Tuesday, June 09, 2009


This is how the streets of Valle María, a little rural town 50 km south of Paraná, the provincial capital of Entre Ríos, Argentina, look. From left to right, the German flag, the provincial and the national one. How do we arrive to this? The story begins in 1770, when the Russian tsar Catalina II invited Germans to populate a strip of land near the Volga River. After a short stage of hope, it turned out the lands were poor indeed, and moreover, the new generations were expected to line up in the Russian Army… SO emigration began towards South America. Many of them made it to Brazil, and after a time there head on south towards Argentina, where the government granted them lands in 1880. The Argentineans of the time, moved by a simplifier spirit, decided to nick them “Russians” full stop.

Paying attention to a road map of Entre Rios Province, the fact is clear. Hasenkamp, Spatzenkutter, Aldea Protestante, Valle María…. The last two still mark the religious differences the original settlers had when they set foot in the steam ship that brought them from Europe. Today the region still bears a visible ethnic Teutonic feature, but the language has been nearly lost, with a few exceptions I observed, as an 80 years old couple speaking out loud in old German while killing time in the supermarket queue…

Augusto Lucero, collegue from Autostop Argentina, and road mate in this short visit to Vale María, one of the German colonies. In the photo you can see him hitching with a reflective sign. Despite darkness came over, we managed to stop a Renault 18…

Signs of the German heritage can be observed in the name of local shops and companies.


Carlos, the owner, opens our beer. His sad grind was later explained by other locals, who said he had been a rich landlord of the region, before loosing everything in Argentina’s hyperinflation of 1989.

Among the gin and the vermouth, a sign says: “We no longer keep your drinks. Once served, you drink it, take it home or throw it away!”

Locals were proud that at least some lost hitch-hiker remembers the existence of their villages. Notably, Carlos invited to stay overnight at his home. While another local toured us around his milk farm on the morning of our departure.


"The other photograph"

Studebaker Champion.


One possibility is plain abandonment. The gradual rust conciliates technology and nature. Something Julio Cortázar would have called the unfair cycle of trash. Example: this Mercedes 1114 school bus will hardly have a different chance.

The other possibility as an extra flair of poetry. The bus, already disabled for its original task, ends up taking up a new job and avoiding retirement…. In the picture, a 1960 English-made Leyland renamed “Choribus”. Now it hosts the kitchen room! Instead of children, grilled sausages come out of its depths now. Well, there is not a big difference if you read it as a Pink Floyd The Wall metaphor.