Small Town. Big Gaucho Festival.
December 19, 2010 § 3 Comments
A good small town has enough to entertain, yet not so much to overwhelm or bring on guilt to accomplish all the “must dos”, with a downtown that is just right for covering in one afternoon to easily orient oneself. While in Buenos Aires, we searched for day trips and came across one such San Antonio de Areco, known for its small town charm and “gaucho” (Argentine cowboy) culture.
When I read that the annual festival coincided with one of our free weekends, I jumped at the chance to take advantage of our flexible schedule and good timing.
Since the festival would be a big, audience-focused celebration, the influx of Argentine and foreign tourists had the potential to dampen the remote feeling usually embodied by small towns. There was also the risk of the festival being too showy and seeming like a fake display of “culture”. Nonetheless, we set out on our first field trip and bus ride since ‘settling down’ in Buenos Aires to partake in the festivities.
We did not have to worry, however, and the holiday, called “Dia de la Tradicion” (Day of Tradition), did not disappoint. Although the main activities were the parade, the skills competition, and the “asado” (cookout), some of the best parts were the details observed throughout the day.
- Not surprisingly, the kids in costume were some of the most fun to watch and photograph. I’ve actually owned gaucho pants as a fashion statement, but to see children from 6 to 15 outfitted with the complete ensemble – hat, necktie, puffy shirt, and gaucho pants, was adorable. Their skills in commanding their horses were impressive as well.
- Seeing the layout of the town as we walked from the parade to the municipal park endeared the town to us even more. There was a nice plaza, an outdoor amphitheater situated on the river, a swimming hole carved out of the river, and a great ice cream shop that served a much needed treat at the end of the day. Small towns often have lovely, well kept public spaces.
- Wedging our way into a picnic to get a better view of the skills competition was a fun way to see family interactions. Even just seeing the treats they had brought gave us a glimpse of their typcial picnic fare. The grandfather figure was riding a horse in the event and would come by to check in with the family, earning him looks of admiration from the grandchildren.
Although the big event could have tarnished our experience of the small town, we were actually able to get more involved in the action of the day because of the town’s laid back and manageable size. Besides, it was a good way to appreciate and understand a piece of the culture surrounding the great steaks we have been enjoying.
See all the pictures here.