IRVINA LEW

Travel Writer & Author

Tag: Argentina

Adventure in Argentine World Wine Capital Mendoza

We have yet another great guest post here on About.com Argentina Travel, by author Irvina Lew, who has written for us a few times before.  You might remember her fantastic two part series on wine tasting in Buenos Aires, accessible here,in part 1 and here for part 2She also wrote about highlights of Jewish Buenos Aires in this article, also in two parts, with part 1 here, and part 2 here.  She also recently wrote on her hosted trip to visit the Algodon Wine Estate in San Rafael, which is not too far from Mendoza.

An opportune invitation to visit Argentina wine republicarrived in my inbox, via cyberspace, just a few days before I was ready to depart for a first trip to Buenos Aires, on a self-guided stay with my daughter. Argentina had been on my wish list for decades and I responded to the opportunity to return to Buenos Aires and discover Mendoza and Bariloche with an enthusiastic YEA!

On this trip, hosts representing the Algodon Group and LAN Airlines accompanied us, four travel writers, on an overnight flight from JFK via Santiago and to Mendoza, on a one-hour second flight.

Mendoza City, the capital of the 5th biggest wine producing region in the world has ideal conditions—hot dry days and cold nights–for the production of the Malbec grape, Argentina’s best-known grape. Although the varietal originated in Europe, it thrives in the stony soil watered by snow from the adjacent Andes Mountains along which the vines are planted. The grape has become more and more popular as winemakers—some of whom started planting in the early 1900s–concentrate on its vinification.

Mendoza City has lovely buildings, verdant parks, shopping streets and wine-centric restaurants that attract tourists. Oenotourism may be an unfamiliar word, but it’s a concept that Thomas Jefferson and avid 21st century oenophiles share. We fly, cruise and drive–or are driven–for hours, days and more, just to reach a wine bar, restaurant or winery and swirl, sniff and sip the liquid pleasure.

Artisanal local wines were very much a part of our lunch at a contemporary, Italian-Argentinian restaurant called La Marchigiana. We arrived so near noon, that the restaurant had that where-are-all-the-people? emptiness. It’s something that Americans so often experience in a foreign country when they enter a restaurant at 7:30pm or 8pm and find locals showing up well after 10pm. While we were finishing our fresh, seasonal menu items, family groups arrived for their Sunday mid-afternoon dinner and by the time we departed, the place was jumping.

Our driver drove through the city and dropped us off near the wrought iron gates of General San Martin Park for a stroll. The massive park—with monuments, fountains, a man-made lake, botanical gardens, playgrounds and shaded allées–was designed byFrench Argentine landscape architect Carlos Thays who designed the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden and the terraced gardens behind Palacio Duhau as well as other major Argentine parks: Ninth of July Park, Sarmiento Park, Parque Tres de Febrero, and Nahuel Huapi National Park (a pristine, two million acre park which we viewed, explored and hiked, later in the week, while we were staying at Llao Llao in Bariloche.)

Later, we joined a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour, which passes the Mendoza Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Anthropology, Plaza Pedro del Casillo and an aquarium. The bus followed a winding road up to an entry into Cerro de la Gloria (Hill of Glory), a huge and magnificent national monument.

Mendoza City is central to the 1500 regional wineries. Maipu begins about 10 miles from the center of the city and the desert-like Valle de Uco—where the prestigious Bodega Catena Zapata winery rises like a Mayan temple begins approximately 50 miles away. City visitors can visit a few wineries in a day, IF someone else is driving, or lunch at one winery, such as the popular Bodega Familia Zuccardi.

Winery resorts, including the Algodon Wine Estate in San Rafael, where we spent three nights, welcome guests for overnight, weekend and longer stays. By mid-afternoon on the day we arrived, we sped out of Mendoza city heading south en route through wine country towards San Rafael, and the rolling foothills of the Sierra Pintada Mountains, at the base of the Andes Mountains.

By  Irvina Lew
P
ublished on About.com

Jewish Buenos Aires ~ Part 1

???????????????????????????????Fabulous Sites for Chanukah Visits and Anytime in the Argentine Capital

Chanukah—the eight-day, candle-lighting holiday–commemorates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (c.168 B.C.E) after a three-year struggle against persecution. It’s an appropriate time to recall that oppression has also led to immigration, in general, and the Jewish presence in Argentina, in particular.

I’ve long had a curiosity about the multi-cultured diversity in Buenos Aires. Along with its indigenous roots, French-inspired architecture and Italian-influenced lifestyle, I’d heard the city was home to the largest Jewish community in South America (some lists claim it’s the sixth largest in the world).

While I knew that the first arrivals fled the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition(15th/16th centuries) and that some coerced to convert (conversos) followed, that was the extent of my education.

So, on my very first trip to Buenos Aires, this October, I decided to learn what I could about the Jewish community and proceeded to ask almost everyone I met about it.

Consequently, my daughter and I chatted with people in hotels, restaurants and shops who, it turned out, happened to be Jewish. In Palermo Viejo, we chatted with the owner of a stationery store who published a book benefitting a Jewish charity, a young woman who had just opened a hip café serving Jewish-style food and a jewelry designer who owned her own gallery.

