Memories of the Way We Were

I am head over heels for photography in general, but I find vintage images to be particularly fascinating. Photographs from the past are so evocative. They offer us a glimpse into the days of yesteryear, and for now, they're the only method of time travel that we have at our disposal. 

If you're an aficionado of old-school black and white photos, I highly recommend you visit Shorpy. This site is, in its own words, "a vintage photography blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images…from the Library of Congress research archive." Shorpy posts new photos all the time, and I really get a kick out of the quirkiness of some of the pictures.

I decided it would be interesting to search for an image pertaining to Argentina, and I came across this photo in the Shorpy archives:

Naon Children, 1912["Naon children, 1912." Romulo Naon Jr., son of the Argentinean ambassador, and siblings. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.]

The following caption ran with a different Harris & Ewing photo of the children carried in the Washington Post.

Children of the Minister From Argentina and Mme. Naon.

These beautiful children gladden the home of the Argentine Minister and Mme. Naon. They were all born in Buenos Aires, but they love Washington, and are not anxious to return to their own country because they like America so much better as a place in which to live. They are Isabel, age 12; Felisa, age 10, Romulo, age 9; Juan Jose, age 5; and Carlota, the baby, who is only 2. Isabel and Felisa attend the Convent of the Visitation and Romulo and Juan Jose go to St. John's College. They all speak French and English as well as their native language, Spanish. Carlota has not yet learned French, but she can chatter in Spanish, and knows a little English. She is a dear baby with large dark eyes and a lot of silky curls of a beautiful chestnut brown. She is devoted to her doll baby and loves to sing it so sleep. When vacation days come the children are going with their parents to Buena Vista, where they will spend the summer.

Washington Post, May 19, 1912

If you're still hungry for more vintage goodness, check out this set of old photos from Necochea's past put together by my Flickr contact tupilak. My favorites are the scenes from the beach!

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Smoking Ban Takes Effect in Province of Buenos Aires

No Smoking The smoking ban approved in October 2008 by the provincial legislature of Buenos Aires went into effect last week, prohibiting smoking in most indoor public spaces smaller than 150 square meters (1,615 square feet) throughout the province of Buenos Aires. 

Apparently the smoking ban is considered a success in the City of Buenos Aires, which has been largely smoke-free since 2006, but I wonder whether smaller towns and cities outside the capital will pay heed to the new rules.  I'm particularly interested to see how strictly enforced this law is in Necochea. 

Get more details about the smoking ban here at the Argentine Post.

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Taking in the Sights of Puerto Quequén

The city of Necochea and its neighbor Quequén share the Puerto Quequén, a significant port with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. Though tourism is important to both cities, agriculture lies at the heart of the local economy, and the port serves as a key link for the exportation of agricultural products such as sunflower seeds and oil, wheat, and soybeans.

Aerial View of Puerto Quequén, Argentina

As you can see in this aerial photo, the Río Quequén divides Necochea and Quequén, with the port located at the mouth of the river. The port has 12 berths—six on each side of the river—to accommodate both small fishing vessels and large container ships. The two jetties flanking the entrance to the port, Escollera Sur (Necochea) and Escollera Norte (Quequén), are open to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, although the main operations of the port are closed to visitors.

You may not think hanging out at a port could be fun, but it's actually rather entertaining to spend some time there. Plus, the city recently made several improvements to the Escollera Sur (South Jetty), including the installation of new lighting and the addition of a colorful mural spanning 180 m (590 ft). Visitors to the port can:

  • Go fishing
  • Take a stroll
  • People-watch
  • Check out the sea lions
  • Visit the nearby beaches of Necochea and Quequén
  • Watch the tugboats maneuver the ships into port
  • Drink mate [Remember: if the place is even halfway decent, it's a good place to drink mate.]

The sea lion colony is found right next to the Escollera Sur on the Necochea side of the port. I took a brief video so you could enjoy the sea lions' antics. There are a couple of notes in the video (mouse over the gray boxes when they appear).

