Chilecito, Argentina

Chilecito Travel Blog

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Costume parade in the plaza
I arrived in Chilecito around 9 am the next day and the heat was already awake waiting for to get off the bus. And it hit hard when I left the air conditioned box. I went straight away to my great aunt Diana and uncle’s home on the outskirts of the city which is only about 8 blocks from the center of the city.

I got settled in my room, cleaned up, and headed out across to the other side of the plaza to El Boton, my aunt’s shop. She sells everything you need to sew, except the material itself which is found in a different shop. My great uncle Ariel also owns a shop just across the street called Regionales. He sells tourist gear, Argentine and La Rioja province based products.
Costume parade around the plaza
He and his wife make a lot of the painted objects in the back room of the shop. Also on the same street is a gallery of shops that another great aunt of mine owns. The gallery is kind of odd because at the end of the gallery are giant iron and glass doors which opens up to the court yard of their home which lays behind the shops.

I did not rush to see all of them on this day. I just went to Diana’s we chatted and then went back to the house for lunch at about 1pm. After lunch was siesta, which I slept, and I stayed in for the rest of the day, making arrival announcements to the family back home and started sending off text messages to the friends who I made their last year. Unfortunately no one was in town, except for one, who’s number I did not have, but I found him eventually.
Costume parade around the plaza


The over the next few days I got reacquainted with the city and visited the rest of the family. The city had not changed much, with a few exceptions. The main restaurant in the center plaza where my parents spent most of their time last year had been remodeled, a corner plaza was completed, and the giant statue of Jesus on the hillside (which is very common in these parts) was finished, although they have yet to put in the granite staircase that will lead up to it and all of the tourists that will come visit. The Jesus exhibit looks over a park, which is the main city park. We all go there to do vueltas and then get out of the car to drink some beers, ferent y coca-cola, soda, or water when there is nothing else to do at night, always the default activity.

The new plaza looks nice all redone, with older trees, benches, and other fixtures.
Costume parade around the plaza
Only one feature troubles me and that is the cement and stone stream bed that runs through the middle. Normally I would be all for it, except this is impermeable, deep, and narrow. This makes for rapid water flow, which is really dangerous. There is no cover nor any plants to grab on to should you fall in during/after torrential down pours, which is always how it flows here. The stream bed continues this way for quite a distance, and at some point down the road people stop and drink…drunk people…rapid waters…so close…

Some of the government houses that were newly constructed the year prior were starting to come in to their own, but mostly it was still the homogenous, tree less, and poor area of the city. There was a nearly identical neighborhood in the Northwestern part of the city.
Costume parade around the plaza


The ones on the south east side are in the floodplain and fortunately they are slightly elevated, but there aren’t any trees, and the buildings are only one story and set back from the street (flooding precaution). All this combined makes walking down the street in the day time absolutely miserable, I mean miserable. If you were a chocolate bunny you wouldn’t even make it one block. There are also no business there. I suppose in time people will fill their front yards with convenient stores and what ever other needs start to emerge. Some homes already are vending refreshments and snacks out of the living room window.

I inquired as to why the city was doing such a bad job at the new stuff, given that old parts of the city that weren’t falling apart are really successful, inviting, and intelligent.
Costume parade around the plaza
I found out that the plans are all sent there from the centralized government in Buenos Aires from people who likely have never even been to Chilecito. They just know that there are earthquakes some times and they hand over some plans for houses, which I learned through further travels, are the same throughout the region. I used to always think that maybe having parts of the government centralized would be more effective, but of recent I have seen the other side of this coin, both here in Argentina and also in the States with respect to California’s recent struggle with federal EPA over auto emissions. I guess though it just comes down to what one does with the power they have, no matter what form of government it exists in.

I was reintroduced to my second cousin Sol. I met her here the year prior, but we did not really get the chance to form a relationship. This year however would be different, the night we met there was a party of a mutual friend we went together and from then on it was golden. She told me that she does not go out much and that maybe she would when her friends got there, but being the social butterfly I am (and can be because I do not have a whole childhood and adolescence of potential drama with anyone) I managed to get her going out every night that there was something to go out and do.

In the day you can either go to one of the many pools, which is generally a good idea because it is extremely warm there, even when it rains, you can stay home, or hang out with some friends sharing yerba mate and playing cards. I started my time there by going to the pool. I would go alone knowing that I would likely find some one there that I knew and I did. But all of the young ladies there thought that doing this was really weird and almost unacceptable…As they had no one to judge me by.

