The Scars Argentina Wears

Weekly march for the disappeared victims of the dictatorship

Argentina, just like any other place, is not all happy. There are sad things in its history, too. From 1976 to 1984 the country was ruled by a rightward-leaning military dictatorship, backed by the U.S. It disappeared people, taking them, killing them in secret through various means. It also banned some books, as seen by markings on the card catalog at one memorial. This memorial that we saw was beautiful, but also sad. It had the names of what seemed to be thousands of people, people who’d been disappeared. These were just some of the 30,000 people that were killed by the military dictatorship during its reign.

It wasn’t uncommon for the people taken to be tortured before being killed. Any name they said is another person who would be tortured and killed. Age didn’t seem to matter, and neither did whether or not they were innocent.

Thankfully, the dictatorship fell. One of the things that led to its fall was a group of mothers who would storm the Plaza de Mayo, right in front of the home of the leaders and spend all day banging on pots and pans. Some of them were arrested in the shadows, but opening fire on a group of unarmed, desperate mothers was a line that the dictatorship was not willing to cross. This group’s headquarters was in the center of the city, near what is now congress, and it featured pictures of some who inspired them. Some portraits were of people who fought in a peacefully way for equality, like Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela. Some people portrayed there were a little more radical, such as Fidel Castro, Karl Marx, or Vladimir Lenin. Obviously there were some more open to communism because of the right-leaning, horrible military dictatorship.

Energetic Empanadas

One night in Buenos Aires, mom, Lexi, and I went to an empanada cooking class, since I just loved them so much and they are a very traditional food in Argentina. We were shown the traditional style empanada, stuffed with onion, cubed beef, boiled egg, and olives, and helped make some ourselves.

The hosts, Adrian and Marcelo, fixed the ingredients to be stuffed inside themselves, then we took a break and had some snacks in an Argentine fashion. We talked about some of the politics of the country, and then finished making the empanadas. We put the ingredients in the dough and folded it, then one of our hosts fried it in sunflower oil, and voila! Perfect empanadas. They tasted pretty good, too.

Getting home from the class was somewhat disastrous, as the trains stopped halfway through, but we managed. Turns out the buses weren’t a bad transportation choice.

Empanada Recipe:

To prepare the dough:
Wheat flour
¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt
1/4 butter
1 egg
¼ to ½ cup of water (Add the amount needed until the dough is smooth)
Roll 6" discs to about 1/4" thickness
To prepare the filling:

Ingredients:
1/2 kg Rump Beef, Cubbed
1 Bunch green onion (4 or 5 seddlings)
2 common onions
4tbsp oil
3 hard-boiled eggs
To Taste: cumin, salt, sweet paprika and olives

Preparation:
1) Cut the onions into small cubes.
2) Place oil in a bowl, add onions, coat and cook until tender.
3) Add meat, mix it with the onions and cook until golden, avoiding drying.
4) Add salt, cumin, sweet paprika, and mix.
Turn off the heat and add hard-boiled eggs, olives. Mix
5) Remove from heat and allow to cool.
6) Spoon filling into center of dough disc.
7) Moisten the edge of half the disc with water using your finger, fold in half, and pinch the edges together to close the empanada
8) Fry in a neutral oil (sunflower is best) until golden brown.
9) Enjoy!

Terrific Tango

One night in Argentina, my parents, Lexi, and I left for an exciting class about the wonderful art of Tango. The Tango dance had its roots in the late 19th century. Immigrants to Argentina would make songs about a few things, mostly homesickness. These songs eventually formed a dance, called the milonga, a dance centered around the embrace. Milonga slowly evolved into the tango dance we know today, with influence from Europe. This dance was taught to us in four forms, some easier to learn than others.

Learning to Tango

After a good couple hours mastering the dance (we’re not much better at it now than before we started) we had a traditional Argentine meal. Steaks and sausage and blood sausage were the food of the evening, as we talked with our hosts. Two of them, cousins, had Italian immigrants to Argentina in their ancestry, and the third was a Romanian woman who’d met her Argentinian husband while learning in a European dance school. After that amazing night, the group was taken to a tango place, while I was taken home and slept the night away. 

Amazing Argentina

The Devil’s Throat, as seen from Brazil

One Sunday in Argentina, a family friend from the U.S. by the name of Lexi joined us in the country. Our warm welcome was extended by walking around in the San Telmo artisan market for several hours. The market sprawled all around the neighborhood we were staying in, San Telmo. Staring at and buying jewelry was a common activity there. As if that wasn’t enough, we gave Lexi a grand tour of the city, including Plaza 7 de Julio, with a giant obelisk in the middle of it all. Sucked for me, but at least my mom and Lexi enjoyed the experience. 

The next weekend, we went north to see a waterfall in the jungle called Iguazu Falls. We saw the hundred plus waterfalls from a lot of different angles as there was a lot to see. On our first day, we took the longest hike possible and saw the biggest waterfall yet, a waterfall colored with white and green and yellow until it disappeared into the mist below. It was called “The Devil’s Throat”. The second day, we hiked two trails, one where we could easily see the top of the falls, and the other gave us a great view of the bottom of the falls. We crossed over for a day to the Brazil side for a better view on our third day. The Brazil side didn’t have a whole lot, just one trail that focused on a lookout point. The Brazil side also had a bird park, which wasn’t really all that packed. Well, it was sparse enough for us to walk around and actually enjoy the place. The bird park was made to protect endangered birds from the type of habitat around us. It had everything from flamingos to macaws. Well, we had a good time at Iguazu. If you went, you would too!