Here are some of my favorite photos from around the port:

Sea Lion Colony, Necochea, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr[Sea lions basking in the sun with the port in the background]

La Escollera Sur | The South Jetty by katiemetz, on Flickr[View of Escollera Sur from the beach known as Playa de los Patos]

Fishing on the North Jetty | Pescando en la Escollera Norte by katiemetz, on Flickr[Waiting for a bite on Escollera Norte]

Marine Link by katiemetz, on Flickr[One of the thick chains mooring a boat at the port]

Escollera Sur, Necochea by katiemetz, on Flickr[Walking along the Escollera Sur at dusk]

Necochea at Sunset | Necochea al Atardecer by katiemetz, on Flickr[View of Necochea from the Escollera Sur at sunset]

For more information:

If you'd like to read about other attractions in the area, take a look at my post Exploring Necochea & Quequén.

If you're interested in Puerto Quequén's technical specifications, nautical charts and other maps, or current weather conditions at the port, take a look here [Spanish] or here [English—limited information].

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Concerns Over Dengue Fever Grow in Argentina

Aedes aegypti mosquito by James Gathany [used under Creative Commons license]During the dog days of summer when a lack of air conditioning forces one to make the not-so-difficult choice between opening the windows or baking to death, the number of mosquitoes, flies and other insects that gets in the house can be a bit maddening at times. Window screens are virtually non-existent here, so the bugs have an open invitation to visit, even now in fall when I'm just looking to let in a bit of fresh air. Unfortunately, mosquitoes have transcended the limits of mere annoyance and are now posing a major health threat here in Argentina.

An outbreak of dengue fever that was mostly confined to the country's northern provinces has now spread to the capital and other locations in the province of Buenos Aires, where I'm currently living. The following text is an excerpt of an alert issued by the U.S. Embassy in regards to dengue fever:

Some Dengue Fever Cases Confirmed in Buenos Aires

This Warden Message, a follow-up to our message of March 27, 2009, is to alert U.S. citizens in and traveling to Argentina that the Argentine Ministry of Health reported 10,594 confirmed cases of dengue fever in Argentina as of April 12, 2009. Up until recently, cases had been restricted to the northern Argentine provinces of Chaco, Salta, Catamarca, Tucuman, Corrientes and Jujuy, however 107 cases have now been confirmed in the capital and in Buenos Aires Province. The Health Ministry reported that all suspected and confirmed cases in Buenos Aires had been imported from the most affected provinces, but media reports said that at least five infected people had not traveled outside of the capital region. Dengue fever is a mosquito-transmitted illness, for which there is no vaccine, and no specific treatment. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a rare, more severe and sometimes fatal form of the disease.

Read the full alert at The Argentine Post.

Here are the signs and symptoms of dengue fever according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • fever
  • severe headache
  • pain behind the eyes
  • joint and muscle pain
  • rash
  • nausea/vomiting
  • hemorrhagic (bleeding) manifestations

"Usually dengue fever causes a mild illness, but it can be severe and lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), which can be fatal if not treated. People who have had dengue fever before are more at risk of getting DHF." [1]

Mosquito-borne illnesses such as yellow fever and dengue are not new to Argentina, but the number of cases is most certainly on the rise. An article in the journal Nature states that "dengue has become the world's most widely spread vector-borne disease over the past decade, according to Ricardo Gürtler, a dengue researcher at the University of Buenos Aires. Largely driven out of Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, dengue's comeback has been linked to factors such as climate change, urbanization—which has been particularly rapid in Latin America—and decreased use of pesticides that reliably kill the mosquito vector." [2] More specific information about dengue fever's reemergence in Argentina can be found in the CDC's journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

In the meantime, if you are living in Argentina or traveling to areas where dengue fever may be a threat, please visit the CDC's website to read more about dengue and preventive measures that you can take to protect yourself.

