All posts by helensranch


No trip to Bariloche is complete without a visit to Centro Civico. A spacious square with beautiful Alpine architecture.






The day before our visit, people gathered to remember the missing. The square was filled with drawings of white scarfs the grandmothers wear to remind the government they will continue to search for evidence of their whereabouts. Beneath each scarf was the name of the missing.




(A reprint of an article)

Argentina experienced its most recent military dictatorship which began 38 years ago today. Stores are closed and the streets are empty as “portenos” remember where they were and what they were doing when they found out that a military junta had successfully staged a coup.

It’s fall in Argentina and the wind is blowing into Buenos Aires from Rio de Plata. The dust and bits of paper are swirling in little tornadoes down the Boulevard Cabilldo. Walking down the avenue, it’s easy to get a sense of life in the USA back in the 1940s. On the corner is the baker with his fresh-baked bread giving off that unique scent that can even make a man who’s just eaten feel hungry again. Across the street, the cobbler has displayed his latest shoes in the window and next door, at the butcher, ham, chicken and beef are on display.

None of it is wrapped or packaged like in America’s Wal-Mart. Here there are no WalMarts. Just little shops along the boulevard selling their products the way America used to sell before things got homogenized and sterile.

All of the shops are closed today. It’s a national holiday throughout Argentina. Thirty-eight years ago the country saw the beginning of the last military junta, or last dictatorship, in South America’s second largest country.

Juan Peron died in July, 1974 and his wife, and Vice President, Isabel, was in Casa Rosada. She was ineffective in her job. She had missed having a political life and her only “qualification” for the job of President was the fact that she was the third Mrs. Peron and just happened to be married to him when he died. She had been a trophy wife.

When Peron was exiled to Spain after being kicked out in 1955, he met Isabel. She had been a stripper in some of Spain’s sleaziest nightclubs and Peron, a typical military officer, saw her one night and fell epaulets over sword for her. The two started living together and when the Catholic church let Peron know that it didn’t approve of his living arrangement, he reluctantly married Isabel.

When Argentina had a change of government, and a change of heart, it opened its ports and invited Juan and the new Mrs. Peron to come on home to Buenos Aires. All had been forgiven. Gathering up his supporters and relying on bribery and intimidation, Peron was voted back into the presidency. It wouldn’t last long. He died a year later. Isabel, as Vice President, stepped up to the plate and was sworn in as the new Argentine president.

It was a disaster from the start. The only right thing she did was keep a few of her late husband’s advisors on the payroll. Later, as palace intrigue took over, and the former stripper didn’t know whom to trust, she started firing them. Knowing more about how to make a White Russian than to make an economy survive, things went down the “inodoro,” toilet, in the country. Frustrated and seeing their opportunity, the military stepped in, kicked her out and set up a military junta.

With the aid and knowledge of Washington DC, the military dictatorship under the leadership of General Videla, went on a killing spree. Over the next seven years, over 30,000 people would be made to disappear in Buenos Aires. Members of the opposition, students who seemed to be left-wing, even pregnant mothers, were picked up, and taken to secret torture camps. When the military was done with them, the victim was flown in an airplane over Rio de Plata and tossed out.

Today marks the Day of Remembrance for Argentina. The start of the terror and bloodshed which would define a country for decades.

By Jerry Nelson

Catholic Culture



Neither can you leave the Centro without a photo taken with the most popular attraction. The little puppy is only 26 days old.





I was having trouble with the last post and decided to publish it before it was completely lost.

We were charmed by Alicia’s son, CAMILO, who enjoyed his chocolate cookie much more than the mate.



I wanted to add a little more about Carol. She is the face of the family estancia
(Ranch) — a true Argentine who loves her horses, her land, and the freedom the open spaces provide. She offers half day horseback riding as well as multiday pack trips by horse. You might enjoy her website: Jody and Tim rent their apartment from her and she has been a good friend.



We gathered at Carol’s home. Her living room was so inviting. I was drawn to a little outbuilding in her yard.




Carol prepared the mate and handed it to Alicia; then to Jody, then to Helen and finally to Tim. In the circle, the mate was always passed back to Carol who would refresh the Yerba.
Another wonderful Argentine experience to add to my memory bank.






Jody’s friend, Carol Jones, invited us to her home for mate (pronounced mah-tay) on Sunday afternoon. An invitation to partake in mate is a cultural treat and not to be missed. From the Lonely Planet book, below is a brief description.

The preparation and consumption of mate is perhaps the only cultural practice that truly transcends the barriers of ethnicity, class and occupation in Argentina. More than a simple drink, mate is an elaborate ritual, shared among family, friends and co-workers.

Yerba mate is the dried chopped leaf of llex paraguayensis, a relative of the common holly. Argentina is the largest producer and consumer of the Yerba and Argentines consume more mate than four times their average intake of coffee.
Preparing and drinking mate is a ritual in itself. One person, the cebador (server) fills the mate gourd almost to the top with Yerba, and then slowly pours hot water as he or she fills the gourd. The cebador then passes the mate to each drinker, who sips the liquid through the bombilla, a silver straw with a bulbous filter at its lower end. Each participant drinks the gourd dry each time. When finished, you pass it back to the server who fills it with more water and passes it on. A simple ‘gracias’ will tell the server to pass you by.

