Vintage Photos of Argentina

Some time ago, I confessed my love of vintage photographs. In my quest to uncover more vintage goodness, I decided to delve into The Commons on Flickr, a collection of publicly-held images submitted by museums and other cultural organizations from around the world. Friends, I can happily report that I have struck the mother lode.

I found a fascinating series of images from Argentina that dates to the 1920s, culled entirely from the archives of Chicago's Field Museum Library. I was also excited to note that many of the photographs were taken in and around Necochea and Quequén. 

Argentina is rich with fossils—a paleontologist's dream, really—and the Field Museum sent two small teams of scientists to undertake fossil-collecting expeditions that spanned several years and numerous provinces: The Captain Marshall Field Expedition for Vertebrate Paleontology (1922-1925), and The 2nd Captain Marshall Field Paleontological Expedition (1926). It seems that the efforts of the second expedition were primarily focused on sites in Catamarca (northwestern Argentina) and the province of Buenos Aires, including towns such as Necochea, Quequén, and Monte Hermoso. 

Although the men were obviously here for scientific purposes, they also managed to capture some wonderful scenes from everyday life in Argentina at the turn of the 20th century. Here are just a few of the many photos from Necochea and Quequén:

Puerto Quequén by The Field Museum Library, on Flickr [The Commons] [Horse-drawn wagons carrying wheat to the port for shipment – Puerto Quequén – 1926]

Swimming Races by The Field Museum Library, on Flickr [The Commons] [Swimming races – 1926]

Elmer Riggs standing by a large natural arch, Necochea by The Field Museum Library, on Flickr [The Commons][Elmer Riggs, expedition leader, standing by a large natural arch – coast of Necochea – 1926]

Scene on Río Quequén Grande by The Field Museum Library, on Flickr [The Commons][Scene on Río Quequén Grande, near camp – present-day Paraje Las Cascadas – 1926] 

At the Site of the Megatherium excavation by The Field Museum Library, on Flickr [The Commons][At the site of the Megatherium excavation – bank of the Río Quequén Salado]

Explore some of the 200+ vintage images from all over Argentina that are available on The Commons at Flickr.

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Lighthouses of Argentina & Uruguay

A few years ago I began developing an interest in lighthouses. They have a certain charm and nostalgia about them that I find very appealing, and they make great subjects for photography (as if I needed another excuse to take pictures!). So far, I have logged visits to nine lighthouses, four of which are located in Argentina and Uruguay. 

There are lots of opportunities to visit lighthouses here in Argentina, as the country's extensive coastline is dotted with nearly 60 of them. In fact, there's even one just a few minutes from my home—the Faro Quequén. Neighboring Uruguay, which is roughly the size of Washington State, has its fair share of lighthouses as well.

Here are some photos and information about the lighthouses I've visited thus far below the equator.

Faro Quequén – Quequén, Province of Buenos Aires

Caracol II - Faro Quequén | Quequén Lighthouse, Quequén, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

After climbing the 163 steps of the Faro Quequén's spiral staircase, you'll be treated to an aerial view of the port in Quequén, the expansive beaches of Necochea and Quequén, and even the shipwrecked Pesuarsa II, one of the most photographed sights in the area (in addition to the lighthouse, of course).

Faro Punta Mogotes – Mar del Plata, Province of Buenos Aires

Faro Punta Mogotes | Mogotes Point Lighthouse, Mar del Plata, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

This colorful red-and-white-striped lighthouse located in the lively beach resort of Mar del Plata was prefabricated in France. The pieces were then shipped to Argentina and assembled on-site. At nighttime, Faro Punta Mogotes casts a beam of light that can be seen at a distance of up to 42 nautical miles. Visitors must be content with just a peek from the outside, as the lighthouse is not currently open to the public.

Faro Claromecó – Claromecó, Province of Buenos Aires

Faro Claromecó | Claromecó Lighthouse, Claromecó, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

Faro Claromecó is the second tallest lighthouse in all of Argentina. The lighthouse is open to visitors, and the long climb to the top will reward you with splendid views of the Atlantic coast. Another special feature of this lighthouse is the enormous whale skeleton that has been preserved and put on display at the bottom of the lighthouse's winding staircase.

Faro de Colonia – Colonia del Sacramento

Faro de Colonia | Colonia Lighthouse, Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay by katiemetz, on Flickr

This 19th-century lighthouse is unique in that it was built adjacent to the ruins of the Convento de San Francisco, a Franciscan convent that dates from the late 1600s. A climb to the upper gallery affords views of Colonia's historic quarter and the Río de la Plata, the expansive river that divides Argentina and Uruguay.

