While planning my trip, I had wanted to visit some of the provincial cities in Argentina. Though Buenos Aires is a great place, I felt that it didn't represent the true Argentina. It would be similar to saying that New York City categorizes the United States. I had broader plans, including visits to Bariloche, Cordoba, Iguazu Falls and Mendoza; but time and budget would not accommodate that desire. Consequently, I decided to limit my travels to Salta, in the northwestern province by the same name.
Travel to Salta
After the silver mines had been exploited fully by the end of the 18th c. CE, Salta fell into decline. When the railroad finally arrived in the 19th c. CE, Salta was able to transport its goods more easily, thus it experienced a rebound. The city now is a provincial capital that still relies heavily on agriculture. The Lonely Planet described it as "... a city of fine plazas, convents, churches and colonial buildings ..." (LP3°, 794).
Because of its proximity to the Andes mountains, the city is prone to earthquakes. The town's annual Fiesta del Milagro "... commemorates the end of a particularly severe earthquake in 1692 when religious icons were paraded through the streets ("Salta", Encyclopædeia Britannica). Another earthquake rocked the city in 1884, which damaged a number of the city's colonial-era buildings; some, however, did survive.
After checking into my hotel, which was located just off the main square, I decided to go adventuring in this provincial city. I headed south to Avenida San Juan, then east towards the city's main park. It was already a hot day outside, and the blaring sun only made the heat more intense. I knew that it was going to be a good day for an afternoon siesta.
passed the blue-painted Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de la Viña.
This church houses a number of important paintings, many from the Cuzco
school. In the 1880s, the church was used as a refuge for those fleeing
the country's civil war. It also served as a hospital ward during a
cholera epidemic. Though the exterior was showing its age, the interior
was beautiful and well-kept. The cupola is well worth a look.
Slightly east of the church is the Parque San Martín, dedicated to the country's liberator and ever-present figure - who is honored with a statue in the park. Also in the park is a statue of Christopher Colon, known in the United States as Christopher Columbus. He seems to be pointing at a sail, symbolizing his exploration of the Americas. There was a small lake with a fountain, as well as other statues and busts. On the north end of the park is the Museo de Ciencias Naturales, which focuses on regional animals and vegetation. It seemed very dilapidated, so I did not stop to visit.
At the eastern end of the park is the Cerro San Bernardo, which rises to an altitude of 1,458 meters (roughly 4,000 feet) above Salta. There is a cable car that travels to the top of the mountain. The cable cars were manufactured by the Swiss firm Garaventa and installed by fellow Swiss company CWA Constructions, a round-trip ride cost ARS 8. Feeling adventurous, I decided to buy a round-trip ticket - it was too hot to hike down the 1,136 steps like I had planned originally.
At the top of Cerro San Bernardo, there are a number of religious statues and commemorative plaques, which I have found is typical for Catholic countries. Pictures of a few of these monuments are shown below.
To the north of the Cerro San Bernardo are two attractions, one of which solidified my desire to visit this provincial city. First is the monument dedicated to General Güemes, who was the gaucho general who, between 1814 and 1821, repelled and defeated the royalist troops seven times as they attempted to invade from neighboring Bolivia. Salta served as the base for this general and his legion of troops. Designed by artist Victor Cariño and installed in 1931, the statue sits on a base of large boulders; in this base are a number of friezes that depict the general's life and successes. There were a number of high school-aged schoolchildren in the park that day, celebrating what seemed to be the last day of school.
One of the main reasons I had ventured to Salta was to visit the Museo de Antropología de Salta "Dr Juan M Leguizamón", which houses a mummy recently discovered high in the Andes. I had read about this discovery in the New York Times a few years ago, and decided that I wanted to see it in person. Known as the Alta Montaña mummy, it was found in the Tastil site in the Quebrada del Toro. In addition to the mummy, the museum shows exhibits on local pottery. Other than those that worked there, very few people were visiting the museum. It had a small shop, but there was not anything worth purchasing.
After visiting the museum, I decided to wander back to the hotel. The outdoor temperature was approaching 95°F, and I was getting tired. I took a three-hour nap during the hottest part of the day, which gave me enough energy to continue my exploring in the cooler hours of the evening.
Salta's center of activity is the Plaza 9 de Julio, which is named for the date that Argentina's declaration of independence was signed in 1816 in Tucumán. It is considered one of the country's finest examples of Spanish colonial town squares, as the circling verandas are still in place. I passed through the square a number of times, and there was always a bustle of activity - either vendors, families or children. It was a great place to people watch.
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