[1] Outbreak Notice/Update: Dengue, Tropical and Subtropical Regions
[2] Argentina's dengue-fever outbreak reaches capital

[Photo credit: James Gathany]

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Put Your Hands Where I Can See 'Em

Daniel has begun work on phase II of "the palace," so the office is a complete shambles, with tools and materials strewn all about. This morning I glanced down and saw an old clamp lying on the floor that bore a strong resemblance to a handcuff. I pointed to it and said to Daniel, "That clamp looks like..." and then I paused because it occurred to me that I did not know the word for "handcuffs" in Spanish.

I held my hands out in front of me and asked, "What are those things called that the police put around your wrists when they arrest you?"

Daniel replied, "Esposas."

"Huh? Really?" He smiled and I just laughed. "Hmm, damn machismo."

You see, esposa (plural: esposas) is also the word for wife. Read More......

The Science Behind Life Below the Equator

Today I'm going to get a little nerdy on you guys. Ok, really nerdy. What can I say? My dad is a retired earth science professor. I come by it honestly.

These days I'm not just far from where I grew up—I'm living in a completely different hemisphere! To be exact, my adopted home of Necochea has a latitude of 38° 33' S, as compared to Philadelphia's latitude of 39° 57' N. Though the two locations are virtually the same distance from the equator, living south of that imaginary line makes all the difference, with profound implications ranging from what the sky looks like at night to animal migration patterns. 

Let's take a look at four aspects of the natural world that differ in the southern hemisphere. I've done my best to provide you with reputable scientific sources about each phenomenon so you can indulge your inner nerd and explore further if you so choose.

Reversal of the Seasons

The seasons are reversed in the northern and southern hemispheres; when it is winter in the northern hemisphere, it is summer in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa. The fine folks at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX have written up a very clear explanation of the causes of this phenomenon, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm going to direct you here to read all about it.

Misplaced Snowman by puroticorico, on Flickr [Creative Commons]

Opposing seasons turn things topsy-turvy when it comes to holidays. For example, most of the classic symbols of Christmas and Easter are strongly linked to the northern hemisphere seasons in which they're celebrated. While you're all dreaming of a white Christmas, we're seriously thinking about heading to the beach to escape the heat (though this is also true for those of you living in the tropics).

The influence of the reversal of seasons extends to the academic calendar as well. In Argentina, the school year gets underway in March and finishes up in December, with students enjoying an extended summer break just like their counterparts in the northern hemisphere.

The Coriolis Effect

If you ask someone to describe the Coriolis effect, his response (if it's not a blank stare) will be something like this: "The Earth's rotation causes the water in a sink or toilet to drain in one direction in the northern hemisphere and in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere." If you need to brush up on your physics, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research offers an accurate description of the Coriolis effect.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Coriolis effect does not influence the direction that water drains in a sink or toilet. The professors at Penn State University want you to know that although in theory water should drain in opposite directions in the two hemispheres, in practice it is very difficult to demonstrate this phenomenon due to differences in toilet and sink design that easily overcome the relatively weak Coriolis force. 

The Coriolis Effect by Digit_AL, on Flickr

While you're unlikely to catch the Coriolis effect at work while staring into the toilet, you may have better luck if you flip to the Weather Channel. "The rotation of the Earth does influence the direction of rotation of large weather systems and large vortices in the oceans, for these are very long-lived phenomena and so allow the very weak Coriolis force to produce a significant effect, with time." [1] As a result, hurricanes and tropical storms that form in the southern hemisphere spin clockwise while those that form in the northern hemisphere spin counterclockwise. 

The Night Sky

Most people aren't terribly adept at picking out constellations in the night sky, but just about everyone who lives in the northern hemisphere is familiar with the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and the North Star (Polaris). However, I suggest you don't go looking for the Big Dipper here in Argentina—you won't find it. 