Come springtime, I'm hoping to add the Faro Recalada a Bahía Blanca in Monte Hermoso, Argentina to my list. With 327 steps leading to the top, it's not only the tallest lighthouse in Argentina but in all of South America. [Update: I made it there! Read my post about Faro Recalada.]

Faro Recalada a Bahía Blanca, Argentina[Nautical chart courtesy of Servicio de Hidrografía Naval]

Additional information about the lighthouses of Argentina and Uruguay:

Official List of Lighthouses in Argentina [Spanish]
Lighthouses of Northern Argentina [English]
Lighthouses of Southern Argentina [English]
Lighthouses of Uruguay [English]

If you're a lighthouse photo junkie, visit my complete lighthouse set on Flickr.

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Witches, Bonfires & Dancing at the Festividad de San Juan

Quema de la Sorgina [Bruja] | Burning the Witch by katiealley on Flickr

With roots in the pagan celebration of the summer solstice, the Festividad de San Juan [Feast of St. John] celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist while retaining a number of pre-Christian rituals. The Feast of St. John falls on June 24th, but it's not unusual for the festivities to take place on an alternate date sometime around the solstice. [1]

Midsummer festivals and celebrations in honor of St. John are not unique to one particular corner of the world; however, I'll focus on the traditions of Spain's Basque region (País Vasco), since those are the customs that have influenced Necochea's Festividad de San Juan.

In the heart of the País Vasco, on the eve of the Feast of St. John (San Juan Sua), bonfires are lit to ward off evil spirits. Custom dictates that the young people must jump over the fire three times to purify themselves and bring good luck. It's also traditional to throw objects into the fire that represent things the person desires to change or leave in the past (e.g. a smoker may throw a pack of cigarettes in the fire if he wishes to quit). Sometimes these wishes are written on scraps of paper that are tossed into the fire. [2]

A tremendous wave of European immigration at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century brought a number of Basques to Argentina. The immigrants kept alive many of their traditions from the "old country," and so the Festividad de San Juan continues here in Necochea, which is home to a significant Basque community.

This year's Festividad de San Juan was held on June 20th in front of the Centro Vasco Euzko Extea (the Basque Cultural Center) in Necochea. In contrast to the celebrations in the northern hemisphere, the festivities here took place on the eve of the winter solstice. A giant papier–mâché witch was mounted above a bundle of sticks in preparation for a roaring bonfire. Merrymakers launched firecrackers and then set the towering witch ablaze as costumed dancers twirled about, illuminated by the fire. Following the burning of the witch, a huge dinner was served in the Centro Vasco (I know a good witch burning always makes me hungry).

Setting the Witch on Fire by katiealley on Flickr[Lighting the bonfire]

The Witch Goes Up in Flames by katiealley on Flickr [Witch + Fire = Bye Bye Evil Spirits]

Basque Dancer by katiealley on Flickr [The Basque dancers]

If you'd like to see more images from the Festividad de San Juan, I have a second video available and additional photos.

Here's hoping your summer/winter solstice (whichever the case may be) was free of evil spirits. I know mine was.

[1] Wikipedia
[2] [in Spanish]

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Recipe File: Argentine Locro

Clay Pot | Olla de Barro by katiemetz, on Flickr

Locro is one of those dishes that inspires rivalries and stirs intense family pride. It seems there are countless versions of this hearty Argentine stew from the northwestern provinces, and of course, any recipe handed down from the venerable abuela is considered a culinary masterpiece. Period.

Faced with a dizzying array of recipes that had excellent lineage but invariably involved some objectionable ingredient like tripe (sorry, Grandma), I did the most sensible thing I could think of—I took the abuela out of the equation. I eventually settled on a recipe by Dan Perlman, an American chef and food writer living in Buenos Aires. 

As Dan explains on his food blog SaltShaker, he developed this locro recipe after researching numerous other recipes, talking with Argentine home cooks, and tinkering a bit in the kitchen. Though the preparation is a bit labor intensive, the result is a rich stew that's packed with flavor and very satisfying. 

So, cozy up with a big bowl of locro on a cold day, and enjoy this recipe that would surely make any Argentine grandmother proud! 

Argentine Locro by katiemetz, on Flickr

Argentine Locro
Adapted from a recipe by Dan Perlman
Serves 6


1 cup dried white corn [hominy]
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2- ¼" thick slices of smoked pancetta or slab bacon, cubed
2 chorizos colorados or other slightly spicy sausage, sliced
2- 1" thick pieces of osso buco [beef shanks], or similar cut
2 ears of fresh yellow sweet corn, cut the kernels off the cobs
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 bay leaves
salt to taste
½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1 ½ c. butternut squash, peeled and diced small
1 ½ c. yams, peeled and diced small
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced small
2 plum tomatoes, cut in small wedges
chopped green onion for garnish [optional]
chili oil [see directions]


Soak the hominy in 2 cups of water overnight (a minimum of 12 hours).

