Thursday, April 14, 2005

No Cactus Photos Today

Tucumán was a nice city, one of the first cities founded in Argentina (founded in 1565 as a major stop on the route to export silver from the mines in Bolivia). It´s also of historical importance, because it was there that on the 9th of July 1816, independence from Spain was declared. I got to see the room where this happened, and the desk where the declaration was signed, which is more than I can say for my American historical tourism, having skipped the visit to Independence Hall when I was in Philadelphia in December. Tucumán also holds a plethora of churches, all very ornate, and quite busy. I´ve noticed as I move northwards that people are more demonstrative of their faith, and there are more offerings of flowers, people crossing themselves in the street or in their cars as they pass in front of churches, and fervent praying of people of all ages than I have noticed elsewhere. Also (and let´s be honest, of more personal interest to myself) Tucumán has a lot of fine establishments for shopping. Not that I bought anything--my backpack is already full--but it was nice to have a look.

Today´s adventure, through countryside filled with ancient artifacts and many extremely tall cacti, began today with a 7 AM bus to Tafí del Valle, a cute little town at 2,000 meters of altitude, and neighbor to a park filled with Menhires, tall rock figures planted in the ground by the Tafí people two thousand years ago or so. The Tafí worshipped Mother Earth, or Pachamama, and valued fertility and virility, which is obvious at the first glance at these, er, upright figures. Next stop was Amaicha del Valle, a brief stop on the way to the Ruinas de Quilmes. Hiring a taxi turned out to be the most economical choice for us as we were three--me, Lauren, a Canadian we met in Tafí, and Thibaut (still reeling from his home (soccer) team, Olympique Lyonnais´, loss yesterday in the quarterfinal of the Champion League tournament, but buoyed by several resounding ping pong victories in the hostel last night). The Quilmes were a native society which was displaced from their home in the mountains by Spanish settlers and moved to the Buenos Aires area, dying in masses from disease and starvation along the way. It´s amazing how sad and shameful stories like this are shared on so many continents by so many colonial groups. The Quilmes name lives on in the name of two cities and the country´s most popular beer.

Unfortunately, upon arrival in the ruins I realized that a bit of a forgetful streak I´ve been on recently--having left a bag and a fleece vest behind in two different cities in the past 6 days--took a turn for the worse...somewhere between the Menhires and the ruins, I left my camera behind. It´s either in a taxi or on a bus, and I still have to make some phone calls to try to track it down, but either way I fear it is beyond hope of recovery. Despite feeling like a first-class loser (literally), I have to say I feel relieved and extremely lucky that only yesterday I copied all my photos from my full memory card onto CD, so thankfully none of the pictures of the past month have been lost. But it looks like I´m in the market for a new digital camera, so suggestions are welcome! (Just don´t suggest the Nikon CoolPix 4300, which is what I already had, and was planning on replacing soon anyway).