Buenos Aires The Beautiful

Exploring one of the most famous neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, La Boca.

My family and I have been in Buenos Aires for a few days. Our biggest reasons for doing this are to escape the summer heat of Texas and so that I can improve Spanish. Here is a short record of our time so far.

With the Italian influence in Argentina, many delicious pizzas can found!

Here in Buenos Aires, we’ve already formed our routines. Before I started my Spanish school, we’d always go to a new neighborhood each day. One night, my dad and I went to a neighborhood called Palermo-Soho, a smaller neighborhood in the Palermo neighborhood. We ate really good pizza, then walked around a plaza called Plaza Armenia. We found a really good milkshake place, and then went home. After my Spanish school started, our routine changed.  At 4p, dad comes home from work, and he takes us somewhere new. One time, he took us to a cafe with a long history for dinner, La Poesía, then another for dessert. He really knows which places are cool.

Milkshakes at a diner in the 1950’s American style

One of the best things about Buenos Aires, specifically San Telmo, where we’ll be for the month, is the nearby market. It has so much good food! My favorite is the ever-abundant empanadas, pockets of bread stuffed with various ingredients, baked to perfection. Multiple places sell them, and I love them so much I could eat them three meals a day. 

I love Empanadas!

Another thing we’ve done in Buenos Aires is go to a book store called El Ateneo Grand Splendid. It was a remodeled opera house, so, naturally, it is an amazing, beautiful book store. Walking through the front archway into this massive, elegant space with a giant mural on its ceiling is quite a sight. It has a great cafe, too, and its desert was thoroughly enjoyed.

El Ateneo

One time on a Thursday and Friday we went to a small town called San Antonio de Areco. Our stay there centered around a nearby ranch called El Ombú. We rode horses, ate a traditional meal consisting of various meats call “asado”, and experienced a beautiful song and dance. Riding horses through the beautiful Argentine countryside, locally called La Pampas, was quite an experience. 

Horseback riding on the ranch

Guinea Pigs, Cuy, Sightseeing, and a Tour

 

Alpacas

Guinea Pig
Guinea Pig Palace – Pisac

I reached out to the smallest guinea, which was also the closest. It was the size of a pet guinea pig you would find in the States. Only it was a baby. The guinea pigs all scattered. Some of them were absolutely huge, maybe even more than a foot long. The were so cute, but they weren’t pets. They were food.

Girl with lamb
Miriam, me, and a lamb – Pisac

Soon after our visit to the guinea pigs, we strolled around the Písac market. The square was full of fruit stands. It was a very colorful market. They also had a arts and crafts section. We bought a strip of natural powder-like colors for some friends. As we made our way to the shared taxi station, we saw a girl about my age with an adorable lamb. I loved on it and got a photo. But, as I’d said earlier, guinea pigs were food. And soon, they would be food for us.

Cuy2
Cuy – It’s What’s for Dinner

For my parents’ anniversary, we had a special order of Cuy (guinea pig) in Cusco. Mom was feeling adventurous, so she decided to take it as her meal. She let me have a bite. It tasted like duck. I should have eaten it instead. Mom was crying as if a family member had died. Apparently, all she’d been thinking was, Poor Linny! Linny is a guinea pig in Wonder Pets, an American TV show for little kids. Eventually, after eating most of it, she let the waiter take it. But no one could take the Inca like they had taken Mom’s cuy.

Site
Goofin’ on the ruins of Qoricancha

The museum of sites of the Qoricancha talked about Pre-Inca settlements as well as their technology. Then they talked about the Inca, going into a lot of depth about their empire’s holdings, including the cities, and then the Spanish conquest. The Spanish conquistadors came and crushed everything in the Incas’ society. Terrible. Just terrible. Chinchero was just up the road.

Weaving
Weaving Demonstration – Chinchero

We went to Chinchero, a village near Moray. We soon got a brief demonstration of the different things used for cleaning and dying wool. Then they died the wool, pointed out a couple of nearby women who were spinning the wool into thread, and lastly wove the thread into a beautiful blanket. Soon, we’d visit the site that Chinchero was very close to.

Moray Terraces
Moray Terraces

Moray was a very interesting Inca site. It was made up of 21 different terraces, going down instead of up, used to make 3 different ecosystems. It was also used to experiment with crops. The bottom terrace was the wettest and hottest. This system of terraces was dedicated mainly towards potatoes. At least in this place. What’s Pre-Inca and involves salt water? You’re about to find out.

Salt Pools2
Salt Pans of Maras

Next, we saw the salt mines. In was an intriguing, Pre-Inca site with loads and loads of pools. They were filled with salt water, and when the time came, after the pool turned from brown to yellow to white, all water entries were blocked off. After the water evaporated, they had a pool full of salt. What a spectacular process! Read on to find out about the spectacular gift I got in Cusco.

As we were about to leave Cusco, I got an adorable stuffed guinea pig for a present from the owners of our AirBnb apartment. I played with two really little kids, before leaving. What a great gift!

 

The Big Trip

USA –} East Africa –} Europe –} India –} Southeast Asia –} South America –} Panama

We are going around the world for 10 months starting in the USA and ending in Panama. That is the main part of this blog.

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