Jujuy than Salta.

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We see no tourists here from the United States but you can always find South Americans, a few Germans and Australians, and of course the British. They go everywhere.

The Tropic of Capricorn is the southernmost latitude where the Sun can be directly overhead.

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One of the markers of the Tropic of Capricorn is in Jujuy province in Northern Argentina.

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This beautiful church in Uquia is one of the many colonial churches in Jujuy. It has a fine collection of paintings from the Cusco School of Art . (the Incas were taught to paint for the Spanish and put their own symbols in the paintings)

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There are nine angel paintings. When the Indians were told to paint angels,  they did not know what they looked like. The Spanish told them that they look like us, but with wings. They painted soldiers with swords, spears and wings. The most beautiful wings that the Indians knew were the ones from the flamingos of the highland lakes and so the wings in the paintings on the soldiers are pink. The angels have very red cheeks from the wind in the northern Andes against the Spanish fair skin.  (no photographs please)

The seven colored mountain of Purmamarca pink, green, grey, purple, orange, brown, white) is pretty impressive as far as colored stone goes .

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It shows many geographical ages.

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The mountain is a backdrop for the village.  Everyday, there is a big handicraft fair in the main square of the village which adds even more colors.

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Purmamarca was my favorite place on this trip. Hiking in the colors of the mountain made me feel like I was in some amazing painting.

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I have so many beatuiful photos it was hard to pick just a few.

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Tilcara is a lively Andean village . There is an arts and crafts market and many restaurants around the main square. There are many gatherings in restaurants at night with live traditional music (sometimes from the guests) and local food.

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Indigenous cultures are very much alive in these mountain pueblos.

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Humahuaca is a pueblo in the Humahuaca Valley, 10,000 feet above sea level.   Many Bolivian immigrants sell traditional Andean crafts and coca leaves. The architecture, adobe houses, street lamps and cobblestone streets are all from another time.  The ancestral customs continue here.

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The historic Cabildo building (town hall) is the home of the main tourist attraction. There is a stellar performance by San Francisco Solano, a mechanical  statue with waving arms that blesses the audience of tourists and locals every day at noon. It comes complete with music blaring from the nearby Church of the Candelaria..

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Gauchito Gil is another folk saint. He was the Argentine Robin Hood who got tired of fighting in the Civil War  and protected the poor instead. He was found in the forest by a general and pleaded for his life. He said to his murderer, “Your son is very ill, if you pray to me, he will live.” This turned out to be true. Again the story spread. Today, small red shrines can be found on the roadsides of most northern Argentine motor-routes, and great pilgrimages are organized to his sanctuary in Corrientes.  Drivers believe that if they fail to acknowledge or leave offerings to the saint during their journeys, they may crash or breakdown. You can find red flags along the  route.  When I was checking the facts (yes, I do that) I found out that Gauchito Gil also has a facebook page.

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Traveling with Daniel Salazar from Cultural Xplorers is never boring.  His sense of humor, adventure, kindness, shopping skills, intelligence and knowledge of many things made this trip so much fun. I also have to thank him for being my personal photographer most of the time, and I hope we will remain friends.

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It is always good for a New York city kid to spend some time in small villages in Argentina. When you are young, it looks like just the kind of places to escape from, when you get older, you are not so sure.

Buen Dia And Fly Safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Argentina

Things I Have Learned In Argentina

“I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities I have visited.”

―Jorges Luis Borges (Argentine writer)

An asado in Argentina is every carnivore’s dream. Gather  your friends, drink wine and coca cola and stuff yourself with meat.

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Futbol (soccer) is a passion of the Argentine people. Every pueblo has at least one soccer field.  When you fly into Buenos Aires you will see many.

Carlos Gardel is to tango what  Elvis Presley is to rock and roll.

Art Graffiti is not exactly illegal in Argentina. You can paint on street walls in broad daylight. Graffiti artists from all over the world come here to paint.

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Cristina Kirchner  (Presidente of Argentina) takes a helicopter to work everyday from her house in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. You can see the Argentine tax dollars at work.

Argentina is considered to be the most literate country in South America. They were the first to publish Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years Of Solitude when others turned him down. (It is one of my favorite books so I thought I would mention it)

In Peru, I learned about what the Spanish did to the Incas. In Argentina I learned about what the Incas did to the tribes living there. Conquerors are never all that innocent. (Pucara of Tilcara- pre Inca fortification)

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Driving on unpaved roads for hours in Jujuy-not so much fun; seeing the salt flats in Salinas Grandes -priceless.

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A mechanical saint will come out of a door in the town  hall of Humahuaca  at 12:00 pm. He will wave his arms, music will play and you will be blessed. Sometimes religion is that easy.

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Birds eat the parasites off animals. When you see a bird on a horse, he is working.

There are at least twenty-four legal holidays in Argentina. There is Flag Day.. There is the day to celebrate the person who made the flag. There is Friend’s Day. There is the day to celebrate the moon landing. I get the feeling Argentines’ don’t like to work so much.

Ruta 40 goes throughout Argentina like Route 66 goes through the United States.

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Chile and Argentina have their problems but things are better in the last few years. It is usually about borders and waters.

Most of the tobacco grown here. Is for export to the US and China.