Instead, if you look to the south, you'll be treated to a view of the Southern Cross (Crux), one of the most recognizable constellations in the southern hemisphere. "It is easy to locate simply by looking for four bright stars all less than five degrees apart. Five degrees is about the width of your three middle fingers held at arm's length." [2] As with most constellations, you'll have to use your imagination, but if you picture a cross lying on its side in the upper left-hand corner of the photo below, there you have it. 

Southern Cross Leads the Way by bloke_with_camera, on Flickr [Creative Commons]

"Because it is not visible from most latitudes in the northern hemisphere, Crux is a modern constellation and has no Greek or Roman myths associated with it. Crux was used by explorers of the southern hemisphere to point south since, unlike the north celestial pole, the south celestial pole is not marked by any bright star." [3]

Much to my delight, my favorite constellation Orion is visible in both hemispheres; however, Orion looks a bit different here. Viewing the constellation from my perspective here in the southern hemisphere, Orion is upside down.

This article highlights differences between the night sky in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Animal Migration

Down here below the equator, even the migratory habits of the critters are different. Humpback whales spend the southern hemisphere summer in the food-rich waters of the Antarctic, and then they head north to balmier climes for breeding season. [4]

In terms of our fine feathered friends, it seems that "bird migration is a mainly northern hemisphere phenomenon. The lack of wide expanses of land in the southern hemisphere leads to a more stable climate and less overall seasonal movement of organisms." [5] Those species that do migrate to escape colder temperatures head north rather than south.

Whooper Swans by nickpix2009, on Flickr [Creative Commons]

For more information about this topic, you can read an overview of South American austral migration by researchers at the University of Florida.

[Photo Credits: puroticorico, Digit_AL, bloke_with_camera, and nickpix2009]

[1] Bad Coriolis
[2] Observing the Constellation Crux
[3] Crux – The Southern Cross
[4] Southern Whale Migration Overlapping Northern Whale Breeding Grounds
[5] Tree Swallow Migration Using Matrices

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The Face of the Competition

I'm not normally the jealous type. It's just that there's this girl in the neighborhood with designs on Daniel, and it seems that I may have cause for concern.

She's younger. She's cuter. She's more petite. And she plays with dolls (but I don't think that part is working in her favor). I present to you…the face of the competition.

The Competition by katiealley on Flickr

All kidding aside, I really do think our neighbor's granddaughter has a crush on Daniel. And well, why shouldn't she? He's a good catch.

She displays her affection for Daniel in the manner typical of most six-year-olds: she makes fun of him. She hasn't quite decided how to address me yet (she flip-flops back and forth between the informal "vos" and the more formal "usted"), but she talks to Daniel as if he were just another kid at school.

A Tough Cookie by katiealley

Surely you've heard the old saying keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well, just in case, I've made sure to get on her good side – her really good side.

We talk almost every day for a few minutes. She cracks up if I say something in English because it "sounds funny," and sometimes she laughs when I speak Spanish too (probably for the same reason). Once in a while I can't understand her, but then again, I don't always get what little kids are saying to me in English either.

She's always full of questions (and daring ones at that!). Just the other day she asked me, "Have you ever kissed Daniel…on the lips, when no one is looking?" My stepdad constantly reminds me that he's keeping an eye on me from 5,500 miles away. Now I'm starting to wonder if it's true.

With Her Baby Doll by katiealley

In any event, the competition is stiff, but I think I'm safe for the time being. Because after all, I'm a pretty good catch too.

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Holy Week & Easter in Argentina

Someone has kidnapped the Easter Bunny. I'm convinced he's been taken for ransom because I haven't seen hide nor hair of him here in Argentina. Did I mention that the kidnapper made off with all the Easter baskets, fake grass and plastic eggs too?

Easter in Argentina is primarily a religious celebration, and as such, many of the non-religious traditions that we associate with Easter in the United States are notably absent here. There are no Easter egg hunts, no baskets filled to overflowing with candy, and no hippity-hoppity Easter Bunny.

