Monday, January 22, 2007

Heroes and History

Casa de Che
Ernesto ´Che´ Guevera´s legend is strong here in Argentina. He was born in Rosario, went to university in Córdoba and Buenos Aires and lived his adolecense in Alta Gracia, a small mountain town just south of Córdoba. We went for a visit to the Museo de la Casa de Che - one of the homes little Ernestito lived in while growing up. It´s now a museum filled with photos, letters and writings, bicycles, chess boards and cigars.

The highlight was seeing La Poderosa II - the 1939 Norton motorcycle that Che rode along with his amigo Alberto Granado though South America in 1951/52. It was on this trip that Che formed many of his ideas on Marxism and armed, socialist revolution as the only means for change. Within a few years of that journey, he would reconnect with Fidel Castro in Guatemala and enter Cuba as the leader of a revolution that brought Castro to power and installed Guevera as the head of the national bank among other things. It was interesting seeing some of the currency and state documents from this era on display. The house was recently visited by Castro and Hugo Chavez, but we were there on the ´gratis mercioles´ along with dozens of Argentines intersted in knowing more about one of their national heroes. Though he is usually identified with Cuba, in Argentina, there is no mistake that Che Guevera was, and remains, one of their own.

The Jesuits
In Córdoba province, and in much of Northwestern Argentina, the influence of the Jesuits is strong. Who these people are exactly is still a bit of a mystery to us, but the legacy in architecture that they left behind is quite stunning.

Many of the extremely well-preserved ´estancias´ date from the 16th century. In this province alone there are five world heritage sites, and in the city of Córdoba there are univerisities and entire blocks of Jesuit buildings from the 1600s. They made the first dams, started the first schools, built massive stone churches and raised cattle, spun looms and essentially made little civilizations wherever they went. Until they were unceremoniously expulsed from the continent in 1767 that is. In the city, they recently uncovered an entire block of underground crypts that are over 400 years old. There is a lot of history here and it´s funny to think that while Buenos Aires was still a backwater pueblo, the cities of Mendoza, Córdoba and Salta to the north were bustling economic, cultural and artisitic centres that really shaped Argentina´s national identity.

1 comment:

Andrea C said...

The Jesuits are a congregation of brothers that belong to a branch of the Catholic Church.
Nowdays , they still are very advanced in severals areas, and in the moment that they were expulsed from America, it was because they had got ( For The Kingdom of Spain )excessive power (economic, etc), and they were a sirius competitor to the empirial spanish power. Thats why they were kicked out of south america. You have to see the picture "The Mission" to understand.
Sorry for my english!
It´s really interesting to read your impresion of my country !

Andrea Cummins
Venado Tuerto- Santa Fe