Argentina charges an entry fee of one hundred and sixty dollars to all visitors from the  U.S.  It must be paid online before the date of entry or they may not let you in when you get there.  According  to Argentines,  this is because of all the Argentines who have paid visa fees and been denied visas. i don’t know if this is true but it sounded good.

Argentina is the largest producer and consumer of Yerba Mate. (mate cups – number one Argentine souvenir)

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Eating kidneys (rimones),intestines (chinchulines), ribs, testicles, black sausage, any glands and sweetbreads is delicious to someone other than me. (intestines, etc)

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It is mandatory to vote in Argentina.

Many Argentines did not like Eva Peron.

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Argentines have an amazing ability to mobilize a protest. They will stand up for what they think is right or wrong and let it be heard. Late November to early January is protest high season where many of the unions will demand raises due to the out of hand inflation that takes place here every year. Drop by Plaza de Mayo or Plaza Congreso. I was there on May 25th  Argentine Independence Day. They were protesting.

Paraguay is the largest producer of Marijuana.  Canada is the largest exporter to the United States.

Argentine Polo players are among the best in the world. Serious polo tournaments are held here. From September to December the best polo players play in Argentina.

An altitude of 4170 meters means 13,682 feet above sea level and a headache.

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An estancia is a ranch or farm with a big hacienda. They are usually many hectares. We visited many estancias for lunch. They all served asado.

Anything can be made from salt. (like this table)

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Llamas and alpacas are domestic animals. Vicunas and guanacos are wild and usually cannot mate in activity. ( wild vicunas)

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There are exceptions. (Coquenos, el refugio de las vicunas )

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Vicunas are the Princes and Princesses of the Andes.

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The Argentine government has a list of names for new babies.  If the name you choose is not on the list, you cannot legally use it. Today,  people can petition the government to add more names.

Gay marriage has been legal here for about year. Recently they have had their first gay divorce.

The new Pope is from Argentina.

Argentina has close affection for cinema. They have the highest rates of movie viewing in the world. They like watching both locally made movies and Hollywood flicks.

For all those who love animated films – The world’s first animated films were created and released in Argentina, by a person named Quirino Cristiani in 1917.

Argentines pronounce the LL as a soft G. They say Ja-ma for llama and pa–ree-ja  for Parilla. In Salta they sometimes pronounce their R as a soft G and say peh-jo for perro.  It sounds a littler Portuguese sometimes.

Argentines can smoke and own Marijuana but they cannot buy it or sell it.

Argentines can chew and posess Coca Leaves but it is illegal to buy and sell them. (Look for the Bolivian women in the square in Humahuaca, the leaves help with altitude sickness).

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Condors mate in the air and mate for life. if the female dies, the male commits suicide. If the male dies, the female takes another mate for the procreation of the species. There is a lesson here.  I am not sure  what it is.

If a person in Argentina is carrying an iPad or IPhone, he probably bought it on the black market or he is not an Argentine.

Argentines have a coffee and a sweet around 6:00pm. Dulce De Leche is always a good choice. As I have gained a few kilos on this trip , I wish I had chosen it less.

Restaurants do not open  for dinner until nine o clock. Most people eat dinner after ten. I did not understand that until  I had been here for a week and eaten that huge lunch every day around two o clock. I did not get hungry  till ten.   You can be like the Argentines and eat meat again or be like the Americans and have soup, bread and cheese.   I also completely now understand the need for the siesta till five. Having wine, meat and potatoes at  lunch makes you sleepy in the afternoon.

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Most public schools go from eight to twelve or one to five. They have  less hours of school than we do. Their literacy rate is 97.5 per cent. Some people feel it is ok and others feel that it is too little and save for private school. Their school uniform is a white lab coat.

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A dog’s best friend is his llama (pronounced jama).

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Police in Argentina are known to be corrupt.

In Argentina you can dry your own red chilies in the sun.

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They say that Argentina got the Iguazu Falls and Brazil got the view. I don’t know about that. They are pretty spectacular in Argentina. (complete with a real rainbow)

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It takes ten minutes by rowboat to get to Paraguay from Misiones, Argentina. (view of Paraguay across the Parana River from our house)

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Argentina is one of the largest producers of wines since the 16th century and has around 1800 wineries. Malbec is their most planted grape. The irrigation system was started centuries ago by Indians. It is the fifth largest wine-producing country.

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Studies have shown that red wines are much better than white wines in preventing heart disease. Scientists believe that the polyphenols in red wine seeds and skins are the reason for this.  High altitude wines are particularly rich in polyphenols. This is because UV radiation increases at higher elevations and results in a greater concentration of polyphenols in these wines. We visited many high altitude vineyards in Salta province.(Colome)

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Torrontes is a white Argentine wine grape which produces a  wine with moderate acidity and a smooth texture. I like it.

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Cars have the right of way on the road. (from front of van – goats running to the side of the road – big deal for the city kid.)

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Cows move slower.

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Everything can be made out of cactus.

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If you are planning to change pesos back into dollars at the Argentine airport as I was, don’t. Christina doesn’t allow you to give back pesos at the airport. What you change in Argentina, stays in Argentina.

Buen Dia and Fly Safe

Jayne