But none of this means that Argentina is devoid of tradition at Easter. Here are a few of the Argentine customs associated with Holy Week and Easter.

Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Every year during Holy Week, thousands of Argentines make a pilgrimage to the city of Tandil, situated about two hours north of Necochea. The Vía Crucis, which features 14 groupings of stone sculptures depicting the Stations of the Cross, attracts the faithful who look to worship and meditate upon the sufferings and sacrifice of Jesus.

Christ on the Cross, Vía Crucis, Tandil, Argentina by Celina Ortelli on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]

The Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent is not widely observed, though most Argentines refrain from eating meat on the days leading up to Easter, beginning with Holy Thursday. Empanadas de vigilia (empanadas that feature non-meat fillings such as tuna or vegetables) figure prominently on the menu at this time along with fish dishes.

In Argentina, Palm Sunday is called Domingo de Ramos (Branch Sunday), and olive branches are blessed and distributed by the priests instead of palm fronds.

Viernes Santo (Good Friday) is a national holiday in Argentina, and most businesses are closed until Easter Monday. In fact, a number of shops will close their doors one day earlier on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) to make a four-day weekend of the holiday. The traditional meal served on Viernes Santo is a stew that includes bacalao (salt cod). Daniel's family typically prepares bacalao con garbanzos (salt cod with chickpeas).

La Pascua/Domingo de Resurrección (Easter Sunday)

On Easter Day, most families gather to celebrate with an asado, with lamb as a popular choice. After the Easter meal, Argentines tuck into a large, hollow chocolate egg (huevo de Pascua) or small Kinder eggs (hollow chocolate eggs with tiny candies or toys inside). The rosca de Pascua, a bread ring topped with sprinkles, candied fruits, chocolate drizzles and/or pastry cream, is also very traditional.

What the Argentines lack in terms of candy and visits with the Easter Bunny at the mall, they make up for in time spent with family and an appreciation for the religious meaning of the celebration. ¡Felices Pascuas!

[Photo credit: Celina Ortelli]

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Recipe File: Chipá | Cheese Rolls

I am a foodie. There, I said it – it's out in the open. Are you happy now?

Honestly, anyone who already knows me is well aware of the fact that I love all things food-related. I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy the fruits of my labor even more, as evidenced by my ample waistline. But my interest in food is not limited to its consumption. I take pleasure in reading and trying out recipes, learning new cooking techniques and discovering great places to dine out. I even belonged to a cooking club when I lived in Philadelphia (hello ladies!).

Before I left for Argentina, I promised my cooking club compatriots as well as other interested foodies that I would post recipes on my blog from time to time. So here I present to you the first recipe card for the file: chipá.

Chipá is a type of cheese bread most commonly prepared in the northern provinces of Argentina and Paraguay. The word "chipá" comes from Guaraní, the language of an indigenous group of the same name based in this region. I found an excellent description of these tasty rolls on the food blog The Traveler's Lunchbox:

"...these little breads are fundamentally different from the majority of cheese-bready things around the world in that they are naturally and completely gluten-free.... They're made entirely with tapioca starch (the fine, white powder extracted from cassava roots), which gives them a texture quite unlike anything else."

In northern Argentina and Paraguay, where the cheesy little rolls enjoy enormous popularity, vendors called chiperos walk the streets with large baskets of chipá for sale. The cries of the chipero are a familiar sound in these parts, and people flock to him to buy chipá to accompany their breakfast or as an afternoon snack.

Daniel's stepdad Tomás is a truck driver, and many years ago he was sent to make a delivery to the city of Clorinda, located in the Argentine province of Formosa just a stone's throw from Paraguay. Close to his final destination but feeling drowsy, Tomás stopped and parked his truck to get a little shut-eye. At roughly 3am he was awakened by the sound of someone knocking on the door of his truck. Slightly alarmed, he got up and peered out the window only to be met by the weathered but smiling face of a vendor asking, "¿Chipáaaa, señor?" I'll let you imagine what Tomás' response to that question was at 3am.

