Between El Calafate and El Chaten, the only place to eat is La Leona.
The food was surprisingly good, as it was everywhere in Argentina.
Here is a puma that came too close to the kitchen:
And here is a former guest of the estancia, Butch Cassidy, who stayed there a month after he robbed a bank:
At a roadside café we encountered this recently-posted sign:
At a roadside café we encountered this recently-posted sign:
My Spanish is not very good, but here is the substance:
Dear Drivers and Travelers:Please be informed that on the road between Guer Aike and El Calafte the personnel of civil defense has detected a plague of spiders commonly known as black widows. We therefore recommend that you not get out of your car and much less open the ventilator windows.
We pulled up our feet, got in our van, and locked the windows.
Because of the horrors that Argentina endured under the military dictatorship in the 1970s, it has a special sympathy for other victims of repression.
In the National Cathedral there are two memorials.
One is to the Armenian genocide, when the nationalist Turkish government drove out a million men, women, and children to die in the desert, their bones to bleach in the sun. The Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge any responsibility.
The second is pages from Jewish prayer books from synagogues destroyed by the Nazis, from the extermination camps, and from the Jewish institutions bombed with great loss of life, in Buenos Aires.
Hikers develop an emotional relationship with their boots. They are the difference between a great hike and torture, and sometimes between life and death. Here at the Refugio Chileno in the Torres de Paine I make sure no one has tampered with the boots I had to leave outside while I was getting coffee (instant – ugh! The guidebooks warned us about this unfortunate Chilean taste).
I have found Ogden Nash’s poem helpful:
The one-l lama,
He’s a priest.
The two-l llama,
He’s a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
ll in Argentinian Spanish is not pronounced like y but rather like zh: Zhama
Also, to call someone a guanaco is an insult. It means he cannot be domesticated; he spits.
Guanacos are a wild member of the llama family. They seem to exist mainly to be eaten by pumas. Our guide had heard that pumas got 90% of guanacos; he found that hard to believe, but suspected that pumas got half of them.
Sal, a member of our group and a serious photographer (note the camera), is keeping a resepectful distance from the guanaco. Like llamas and camels, they spit.
More potential puma chow:
The gauchos were impressive horseman. They could make their horses walk sideways. One morning they rounded up some mares that were having a great time around the lodge, and the mares did not want to go into the corral. They gauchos walked their mounts sideways and nudged them into the corral.
Gauchos also dress with a lot of flare. The beret is de rigeur. In the rain they wear leather capes.
I am preparing to mount my steed.
His name in Spanish meant, I concluded, “Staller.” Whenever we came to a raging glacial strea, he refused to cross, no matter how hard I kicked and yelled AIII! (Giddy-up), until Augustin, our gaucho, held up his whip and said something in Spanish. My horse then decided he had meant to cross all the time, and was simply contemplating the beauty of the landscape.
My wife’s horse had a named that sounded like Mordrador, which she suspected meant Biter. Hers was a talkative horse, and had a long conversation with her about how hard the life of a horse was on the Estancia Cristina.
Her horse also did something we had never seen before. We came to a stream, very near our rooms, and in the bed were extremely fresh puma tracks. Her horse took one look at the tracks and walked backward up the bank. I was not very happy myself, as I had been wandering alone around the estancia the previous day.
We were assured that only very few tourists had ever been eaten by pumas.
Lee, Charlie, and Maidie at Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina
The WQ (weirdness quotient) of Buenos Aires is very high. Note what is holding back the stone curtains
Buenos Aires prides itself on being the Paris of Latin America. It has wide boulevards and French style-architecture in the older sections. The style is not accidental, but is closely connected with the founding of Argentina.
San Martin the liberator of Argentina from Spanish rule (such as it was) was a Freemason, and spent the last part of his life in France.
Independence from Spain also meant independence from Spanish culture and Spanish religion. Freemasonry was the enlightened religion of enlightened Frenchmen, who were the most enlightened citizens of Europe – or so San Marin thought.
Church and State are closely united in Argentina. Until recently the president had to be a Catholic, and Carlos Menem, a Moslem, had to be sprinkled with water to make him capable of leading the country.
The Argentine state wanted San Martin buried in the National Cathedral, but the Church was unhappy about honoring a Freemason. The compromise was to build a room off the cathedral to house the sepulcher. The room is devoid of religious symbols.
The antique shops of Buenos Aires are also full of French antiques, more than I ever saw in Montreal. Our hotel room at the Alvear Palace Hotel was more French than anything I have experienced in France. I think that housekeeping used Hermes to wash the carpets. It was like living inside a gateau Sainte Honore.
Marcial Maciel has died, some reports say here in Naples, Florida, others in Houston.
He has been accused by scores of people of sexual abuse. Pope Benedict to all appearances thought him guilty, but because of his age did not have a formal trial.
The administrative acts of the popes are not infallible. The Legionaries, of whom Maciel was the founder, maintain his innocence (they could scarcely do otherwise), and say that he will be exonerated some day. Even if there had been a formal trial and declaration of guilt, such a declaration would not have been infallible and the Legionaries could still claim that Maciel, like Joan of Arc, was a victim of a conspiracy and will someday be canonized.