The drink, I would say, is an acquired taste -rather bitter -yet I liked it and found it similar to green tea.

When we were shopping, I took a photo of Yerba mate and the mate gourd (of which there are many different designs) —-





I can validate every word as absolutely TRUE. Sam Smith, a friend of Jody and Tim, wrote this article and sent it to me — and from personal experience, it hasn’t improved one bit, maybe even worsened because there are more cars on the road. Thank heavens for public transportation – the bus!

I Drive Therefore I am

A foreigner’s account of an initial driving experience on a 2000+ Km road trip in March 2008.

Having finally gotten all in order, in our “new” 2004 Toyota Hilux camioneta ( pick-up truck ) we left Saenz Pena in the Province of Chaco for the town of San Carlos de Bariloche in the Lake District of Northern Patagonia. A trip of 2125km and two days of 13 and 17 hours driving. I do not recommend this.

The best part- beautiful and varied landscapes: vast pampas, desert, hills, and mountains. The worst part- the Argentine driver. I have made a quick study (survival instinct), so will share my observations.

All roads were 2-lane, with opposing traffic a twitch away from a head–on collision. The atavistic art of passing cars conjuring the tension of critical timing, and sudden death, just like in the old days before the modern divided highway. Not being spoiled by the USA standard of highway design, the Argentine driver is more intuitive and fatalistic and seems oblivious or perhaps inured to the potential for danger here, in fact relishing the chance to test nerves, skill and horsepower against the double yellow line, and blind curve or hill just ahead. (1)

They kill about twice the rate of people in traffic accidents than we do in the USA. It’s basically everyman for himself, and an assumption that all traffic is local and consequently everyone knows where they are going. So the use of route markers, advisory signs, and other highway information is sporadic. Traffic regulations seem to be advisory only, this includes rights-of-way, stop signs and traffic lights. Highway driving at night is particularly trying , as the yellow and white “safety” paint that you expect to mark and delineate such things as signs, obstructions, lanes, and road shoulders does not relect the light of headlights, so in effect it just works in the daytime giving the promise of possibly having some effect at night.

The” Rule of Momentum”-You must assume the prevailing rule of the road is that the other driver will always do the thing that is to his advantage, possibly with total and selfish disregard to others. You must intuit another’s actions. Plan on the most unexpected, and death-defying action or maneuver, and you will seldom be wrong. Rarely are turn signals used, why bother, it is assumed you know their intention. In the flow of traffic you would do well to think of your actions as being those of a bird in a flock or a fish in a school- with some type of lateral-line sensibility that enables the whole mass to move as one- changing direction or momentum in concert. In fact, an attention lapse or change in rhythm is “unexpected” to others and can be dangerous. Drivers are not looking for signs or signals telling them what to do or expect.

The “Rule of Intersections”-The most frequent situation presented is the intersection. The US invention of the four-way stop is unheard of; rather it is typically a four-way go. Rarely will an intersection have a stop sign (if it does, it is blatantly ignored). The rule is to yield to the car to your right, but of course there are exceptions: Exception (1) If you are on a comparatively larger or more primary street, in which case you have the right-of-way, regardless. The problem with that is the introduction of the Argentine Ego: IT assumes that whichever street IT is on, is the primary street. So you cannot count on that rule. Exception (2) If you are the give-way vehicle on the left but arrive at the intersection first, then you just keep going. Exception (3) If you are a large truck, bus, or a particularly beat-up vehicle, you do what ever you want. You can see that intersections present frequent and quick judgment calls, so you can expect most drivers will adopt the much simpler all-purpose “ rule of momentum” and so consequently will race to be first there, to avoid any need to assess right-of-way.

The “Rule of Lanes”-There are no designated lanes, because the amount of traffic that can fit the width of any street at any one time is of course relative to the size and relative speed of the conveyance (bicycle, motorbike, small car, etc.); so you can have 2 lanes and then 3 lanes of traffic in the space of a block. To be safe, just figure that Argentine drivers abhor an empty space, or an interval between cars, and will be drawn to fill it, before someone else does.

Traffic lights do exist, but have their own exceptions as well: If your acceleration approaching the light has not put you there before it changes, and you are then stopped at the red light, you are, in fact, being inconvenienced and a rule has been challenged ( The Rule of Momentum ). So after an appropriate interval- you act intuitively on the anticipation of the green, starting through the intersection when the opposing green light is just about to receive a yellow warning signal.

Lest you get the impression that they are all irresponsible drivers, I would add that at night you would see many examples of the environmentally sensitive driver making his contribution to sustainability. To conserve the life of their headlight bulbs, they don’t turn them on. I have personally witnessed this commitment to environmental sustainability in rain and even snow- at night. Clearly they are able to make out the other cars by their lights, so do not see a reason for needing their own.


(1)- I have since observed over an intervening 2 yrs, that the “rule of lanes” is at work here, if the passing car encounters another car in a potential head-on, the passing driver assumes that the oncoming car will bear right – thereby creating a third lane for the passing car to complete the overtake. This can be problematical however if the oncoming vehicle is large or if the oncoming driver is not conditioned to immediately adopt the” rule of lanes” as envisioned by the passing driver.