This recipe for chipá has been adapted from my friend Gabriel's blog, Live from Waterloo.

Making Chipá by katiemetz, on Flickr [Eggs, cheese and tapioca flour for the chipá]

Chipá | Cheese Rolls


4 cups tapioca flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick butter, melted
3 cups shredded gouda or jack cheese [or the Argentine cheese pategrás]
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
milk, as needed [approx. ¾  to 1 cup]


Mix the tapioca flour and salt in a bowl, and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and melted butter. Mix thoroughly to incorporate. Add the cheeses and then gradually add milk as needed, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead lightly to fully incorporate the ingredients. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap.

Form the dough into balls about 1½ to 2 inches in diameter. Bake at 400ºF for approximately 20 minutes, or until the dough has puffed and the cheese bits have browned.

Chipá are best enjoyed straight from the oven, as they tend to harden as they cool.

Chipá, by Elizabeth Lovelace [FotosEli], image used with photographer's permission, all rights reserved[Fresh from the oven]

Chipá make a great accompaniment to mate or coffee. ¡Buen provecho!

[Photo credit: Elizabeth Lovelace of FotosEli, used with photographer's permission]

Recipe updated on June 8, 2012

Are you looking for more Argentine recipes? Click here to browse the entire Recipe File, or try out the new visual recipe index. Read More......

April Fools’ Day in Argentina

"The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year." – Mark Twain

April Fools' Day by Community Friend, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]Today, April 1st, marks exactly one month to the day that I landed in Argentina, and that, my friends, is no joke. I must admit, however, that the thought of publishing a phony blog entry did cross my mind…something to the effect of, "I've had it up to here with these mate-swilling, asado-eating, soccer-watching Argentines, and I'm coming home on the very next flight out of Buenos Aires," but I figured that would be a pretty transparent hoax. You're all smarter than that. Instead, I decided I would tell you all about how April Fools' Day is celebrated here in Argentina.

The only trouble is, it's not.

But that statement in and of itself is a tad misleading. As it turns out, there is a version of April Fools' Day celebrated in Latin America and Spain. Known as El Día de los Inocentes, the holiday is observed on December 28th rather than April 1st.

"Dia de los Santos Inocentes – Day of the Holy Innocents is a religious holiday named in honor of the young children who were slaughtered by order of King Herod around the time of Jesus' birth. These young victims were called Santos Inocentes or 'Holy Innocents' because they were too young and innocent to have committed any sins. Although the feast remains on the Catholic Liturgical calendar, today the religious aspect has been almost forgotten…" [1]

In the Middle Ages, people decided to lighten things up a bit. They took to commemorating this rather somber event through the use of humor and practical jokes, and it seems the tradition stuck. Silly pranks are the order of the day for El Día de los Inocentes, just as they are on April Fools' Day.

Newspapers and other news outlets have joined in on the fun by reporting bogus stories on El Día de los Inocentes. A few years ago, the Argentine newspaper Clarín published a front-page story with the headline "Incendio en la Rosada." ("Fire at the Casa Rosada" [La Casa Rosada or "The Pink House" is the Argentine equivalent of the White House]) [2]

It would appear that down here in Argentina I'm relatively safe from practical jokes, at least for the next nine months. However, for those of you in April-Fools'-celebrating territory looking for some inspiration or if you’re simply in need of a good chuckle, check out the The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time. There are some pretty funny ones on the list. My personal favorite was #4: The Taco Liberty Bell.

So, tell me, have you ever pulled an April Fools' Day prank or worse yet, been the butt of one?

[Photo credit: Community Friend]
[Sources: [1] Spanish Food, [2] Diario Uno]

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