Corkage in Cordoba

We’d been staying in such a nice place that we were reluctant to leave, but finally got on the road to Cordoba around 1 pm or so.  We drove past lots of sunflowers, through a little town famous for green onyx (but which didn’t seem to offer any for sale), and through a seemingly endless string of foothill resorts.  Finally we left them behind going on a very pretty road over a pass.  If we’d stayed on the main road, we would have gone to a reputedly very glitzy town with lots of over-the-top casinos.  As it was, we ended up going over another hill past an observatory, like getting to San Jose via Mt. Hamilton, and we arrived in Cordoba around 10 pm.  Except it was really 11 pm because we were in the eastern time zone.  By midnight, all we could find was a few empanadas and ice cream cones, which were welcome after the 9-hour drive, thought we were still a little full from the night before.

We got up late, and our plan to go on an 11 am tour was derailed by a parade downtown featuring scantily clad young girls, a drag queen, and lots and lots of drummers.  They ended up drumming inside the city building, making the tourist information unavailable — when we found out where the tourist information department had set up a government in exile, all they said by way of explanation was that the parade was a neighborhood parade traditionally, and now they wanted to have their parade downtown but weren’t allowed to, and it turned into a protest instead.

The guidebook’s suggestions weren’t working well.  The Museum of Memory was closed, as was the domestic chapel of the Jesuit seminary.  Others had made slight changes to their hours of operation so that they were closed for the day by the time we got there.  We did get to the World Heritage site, a Jesuit university and church which had a really good English-language tour.  It was the first tour ever in which we’d heard someone say that a building was constructed by African slaves.

There were many cute facts about the room where students had their oral exams for their PhD, including that they got ridden around town on a mule if they passed, and had rotten fruit thrown at them if they failed.  The room itself had been largely destroyed in 1918 during a student revolt.  This was a replica.  When the students in 1968 occupied the Sorbonne, they shouted slogans in the memory of the 1918 revolt.

It will certainly be time for college revolts again soon, and I hope that the slogans shouted will not be in the format of Hey.  Hey.  Ho.  Ho.  If there is one thing the North needs to learn from southern revolutions, it is not that people in berets look good on t-shirts, it is that not all explanations of political philosophy need to begin with “1-2-3-4” or even be in four four time.  The drummers in the march on the tourist office were polyrhythmic, even though they only had the drums of an ordinary high school marching band.  And any revolution, as Rosa Luxemburg will tell you, needs drag queens and six year old dancers in g-strings shaking their booty, unless perhaps they are demonstrations against the inappropriate sexualization of very young children.

There was a large library of books from the 16th century and before.  And there was a very beautiful church, made several hundred kilometers away in Misiones (where we’re headed soon) and moved piece by piece down the Parana river and across the land to Cordoba.  Just like Ikea, some assembly required.

At one point the tour guide came to describe a small piece of furniture which was characteristic of Argentinean offices and homes through the 19th century.  It is called a “bargueño” and this one looked like a small card catalog with a closing front mounted on modestly curved desk legs.

The tour guide, Maria Celeste, was of college age and the other four people on the tour were approximately the same.  The tour guide motioned to the cabinet and said: think of this like a computer.  Each one of these drawers is a file, and in this one [the prelate] stored letters from Spain, and in this one correspondence with the estancias, and so forth.

Later, after the tour had ended, I attempted to explain to Maria Celeste’s work mate, a bit older, how I found it ironic that filing cabinets were now described in terms of computers, after the User Interface guys had been so clever as to designate the contents of tracks and cylinders as “files” to facilitate understanding.

For dinner we took the bottle of Angelica we’d bought, and checked out two nice restaurants a block apart.  One, La Nieta ‘e La Plancha, had a “creative” menu and a terrace, and the other, El Arrabal normally had tango shows and was very traditional.  The “creative” one had goat and rabbit and looked promising, but as soon as I pulled the bottle out of the pack the lady freaked out and seemed like she’d never heard of “corkage”.  We walked out slowly, giving her a chance to chase after us.  Apparently the opportunity to sell us her own wine was more important to her than the opportunity to sell us a meal at all.  We went down the street to the tango restaurant, which was also initially negative about the idea.  But after they looked at the label, they said “wow, that’s really great wine” and offered to open it for 10 pesos ($3).  And great it was.  Their traditional menu went with it well.  The gnocchi in sweetbread cream sauce surprisingly paired better with our malbec than the lamb raviolones in malbec sauce, whose malbec was not as deep as the one we’d brought.  And Argentina doesn’t produce any wines that don’t complement beef.

In the morning we went to the Jesuit crypt in town.  Another underground treasure recently discovered by telephone workers.  It was actually kind of dumb because the Jesuits were banished before they actually buried anyone in it.  What’s so special about a crypt without coffins or bones?

On the way out of town, we visited one of five Jesuit estancias in the area.  And why would a World Heritage Jesuit ranch museum forbid cameras?  Maybe because some cameras have flash and most tourists are too stupid to know how to turn off the flash.  If you know how to turn it off, it’s a dumb policy.  We went to Estancia de Jesus Maria and just looked at what was there.

Then we drove about five hours to Santa Fe, where we are now.  On the way, outside of Devoto, was a cemetery with several large family mausoleums, right in the middle of nowhere.  It looked like a small city.  We took lots of pictures.

In Santa Fe, we went to an old restaurant which serves you various river fish.  Large portions of several different kinds.  No vegetables, no dessert, just fish and drinks.  It wasn’t billed as all-you-can-eat, but they probably would have kept on bringing more if we’d asked.

The next week is in northeastern Argentina.  We’re just about to start a long drive to Reserva Provencial Estero del Ibera, a good place to see capybaras and birds.  Then we’ll spend a day or two seeing more Jesuit missions (rent “The Mission” to see what they were about).  Then we’ll visit Iguazu Falls on the Brazil border.

Time to get on the road.