Agriculture is arguably Argentina’s most important industry. From the hundreds of thousands of sheep herded in Patagonia to the infamous cattle that yields the best steak in the world to the sunflowers, soy, herbs, vegetables, vineyards and more, it’s history is long and rich. Perhaps it started with the Jesuit missionaries who first taught the indigenous people of Northeast Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia in the late 16th and early 17th century. They brought land management, husbandry, crops and more to the people who lived here first. Then came the colonists.
Today the western part of Buenos Aires province (like a state in the U.S.) produces a wealth of products from cheese, honey, steak, dairy, fruits, vegetables and more. And towns like Bolivar, Tendil, Azul and others grew from the success of these agricltural endeavors. And today I had a chance to take a step back in time as Daniel’s friend, Pedro, led us out onto the campo far from Bolivar or any other town or city of any size to an old campo outpost. We rode through dusty roads, past marshes, cattle, crops of all kinds with some as high as the truck we were riding in. At forks in the road there were no signs but Pedro pointed the way until we happened upon the old outpost.
We passed a 50 year old pick up truck with its front door wide open and keys hanging dingerly in the ignition and entered the dimly lit building. The cheerful owner of the truck let out a roar of a laugh when greeted, his eyes glazed over and stubby fingers wrapped around a glass of whiskey. It was barely noon when we arrived. Outside and inside this outpost seemed frozen in time. Evidence of its history surrounded us. The floor, ceiling, walls and apparatus. If this were the old west in the United States it might have been the general store. In its time this place served as the post office, bank, saloon, hardware store, market, telephone company and just about everything else. This was the center of activity before population grew and evolved into towns like Bolivar and Tendil.
Pedro – Amigo.
We ordered a beer and sat with the locals as we discussed the history of the building and wandered through the place as if a historical museum. But it’s not a museum. It’s still open for business. Sure old products that never sold sit on the shelves and there seemed to be an unwritten commitment to keeping things as they are. A yellowed receipt for some hardware dated in the seventies was stuck to the wall with a rusty thumb tack. The turn of hte century crank phone still operates, but only to call the house of the owner a few hundred meters away. Dust reflected from the sunlight that streamed through one of the few dirty windows as we journeyed through time somewhere out on the campo in Argentina.