Saturday, June 16, 2018

Luján, Argentina

Argentina is a very peculiar country with a multitude of small towns that were founded by immigrants from Europe from about the late XIX to the early XX centuries.  The government offered land to those coming in groups from a particular nationality that could be Italians, Croatians, Welch and others.  When arriving, the government just sent them to uninhabited areas and let them survive by their means.  The situation now (in my experience) is that you can arrive in a small town and find yourself in an Italian or Croatian community preserving their culture and culinary specialties such cheeses, sausages, etc. Similar to what you might find in Wisconsin with Polish or Swedish communities.

Luján historically goes back to 1536 when a battle between the Spanish and the aborigines resulted in the death of Captain Pedro de Luxan, after whom the area was named.  The town was named Villa de Nuestra Señora de Luján in 1755.  It is historically important because General William Beresford was held prisoner here after the defeat of the British forces that invaded Argentina in 1806. 

The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Luján is set at the end of an open esplanade that makes it looks majestic when compared to those in Europe that are set in enclosed areas. It is in the neogothic style with plenty of gargoyles; construction began in 1890 and was finished in 1935. The towers have 15 bells each named after the musical notes they produce.  Inside it is very elaborate; the stones in the stairs going to a second level chapel are all engraved with the names of diseased patrons.  Wealthy ones hired sculptors for human size marble statues in the memory of loved ones.

The stairs above end in the colorful and complex woodwork shown below.  This chapel was busy when I was there so had to wait to get a photo of the elaborate hanging lamp.

The basilica is a place to wander around and the crypt contains a collection of the Virgin Mary images as interpreted in the various countries of the world. Can you guess the country by the flag?

Below is a view of Belgrano’s Plaza looking away from the Basilica with the arched portals of the colonial buildings. Walking inside them one can gauge their length and use by the street people.  The mattress was shared by many; later on there was a different dreamer, but notice the thermos with mate, the traditional drink of Argentina.

The Provincial Museum Enrique Udaondo was the Cabildo in colonial times and now serves as a depository for old cars, paintings, a library and the Plus Ultra hydroplane, that flew in 1926 from Spain to Argentina. It was donated by King Alfonso XIII to Argentina where it was used as a mail plane until retired.

What was most interesting for me in Luján was the mural on one of the external walls of the museum.  Among the group of scientists I recognized my mentor, Charles Darwin, who is seated next to a Smilodon (a Pleistocene saber toothed tiger) with a dinosaur behind (that I could not identify). Farther to the right is a Glyptodont (giant armadillo from the end of the ice age).  In the third image below, that is the right end of the mural, is an Andalgalornis ferox (terror bird from the Miocene).

It was a rainy day so had to stop at the tavern to dry up, have a sandwich and a local beer.  Before departing I had to take a photo of the local street art.

I am really overwhelmed with the amount of material I collected during the trip to Argentina and Chile; it will take me a while to blog it all.

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