The next day, prepare the chili oil in advance by soaking a teaspoon of ají molido (or crushed red pepper flakes) in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 hours.

Place the onions, garlic, pancetta, chorizo, and osso buco in a large stewpot. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the fresh yellow corn, cumin, paprika, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for roughly 10 minutes. Add the soaked hominy, including the soaking water. Add hot water to the pot to about 2 inches above the level of the ingredients. Add the remaining vegetables, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring every 15-20 minutes, for at least 2 hours.

At this point, uncover the pot and remove the bay leaves. Remove the pieces of osso buco and discard the bones. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, and then return it to the pot. Continue to stir over low heat, and using the back of a wide spoon or spatula, press the ingredients up against the sides of the pot so that the starchy vegetables and tomato break down into the soup (the corn and meat will resist being mashed). As you continue to stir, mash, and cook, the soup should gradually thicken. Continue until the locro reaches the rich consistency of a stew. Add salt to taste.

Serve in bowls, and garnish with green onions and a touch of chili oil.

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......

The Parks of Palermo: El Rosedal

During my recent jaunt to Buenos Aires, I had a chance to spend a delightful Sunday afternoon at El Rosedal (the Rose Garden), one of the beautiful parks in the barrio of Palermo. El Rosedal forms part of the 62-acre Parque Tres de Febrero, an oasis of green and relative calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.

Though winter is nearly upon us here in the southern hemisphere, there were still many lovely roses in bloom as well as a few butterflies flitting about. The holiday weekend preceding El Día de la Patria combined with unseasonably warm temperatures brought many families out to enjoy a bit of sunshine and fresh air.

As I sat beneath an expansive pergola enjoying the picnic lunch I'd brought with me, couples floated past in colorful paddleboats on the artificial lake known as the Lago de Palermo. Children attempted to scale a massive gomero (rubber tree), as their parents looked on from a few feet away, cameras poised to catch just the right moment. An old man who ambled by with a cane paused to cup a frilly musk rose in his hand and inhale the heady aroma.

The park's atmosphere was vibrant and alive, and I was glad I made time for a visit. After all, we should all stop and smell the roses once in a while.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from El Rosedal:

I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty by katiemetz, on Flickr [A hungry butterfly snacking on some salvia nectar]

Gratitude by katiemetz, on Flickr [Deep pink roses in full bloom]

Autumn Afternoon in Buenos Aires | Una Tarde de Otoño en Buenos Aires by katiemetz, on Flickr[An autumn afternoon in Buenos Aires]

El Banco | The Bench by katiemetz, on Flickr[One of the many benches where you can sit and take it all in]

Slowly Opening Up To Me by katiemetz, on Flickr[The beauty of the rose unfolds.]

If you'd like to see more photos of Buenos Aires' best-loved rose garden, view my El Rosedal set on Flickr.

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Funny Argentine Brand Names

Please allow me to indulge in a bit of sophomoric humor. Here are a few interesting products and/or stores that I have come across in Argentina.

Bimbo Bread[Bimbo – bread and other baked goods]

McPussy Sponge[McPussy – sponges and other cleaning products]

Barfy Burgers [Barfy – preformed hamburger patties]

Mr. Cock, Bariloche, Argentina[Mr. Cock, a children's clothing shop in Bariloche, Argentina]

Have you come across any funny or strange brand names in your travels?

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Recipe File: Empanadas de Humita

Empanadas de Humita by katiemetz, on FlickrEmpanadas are portable, versatile and just plain delicious. Akin to a turnover, these stuffed pastries are another one of my favorite foods here in Argentina. Though empanadas are certainly not unique to Argentina – they can be found throughout Latin America – they're extremely popular here and are closely associated with the national cuisine. Argentine empanadas tend to be baked rather than fried, and they usually feature savory fillings. They make excellent finger food, and they frequently appear at family get-togethers, asados, etc. It's easy to get a quick fix too – you can order empanadas for delivery from just about every take-out joint.

There are countless varieties of empanadas, which I find to be part of their appeal. They're completely customizable to the ingredients that you have on hand, and it's fun to experiment with different and unexpected flavor combinations. With that said, there are several tried-and-true empanada fillings used in Argentina, one of which is humita.

