April Newsletter

Sally Fifield | YAGM 2015

Q: What do mountain hikes, beekeeping, and rodeos alll have in common?

A: These are all things I have done in April.

Easter in the Mountains

I traveled to Tras la Sierra, Córdoba for holy week this year. David, Zuni, Bianca, and I made a 18+ hour road trip through the central region of Argentina to arrive at Father Juan Carlos' house at the foot of the mountain. David and I met in October at the Native Seed Exchange. He works with familiar agriculture and similar themes to my work. Zuni is a co-worker of David and her daughter is Biana. Bianca is quite the character and a bit of a diva. We camped in the yard of Juan Carlos, a priest from David's childhood in Misiones. His house was humble, but the huerta, garden, was huge. Each morning the crisp mountain air would fade away as the sun peaked over the mountain top and we would go around the property to collect walnuts. Each meal we would go out into the large garden, that took up the majority of the property, to collect what we need to make our meal. The garden was impressive and dynamic with all things growing together, protecting and preserving the surrounding plants. I was in awe of the figs, peaches, walnuts, and olives that grow with ease in this region.

Juanqui was a great guide through the area. David and I tried to bike for an afternoon, but the slow and climbing hill is not my forte. We made an asado (barbeque) by the stream one afternoon, drove up to the top of the mountain, talked with farmers in the area, and took a hike up to a large cross in the middle of the mountain.

In reality, my Easter was spent in the car returning back to Corrientes. However, I would like to think it was celebrated on my hike up to the cross and watching the sunset over the town.

Beekeeping with the Farmers

Finally the beekeeping workshops have started! They have been hard to plan because of the weather sensitivity of the bees. Wind, clouds, rain, or the cold make it difficult to visit the beehives and study the honey. So we finally had a nice day to gather and have the introduction to beekeeping. It was fascinating and very exciting to see three generations of farmers gathering to learn about the production of honey and care of the bees. Many sons, daughters, and even a grandson were present at the workshop because of the independence it gives these young people. While they cannot have their own farms and animals to have more independence, they can raise their own bees because of the efficiency of space and time it takes to take care of bees.
I really hope to continue seeing more young people taking part in the workshops that INCUPO offers to ensure that young people see value in country life and have a stake in the success and existence of small producers.
The farmers now have their own beekeeping suits!

Rodeos Correntino Style

For the last days of April, I received a student from Colorado that is traveling around Argentina studying agriculture. My friends and I wanted to show her what Corrientes is all about. So, what better way to do that than a good old fashioned rodeo. The senior class at the argo-technical high school plans a festival for their families and the community. The majority of the folks were dressed in traditional guacho (cowboy) garb-- see attached photo. We got to see typical Correntino festivities including:

  • Families carrying their own folding chairs and coolers full of asado

  • Groups playing chamamé music with guitars and accordions
  • A crowd with a cloud of dust because of all the dancing of Chamamé
  • Another traditional dance called Chacarera (common in East Argentina)
  • Sapucai-- the yell and scream of men during chamame
  • Women selling fry bread, called torta frita, and locro, a winter dish

This was my first doma, rodeo, here in Corrientes. Many of the boys from the graduating senior class participate in the doma to demonstrate that they can tame the undomesticated horses. The routine was to tie an untamed horse to a post, put on the saddle, mount the horse, pull the cinch tight so that the horse bucks, and see how long you can last. They were other men on horses to help the cowboys. The precautions of safety for the cowboy and the crowd were pretty relaxed. There was only a tiny fence between the bucking broncos and the crowd and little protection for the men being bucked off. I am sure that at times during the doma it was more entertaining to watch my facial expressions of surprise and horror than the actual show.

I am so glad I was able to experience this very Correntino event with my friends here.


(to provide context and examples for the aspects of Correntino culture shared in this letter)

Guacho: At all of my work meetings there is at least on person with traditional guacho style. It is quite popular to see men on horse back on the side of the highway we drive to the country side every week. It is comical to me to see the young gauchos in traditional garb on horseback and texting at the same time. The image above is in portgues, but a perfect example of what I see on a daily basis. The pants are puffy and flowy because of the heat in the north of Argentina. Another common hat it a knitted beret.
Sapucai (or Sapucay): yell during chamamé. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm9cTMTjr2Q (at 1:10 there is a great yell!)
Chacarera: When I first saw this dance performed it looked like a lot of stomping, clapping, and snapping like crab claws. Now, after seeing it performed by high schoolers at the doma I see it is a beautiful dance used to enchant your partner. So cool to see this continued by young people in the community.

Demonstrating the dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG7s19SjlcA

Demonstrating a popular chacarera song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEHbe7OQHAc

Until Next Month!

If you have any questions about my journey and life here please contact me!
Thank you always for your support this year. I am so thankful for this life changing experience and your help to make this part of my life possible.

Besos y Abrazos,