On The Road To Finca Gualfin

Dear Friends,

Just last week, Bill and I sat under bare trees in the pale winter sunshine of Paris. Now, we’re on the other side of world, in late summer. Arriving in Buenos Aires last week, we shed our sweaters and walked out into sunny, warm Palermo Soho through leafy tunnels of plane trees arching over the cobbled streets. As every year, we marveled at the increase in restaurants and bars, clothing and design boutiques. We browsed at our favorite

bookshop (Libros de Pasaje, next to the Peronist café whose windows are filled with images of Evita, Juan and el Pingüino – Kristina’s husband) in the pleasant silence of a few softly clicking laptops from communal work tables and three cashiers conducting a hushed, possibly intellectual conversion.

No Parisian hustle and bustle, flash or frivolity; the neighborhood was almost asleep. Until about midnight, when the parties began. The last booming bass trailed off at break of dawn. Somehow, Argentina is prospering and having fun despite 40% annual inflation.

Nature imitates art...a crumbling wall in Palermo Soho

Nature imitates art...a crumbling wall in Palermo Soho

...And in the seedier section of Palermo Soho

...And in the seedier section of Palermo Soho

But Buenos Aires is only our first stop on this sojourn in Argentina. We are on our way to Gualfin, up in the northwest of Salta province, at the back of the remote Molinos Valley. We have been making this trip for thirteen years, with deepening attachment. Flying up to Salta in the afternoon, we stayed overnight on the outskirts of the city, on a campo now transformed into a small hotel.

Here, on a grassy plain looking out to low mountains, a Salteño family used to escape the heat of a Salta summer. In the garden, the palo borracho is in exuberant bloom, pink against the bright blue sky, dropping petals on the grass. The tree is not really “drunken.” It grows like any other respectable tree, but its trunk is shaped like a bottle. A pair of funny-looking birds, like a cross between a hawk, a parrot, and a puffin, strut around the rose garden, poking at worms.

Casa de los Jazmines is a stopover, a place to gather strength for the long drive ahead. It also happens to be convenient to a small but important part of the Gualfin diaspora in Salta city.

Gualfin’s limited resources of water and arable land mean that families send most of their grown sons and daughters down to the ciudad to earn a living. We did the same for the herd of cattle from Compuel during the terrible drought a couple of years ago. These cows now live only minutes from Jazmines – as do two good friends from Gualfin. You know them – at least by name!

Tomorrow: A visit with Jorge and Maria.


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