Empanadas de humita are typically filled with a mixture of corn and a basic white sauce. The contrast in texture between the creamy sauce and the slightly crunchy corn is quite nice, making this type one of my favorite. 

Before we get to the recipe, a word about empanada dough. The tremendous popularity of empanadas in Argentina ensures that every supermarket here carries pre-made tapas (discs of empanada dough). In the U.S., it's possible to find La Salteña and Goya brand tapas at Latin grocery stores or other supermarkets with a broad selection of ethnic products. 

If you cannot find empanada dough in your area, you can make it from scratch (link provided below). Another option is to buy ready-made pie crusts and cut smaller circles out of the dough using a large can or small bowl as a template. Pie dough won't work quite as well as real empanada dough, but it'll do in a pinch.

Empanadas de Humita
Makes approx. 1 dozen empanadas


For the dough:
Use pre-made tapas or follow this recipe to make your own from scratch.

For the filling:
5 Tbsp. butter (reserve 1 Tbsp. to sauté onion)
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ají molido (substitute red pepper flakes)
2/3 c. chopped onion
2 c. canned whole kernel corn, drained or fresh corn
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese or queso cremoso

For assembly:
1 beaten egg yolk 
a glass of water


For the white sauce:
In a small saucepan, melt 4 Tbsp. of butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste bubbles slightly — about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk while continuing to stir (using a whisk will help banish any pesky lumps). Cook the sauce gently for a few minutes until it fully thickens [note: sauce will be quite thick], and then remove it from the heat. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and ají molido.

To prepare the remaining ingredients for the filling:
In a medium skillet, melt the reserved tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the corn, white sauce, and cheese, and mix the filling until all of the ingredients are well-combined. Adjust seasonings as needed. Allow the filling to completely cool before assembling the empanadas; if time allows, place the filling in the refrigerator for several hours to chill.

Assembling the empanadas:
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of the empanada dough. Resist the urge to overfill the empanadas, as they will be difficult to work with and will likely explode in the oven if you do so. Dip your finger in the glass of water and lightly wet the edge of the dough. Bring the edges of the dough together and press firmly.

There are several methods used to seal empanadas (the repulgue). The most simple way involves pressing the tines of a fork around the edge of the empanada, but if you're interested in trying your hand at a fancier repulgue, here's a video that demonstrates an attractive twisted edge like I did on the empanada in the middle [see photo below]. 

Place the empanadas on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and brush them with egg yolk. Bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.

Empanadas de Humita by katiemetz, on Flickr

Recipe updated on Aug. 5, 2011

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

Tango: Milonga Style

Statue of Tango Dancers in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina Tango. For many people, the mention of this iconic Argentine dance conjures up images of a man with slicked-back hair stalking across the dance floor, his partner poured into a slinky dress with a rose clenched between her teeth. Or perhaps that famous scene from "Scent of a Woman" comes to mind.

The tango danced in the milongas (tango dance halls) of Buenos Aires bears little resemblance to what you've seen in the movies, but I assure you that it's no less soulful and engaging to watch.

I was lucky to receive an invitation to attend a milonga from two tango-dancing Aussies that I met at my friend Deby's birthday party. Sharon, Rosa and I made our way to "El Beso" after the party, where I had a chance to see what Argentine tango is all about.

Upon arrival at El Beso, I was seated at a table in the back row, as the most desirable seats up front are reserved for regulars. Since there was no tango dancing in my future, a spot up against the wall was no big deal; however, for those looking for an invitation to the dance floor, it's much harder to attract another dancer's attention from the back of the room.

When I inquired about taking photos, the milonga organizer requested that I be very discreet and limit myself to shots of the crowd in general as opposed to specific couples. She explained that married men and women often come to the milongas alone to dance without the knowledge of their spouses, and she didn't want to be responsible for any divorces. In fact, every time she passed by my table and glanced at my camera, she would knit her brows and exclaim, "¡No quiero divorcios! ¡No quiero divorcios!"

Honestly, she didn't have much to worry about as the dim lighting and movement made picture-taking near impossible. I did manage a bit of video (I apologize for the less-than-stellar quality), but please don't scrutinize the faces of the dancers. ¡No quiero divorcios!

Tango Dancing at "El Beso," Buenos Aires, Argentina

Please click here if you can't see the video.

I had a great time listening to the music, watching the dancers, and learning a bit about the códigos of tango (tango etiquette in the milonga) from Rosa and Sharon.

If you'd like to read more about the intriguing world of tango in Buenos Aires, check out TangoSpam: La Vida con Deby or tangocherie.

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