Buenos Aires likes to regard itself as an Italo-Spanish city washed up on South American shores, and here the legend of immigrant gauchos taming empty wildernesses survives. But in the north this myth disintegrates. Walk the streets of Posadas, of Resistencia, of Jujuy – these are important cities, not remote villages – and people’s indigenous heritage is clear.
The Andean northwest
It’s an Argentina far removed from the capital’s bustle. A thousand miles northwest of Buenos Aires, in Jujuy, the Andes loom not far away, just out of sight but defining the ways of life. The ñoquis (gnocchi) and steaks have long since given way to locro, a highland maize-and-pork stew full of soul-satisfying textures. The road north towards southern Bolivia winds upwards through the otherworldly colours of the Quebrada de Humahuaca; indigenous handcrafts brighten village markets, locals chew coca, and ruined thousand-year-old fortresses crumble among giant trident-shaped cardón cactuses. Off the highway, asphalt becomes rutted dirt, and battered buses churn through mud or dust to settlements where the daily rituals of llama-herding and coping with high-altitude life on the puna go on. Buenos Aires is a world away.
Southwest of Salta these valleys produce traditionally-woven ponchos and high-quality wine from the Andean foothills. It’s dry, dusty terrain and a bone-jarring journey away from urban life. Adobe houses, clay ovens, and hamlets seem untouched by European influence. But not so. ‘We Diaguita adapted to Spanish culture long ago’, says one weaver. ‘I’m proud of my indigenous roots but I feel Argentine above all else’.
Read more: Andy Symington, Lonely Planet