It is a small town and very cliquey, especially when it comes to the girls. This was and still is difficult for me because I am not much of a pretender. So like last year, I found it easier to hang with the guys who seem less cliquey but I think that is only because they travel in bigger groups. Fortunately, among the guys there are a few who I seemed to find where ever with all sorts of people and within no time I found myself spending most of my time with them. Which the girls also found strange, as I must have a crush on one of them or who knows what, but the reality is I have a crush on all of them. Chilecito is full of beautiful people.

The relationship formations there are a bit strange. There are a bunch of guys looking for a summer girl and it seems as though they will ask any girl to be their girl friend. I received to petitions, which I politely refused. Then there are aspects that are all too familiar.

At nights there are birthday parties, every Friday there was a bar that opened up, and on holiday nights there were boliches. The boliches here are outside and large, with multiple dance floors, multiple bars, and a whole lot of people. But by the end of the holiday season I was burnt out on the boliche. Always the same, same people, same music (Cuarteto and Cumbia for hours and hours), get there at 3pm leave when the sun comes up… But the idea is to enjoy the cooler of the night and sleep through the heat of the day to reduce suffering on your vacation.

Funny though, even though they have lived there for ages and know exactly what the weather is like year in and year they still complain like it is the first hot summer they ever lived through. Me, I just try to remain grateful that I am not stuck enduring another Wisconsin Winter….very grateful. Still, there is relief from the worst of the heat as the summer is the rainy season in this hemisphere, and this year it has rained quite a bit. In one day I was laying out pool side and by night fall it was hailing, crazy no?

There is a boliche with a twist, a costume party. I dressed up with some 19 year old girls who invited me to be part of their costume. Costumes are always group costumes and we were the weather. I chose to be the meteorologists, which I had a hard time pronouncing in Castellano all night, but I think I have it now (side note: I recently learned, and it makes so much sense, that the language is actually Castellano. But in the 40’s, in Spain, Franco renamed the language Spanish to form a national unifying identity for Spain and between the different regions of Spain, all of which have their own languages, some similar and some not even close). But other than the costumes it is…the same.

But fortunately by this point some of my best buds from the year before had come into town from Cordoba where they are studying and/or working. The first to arrive was Franco, who has changed a bunch. Last year he was talking about focusing his career in international sports marketing or something like that and this year talked about writing his thesis on alternative markets that consider social and environmental justice as the most important factors. I was overjoyed to see such a positive change that I favor so greatly. He didn’t stick around for long though. Soon after x-mas he took off to the North, then to Bolivia, and continued on to hike up to Machu Pichu. I am so jealous, but looking forward to sharing in on the experience through stories.

Next to come into town was Matias. He is the best friend of my cousin Ramiro, who had since moved to another province and I have not managed to visit yet. But being such a friend he always takes good care of me and makes sure that I was included and well informed. But he didn’t stick around for very long either because he had to return to work in Cordoba. Thank goodness that Sol and I had become such good friends and likewise with her friends.

There were a few more get togethers before I took of for a week further North to another province called Catamarca. I went there with aunt, or mom’s cousin rather, Luz, and her son Gabriel, who is 12 and already demonstrating machismo quite strongly. The machismo is quite strong here with a lot of the men. It is amazing really. All the guys have girlfriends and are unfaithful. Surely, having a girlfriend makes being with other women more exciting or some thing. But they are certainly not okay if the women behave the same way, even though they do, and rightfully so. But this creates all sorts of problems and drama that I mentioned briefly earlier. In general, and especially in the younger crowd, it is polygamist society trying to pretend and self impose, and very unsuccessfully, a monogamist way of life. If they just admit and acknowledge who they are then they could all do what they want with out the drama, and hopefully with precaution for other reasons.

This region of the country is home to mostly Syrian and Lebanese immigrants, who brought their food, their good looks, hot blood, and machismo to Argentina. Surely, it is this way in the States in many parts, but in my educated society we take the route I suggested above more often than the other and rarely do the couple thing unless we mean it. Not to mention that I have generally lived in large cities where the infidelities and problems are more easily hidden.

I had a great time again this year in Chilecito, although there is no way I could live there all year long. In the next coming weeks is, or La Riojan Carnival. I am looking forward to returning for that for a few days and seeing everyone one last time before I settle down some where out here for a bit.
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Costume parade in the plaza
Costume parade in the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Costume parade around the plaza
Chilecito
photo by: nili_adrian