For history, we toured the The Museo Judio, adjacent to the city’s oldest synagogue, La Libertad. The name refers to its street address, which happens to be near the fabulous Teatro Colon (where we saw the opera, Elektra, in its exquisite horseshoe-shaped theater). Its real name isCongregación Israelita de la República de Argentina, aka CIRA and it’s a stunning, Byzantine-style, “Jewish church” that was built in 1932.

Tours, and the weekly concerts, are free but, for security reasons, you must make an appointment 48-hours in advance and present your passport.

The guide pointed out exhibits of religious artifacts, ritual objects and photographs–including those of the rural communities—and added historical details. He noted that Argentina abolished the Inquisition and granted religious freedom after its independence from Spain in 1816.

Most immigration occurred after 1850 and from Eastern Europe. During the presidency of Domingo F. Sarmiento (1868-1874), there was an actual policy to recruit immigrants to develop under-populated land. Later, around 1881, philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch helped Jews fleeing Russian pogroms by financing Jewish agricultural settlements in Argentina. These settlers were originally called “Rusos,” and later became somewhat famous as “Jewish Gauchos.” By 1895, 3,880 out of 6,085 Jews or 65%, lived outside Buenos Aires; today, almost all—about 250,000– live in the capital.

Within the city, the community conducted its first ten-man service (minyan) in 1862, celebrated its first wedding, in 1868, and inaugurated its first synagogue (either 1875 or 1897). Until 1939, when Argentina cancelled its open door policy, Jews continued to emigrate from Europe. Though not permitted in the top ranks of military or political leadership, they worked in manufacturing plants, started retail businesses and became established in Porteño life and economy. By mid-century, Buenos Aires had a Jewish hospital, Zionist organizations and cultural institutions including Yiddish newspapers, books and theaters.

This is Part 1.  See Part 2 and read both full articles in About Travel

Jewish Buenos Aires ~ Part 2

Fabulous Jewish Sites for Chanukah Visits and Anytime in the Argentine Capital

President Juan Peron recognized the State of Israel, in 1949, during his first Jewish Traveladministration, which was the time he was married to Eva Duarte de Peron, better known as Evita.  There is a famous photograph at the time of Evita with Golda Meir, who visited Argentina.

Then, after his second administration, after his return from exile, during the period of post-Peron military dictatorships (1976-1983), a disproportionate number of Jews (roughly 10% or 3,000 of 30,000) were among the disappeared, the “desaparecidos.”  This period was known as the Dirty War, which you can learn more about here.

Among the best known of those Jews tortured under the military dictatorship who survived was Jacobo Timerman, a journalist, who wrote several books related to his imprisonment.  His son, Hector Timerman, is Argentina’s current foreign minister and was the Argentine Ambassador to the United States previously.

In 1991, Jewish charities responded to the needs of 4,000 people; after the peso devalued, that number multiplied ten-fold and a number of synagogues (there were about 90) and parochial schools had to close or merge.

The two painful incidents that occurred during the 1990s are the reason for on-going security measures at Jewish sites. On March 17, 1992, the Israeli Embassy was bombed. Once located in a quiet corner of residential Recoleta where Calles Suipacha and Arroyo meet, only an outline of the former building on an adjacent structure remains. Though the neighborhood is known for its luxe hotels and embassies, this spot has been preserved as a serene park with 22 trees and seven benches to memorialize the 29 who died there.

And, on July 18 1994, AMIA was bombed. The Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina is an important Jewish Community Center that offers educational, employment and cultural arts programs in the neighborhood of Once and Abasto. The still-unsolved crime left 85 Porteños dead. Today, their names are carved on a protective wall and the inner courtyard is home to the Monument to the Memory of the Victims, by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam. It’s a kinetic Star of David which appears to change as you move around it.

In spite of these tragedies and the current economic instability, both the secular and observant community has endured and prospered. During a walking tour of Once, an historic, Jewish neighborhood, we got a glimpse of a more traditional life.  Our guide Ariela, from Anda Tours, introduced us to this garment-center-district where streets are lined with small shops featuring bolts of bright fabrics or women’s clothing. She pointed out that each door of a Jewish business displays a Mezuzah (a prayer on parchment enclosed within a decorative case). We noticed some of the city’s 30 Kosher restaurants, browsed a Kosher food market, saw synagogues and a Police Station with a sign in both Spanish and Hebrew. She also told us about the country’s only Kosher McDonalds, in the Abasto Shopping Mall.  You can find more information on Kosher dining in Buenos Aireson this link.

For those not interested in a formal, guided tour, a brochure called Buenos Aires Kosherin Spanish and in English lists museums, such as Centro de Ana Frank and the Museo del Holocausto hotels with kosher meals (The Alvear Palace Hotel in Recoleta for example caters events with up to 400 kosher meals), kosher restaurants, Jewish bookstores and shops, synagogues and community centers; it also indicates walking tours.

For me, the major benefits of travel are to meet locals and learn history “in situ” and I was lucky to experience both in Buenos Aires. One remark made by the young Jewish tour guide seems to best sum up the city’s multi-cultural diversity: “We are Italians who speak Spanish.”

See more articles on Jewish Buenos Aires and cultural sites here, and a neighborhood visit tour with more information on the Temple and Jewish Museum here.

This is Part 2 of the articles that originally appeared in About Travel.
For Part 1 click here.

 

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