Week 3: El Campo
Buenos Aires Travel Blog› entry 14 of 17 › view all entries
In a rental car with no seatbelts we traveled an hour outside Buenos Aires first on the interstates, paying tolls every twenty minutes, and then on the gravel country roads with large green interstate signs. After driving through a sea of dust that covered our car and drifted over the ditch to the surrounding fields, we pulled down a sycamore lined lane cutting between two fallow fields. Ten minutes further down this lane, after passing cattle and little furry creatures in the ditches, we turned into the carriage entryway in the side of a long and squat, coral colored building. Pulling across the red gravel in the entryway we crossed the threshold between farm and “farmhouse.” Exiting the car in the area traditionally used to tie up horses, we were standing on lush grass peppered with pure yellow buttercups. We were standing in the middle of the house. To your left was the main house, coral in color with forest green shutters and doors, it was two grand stories with a kitchen attached and an outdoor dining room for large family asados. Adjacent to the main house was the carriage house, connected to the main house by a large door in the main room. To the right of the carriage house is a long building resembling the one we originally pulled through, filled with bedrooms and more dining areas. This large U-shaped building left in the middle an expanse of grass filled with large trees, wrought iron furniture for sitting and drinking mate or coffee, an alter to the virgin Mary surrounded by lush greens including orange and pomegranate trees, and benches for the perfect wedding.
Welcome to lifestyles of the rich and famous. This “farmhouse,” as Douglass calls it, is his grandmother’s. The land has been in the family for hundreds of years, since his family came to Argentina and a relative of his was the president of the country. The home has not been occupied permanently by its owners in decades, but the farm hands who keep everything working live in smaller little coral abodes beyond the main building near the squash courts and ancient pool adjacent to the horse pastures.
The house that is on this property now is not the original house. The original was burned by “Peronist supporters,” the family thinks, in the 1950s following the expropriation of a portion of their land by the government. Still, the family owns thousands of acres of land in the north of Buenos Aires Province where soybeans and corn are grown and have been grown annually, but this is the farm home.
While it took spending a lovely Sunday enjoying the pleasures of the countryside to realize it, the drastic inequality in Argentina’s history can not be avoided. To me, a single image sums up this situation: With a view of the main house beyond, a small worn down single room has hung outside pants and shirts to dry, between them and the house walk Douglass and his friends who mock the “gaucho pants,” telling us to take pictures of them, and behind them, the large bouganvilla covered farm home whose insides contain full suits of armor, tapestries, marble floors, and full length oil portraits.