I took the bus from Rosario last Thursday the 6th and my host Ignacio told me to tell the driver to get off in ‘Santo Tome’, which I was advised was little more than a stop on the side of the road, no bus terminal…. Well, of course in the end everything went off without a hitch, but it was a little nervewracking on the bus… I made it clear to the ‘stewardess’ on the bus that I needed to be dropped off here and that I had absolutely no clue where I was going so she had to tell me where & when to get off. She advised me, and my host Ignacio was there at the stop.
Santo Tome is like 40,000 people. We then took a bus 20 minutes to Sauce Viejo, which has about 6,000 people. But actually, Ignacio’s house is kind of in a weird middle of nowhere location. 10 km from ‘downtown’ Sauce Viejo, across from the ‘Sauce Viejo Airport’, across also from an Industrial Park, pretty close to split off from the Parana River, and near a large community of expensive houses on dirt roads still retaining a middle of nowhere feeling.
I actually wandered around the area the first day and it was reaaalllly weird. I felt like I was in some surreal movie like Mexican pueblo where all the drug lords live and have huge plots of land and grand houses. On the main road, you see nothing. But then on all the side streets, which are dirt, are large plots of land, with really expensive looking houses and lined with trees. All of them have wooden or steel fences covered by trees or foliage. All of them have multiple dogs in their yards. And all of them have pools and villa like party patios. So I walked around all these streets and it was pretty desolate in general. Every time I walked by someone or a car or motorcycle drove by it was a weird feeling of being an intruder or something. In reality, it really was nothing, as Ignacio explained lots of them are summer houses, but I must say I became a little nervous walking around even though it is incredibly safe. Really hard to explain.
So the first night we went to some pretty amazing, really low key free concert at a museum in Santa Fe. It was a guitarist, a female singer, and a celloist. They played milonga music first in Spanish, then switched to Portuguese and carioca music. The woman could really belt, and in general the music itself was really impressive and talented.
I spent the next day wandering Santa Fe. I went to about 3 museums. All of them detailing in one fashion or another how the Jesuits came in the 1500s to the area, how they founded the city, and influenced the area. One repeated thing I have learned that I did not know, was that Asuncion, in Paraguay, was one of the main arteries of the continent in those days. From there, people were able to access other parts of the countries, so it was really a booming town. If I recall, Asuncion was founded in the 1530s, while the Jesuits then moved south and founded Santa Fe in the 1570s, then Buenos Aires actually was founded shortly after. I went to a Franciscan convent, as well as several churches. Nothing jaw dropping, but most of the stuff was from the 1700s or earlier.
Santa Fe is also known as probably being the beer capital of Argentina. The brewery, cleverly named ‘Santa Fe’, also locally produces Budweiser, Heineken, and a few others. To drink the beer ‘Quilmes’, the other extremely national Argentinian Beer (cleverly named after the city of Quilmes), is like an offense here.
Anyways, Ignacio knows a lot about the history of the area (and has really good English), so I learned a lot. For example, I was unaware of the history with Paraguay. In the 1830s (ish), Paraguay was really booming. Then, basically, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil ganged up on them, mercilessly killed many Parguayans, seized a lot of land, and basically devastated the country. It seems as though it has never really recovered, in some ways, from this. I’m sure that’s the translated cliffs notes history. In general, the more time I spend in Argentina, the more history I continue hearing about the Spaniards, Jesuits, violence/eradication of the natives, as well as history with Paraguay.
Continuing with the history theme, I was curious why I was told and noticed that all supermarket owners in Argentina seemed to be Asian. Turns out Argentina has (or had I think) and immigration policy that allowed people from some Asian countries in with the purpose of labouring in rice and wheat plantations. They were given land, but after awhile evolved into an urban population. Especially in Buenos Aires, they are mostly Korean, but also alot of people from Taiwan and China. Also, fun fact: Buenos Aires has a sort of China town area. They build an arch recently, and the Koreans made a bunch of protests because they did not want the label.
The oldest/first Jesuit mission in Santa Fe:
Spend Friday night having a parilla (barbecue), in which we feasted on 2 chorizo’s apiece, grilled 2 eggplants, a red pepper, a huge shank of pork, and a sweet potato. Delicous. Then, proceeded to watch the movie Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, projected nicely onto the wall in the kitchen.
Also had a nice trip to Walmart late Thursday night. It is interesting to note that all of the supermarkets deliver groceries. You go, pick all your stuff out, then since many people do not have cars, they will have a driver deliver everyones groceries later. Well, Walmart being Walmart, actually just pays for every single person to take a taxi home after they shop there. How come they don't do that in the US?
Walmart Santat Fe. Looks like any walmart, but this time in Spanish.