I spent about 48 hours at Estancia Las Rosas, in the Chaco, northeast Argentina. It's more wild there, more humid, more unruly than the two ranches I visited in Uruguay. I went there for a workshop on holistic ranchland management, held by an Argentine organization called Ovis XXI.
By tomorrow, I'll post a series of photos so you can see what it looked like. It was a lot of classroom time, a field visit, and a practical exercise, but it was also a lot of amazing people watching and sharing of mate, the South American tea.
These are scraps from my notebook which I thought might illustrate well where I was and what I was doing.
//You introduce yourself with two kisses, in this region of Argentina and in Paraguay.
//In Paraguay, they talk with full-mouthed Rs like the Venetian vaporetti drivers. I’m 14 again, in Venice, understanding enough and speaking enough but maybe not quite myself.
//Today was a feast - of scientific facts and ecosystems thinking, of concentrating so hard on listening and thinking in Spanish i forgot to breathe, of riding in the back of a pick-up truck wearing a ridiculous gaucha hat, of playing journalist and being journalist, recording everything, constantly shifting my framework on the story while wishing someone would pass me their mate.
When the sun was setting in incredible colors and the rain was about to drop again, i joined the Paraguayan boys as they transitioned from mate to beer. What came out was that this is a people passionate about their work, and that thinks holistic management is revolutionary. That’s what Guillermo said, right off the bat. “Es revolucionario.” He is maybe a bit older than me, with the gravitas of a future paterfamilias, or godfather, who knows. He told me earnestly, his speech speeding up, about getting the people who work for you to feel like they belong, have a life, engancharse - but still, I have to imagine that Paraguay is a land of inequality as big as the silver watches these guys are all wearing.
//I would continue to Paraguay, if I’m invited- it’s fascinating. i think they’re all making a ton of money so it’s amazing that they all got interested in holistic management and are here still talking about cattle prices after 5 beers.
//I enjoyed watching these big macho men break out the colored pencils and rulers and work with extreme precision to plan their tierras with confusion and enthusiasm and good debate
//I’m going to miss this weird world where the Spanish that gets stuck in my head is about grass regeneration and pregnant cows. The Paraguayan men all wear short sleeved button downs and drink terere, iced Mate’, from leather thermoses that even the Argentines admire. We eat a hundred pastries for breakfast and asado for lunch and the men refill my beer glass. They toasted me, after Luciano the host and Pablo the educator, for being the only woman in attendance, and they seemed to take offense when I helped to move chairs back to the living room. Luciano carried my backpack to the pickup truck and Carlos carried it to the bus station and I can’t say I mind this as long as they answer my questions and listen to my story, which they do. Que cosa, said Carlos, driving - la chica de Nueva York, la grande manzana, aca, ya es otra cosa. What a crazy thing, Carlos said, you’re from new york, the big apple, and you’re here, they must be different worlds.
It's true that my world is elsewhere, colder and more orderly, but something came back to me in full immersion.