I think that Maciel was guilty, for reasons I explain in my book But I have no doubt that the Legion much good in the Church and will continue to do much good. I also think that Maciel’s memory will be venerated, despite the accusations against him. The Legion is flourishing, unlike great segments of the Church; Maciel if nothing else was a genius at organization and fundraising.
Thomas Babington Macaulay, in his essay on Francis Bacon, a bad man but a genius, explains this universal phenomenon:
There is scarcely any other delusion which has a better claim to be indulgently treated than that under the influence of which man ascribes every moral excellence t those who have left imperishable monuments of their genius. The causes of this error lie deep in the inmost recesses of human nature. We are all inclined to judge of others as we find them. Our estimate of a character always depends much on the manner in which that character affects our own interests and passions. We find it difficult to think well of those by whom we are thwarted or depressed; and we are ready to admit every excuse for the vices of those who are useful or agreeable to us. This is, we believe, one of those illusions to which the whole human race is subject, and which experience and reflection can only partly remove. It is, in the phraseology of Bacon, one of the idola tribus. Hence it is that the moral character of a man eminent in letters or in the fine arts is treated, often by contemporaries, almost always by posterity, with extraordinary tenderness. The world derives pleasure and advantage from the performances of such a man. The number of those who suffer by his personal vices is small, even in his own time, when compared with the number of those to whom his talents are a source of gratification. In a few years all those whom he has injured disappear. But his works remain, and are a source of delight to millions.
A few score boys and young men were hurt grievously by Maciel. The Legion benefits hundreds of thousands. In the absence of irrefutable proof of his guilt, the Legion will maintain Maciel’s innocence, and almost everyone will be of that opinion.
The judgment of history is often mistaken, and the true facts of the case will come out at the Great Assizes, when every heart will be revealed.
Every Thursday in front of the Casa Rosada, the main government building in Buenos Aries, march mothers wearing white scarves. By now the mothers are in their 70s and 80s. Some of them are discovering they are grandmothers.
Their children disappeared during the military dictatorship in the 1970s. The military arrested those suspected of leftist sympathies, or whose property they wanted, or high school students protesting bus fare rises, or children of arrestees, and they were never seen again. Thousands disappeared. They were murdered, some by being handcuffed and pushed out of helicopters over the Rio de la Plata.
When an arrestee was a woman and pregnant, the military let her deliver her baby, and then killed her. A military family then adopted the baby.
After they lost the Falkland War in 1982, the military destroyed almost all the records of these murders.
With DNA testing, hundreds of people in their 30s are learning that their parents, who raised them and loved them, were also the murderers of their mothers.
Some of the adoptees do not want to know. Others want to know the truth, no matter what the emotional cost.
No one has been brought to justice for the murders, although prosecutions have begun.
Human rights activists are trying to identify the victims and the criminals. Most documents have been destroyed but some remain. One website has some documents, under the heading Nunca Mas – Never Again- “Learn what happened. Only by knowing what took place, can we prevent it from happening again.”
Another small pleasure of life (in addition to menu translations) is people who live up to their national stereotype. When we flew to Buenos Aires recently, the gate at the airport was total and cheerful chaos: but everyone got on, and we left on time. It was a foretaste.
To many, Argentina equals tango.<o:p>Argentina is enjoying a boom in tourism, and, according to the article “Argentina sees comeback of tango, for tourists” in The Buenos Aires Herald (February 3, 2008), fully 10 % of tourism income comes from tango. About 85% of tourists go to a tango show.. Tourists flock from all over the world to go to tango palaces, to tango bars (milongas), take tango lessons, etc. There is a 24 hour tango cable tv channel.
Tango started in the brothels of the port, and was considered scandalous by proper Argentines. But Europe took it up around 1910, and then it was acceptable in Argentina.
In the 1930s the tango star was the lounge lizard Carlos Gardel, who was shot by an irate husband. When he died in 1935 several women committed suicide because they could not imagine life without him.In the 50s and 60s tango was replaced by pop and rock groups. But when the military government of the 1970s forced many Argentines to take refuge in Europe, the refugees would listen to tango songs, which are like the blues: “I am out of luck, my girl has left me, I lost my job,” etc). The Europeans liked this music, and after the military government fell, Europeans flocked to Argentina expecting the tango.The Argentines, a little bemused, provided it. There are now tango tours of Argentina. In our hotel at breakfast we saw a group of Americans being shepherded by a young woman dressed in a tango outfit (no doubt to her embarrassment). Throughout the city there are pictures and statues of Carlos Gardel. Tango resounds in every shop. The street puppets sing and dance the tango.The effect is hallucinatory. Argentines dine at 10 or 11 PM, but they get up at 6 or 7 and do not take a siesta. We asked our guide when Argentines sleep. She said she had concluded they sleep less than other nations. I think they suffer from national sleep deprivation, and Argentine magic realism, the dreamlike state in which anything can happen, is the result. The anything includes