Buenos Aires has the 9 de Julio, San Telmo, and La Boca, the neighborhood of Palermo and Puerto Madero. Buenos Aires has 100 neighborhoods (although in reality, they are only 48, the expression is already a classic of our jargon) and millions of souls. But beyond the frenetic pace of Buenos Aires city, there is another classic that paints us from top to bottom, which allows us to say that we, the ones from Buenos Aires, have at least one gene from the outskirts: the Estancia.
This article is more for those who are not Argentinian since I will tell you a little about our popular culture. But all are welcome to discover our visit to the beautiful Estancia El Ombú de Areco, in one of those small towns of the Province of Buenos Aires where the steps are slow, and the times are different.
This is the Argentine estancia. Shall we start?
¿WHAT IS AN ESTANCIA?
According to the formal definition, an Estancia (ranch) is “a large rural establishment in the Southern Cone, especially intended for the extensive breeding of cattle or sheep, and which is usually characterized by the existence of at least one building center that includes houses, silos, stables or farms, warehouses and other related constructions “.
But we are not going to stay in that boring description of what could well be one of the greatest symbols of Argentina. La Estancia is yesterday and today, it tells the history of our country, the essence of our culture. Immigrants and criollos alike trod their pastures and tamed their horses.
Opening the gate of an Estancia is entering into another time, calendar and rhythm-wise. Because it takes us to an aristocratic past of great lands. It takes us to a bonfire and a hot mate, a freshly baked bread, an afternoon without hurry, with the singing of the birds and the walk of the horses.
The Estancia means to go without hurrying up on the back of a horse, enjoying just the simple fact of being, without anything else to do. The Estancia represents everything the city is not: calm, silence, nature, and that distant horizon stained by a red sun.
ESTANCIA EL OMBÚ DE ARECO: A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
The Estancia we chose to live the experience in Buenos Aires is one of the most recognized in the country: Estancia El Ombú de Areco, just 120 kilometers from the city.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Lieutenant General Pablo Riccheri received the lands where the Estancia is today for his important military performance, and in 1880 he built a magnificent building of Italian reminiscences that today is the nerve center of the Estancia El Ombú.
The Estancia, then in the hands of the English Dowdall family, was acquired in 1934 by Enrique Boelcke, grandfather of Cristina and Eva, and great-grandfather of Diego and Juan Pablo, the current owners. The family decided in 1993 to open the gates of the Estancia to tourism, transforming it into one of the few establishments in the country with over 25 years of experience receiving visitors from Argentina and the world.
But it is that wonderful place, the house that Riccheri built, the one that allows us to time travel, with its high wooden ceilings, its untouched floors despite the passage of time, the plants that embrace its columns talking about the history of the last century in this beautiful building.
And there we sat, on its outdoor terrace, admiring the Pampean landscape, smelling the fresh air of the countryside, earth and mud, grass and flower, to enjoy another Argentine symbol: the barbecue, or “asado”.
THE ARGENTINE ASADO: SO MUCH MORE THAN A BARBECUE
One of the first things that a visitor wants to try during his visit to Argentina is the famous asado, that delicious combination of meat cooked on a hot grill, with a smell of charcoal, or wood. Yes, the Argentine asado is delicious -or not, depending on the person who does it-, but it is much more than that. The asado is part of our culture.
If there is something that characterizes us Argentines are our strong bonds of friendship. We can be seen as cocky … yes, we can be many things. But if there is something that we are, it is great friends. The Argentine embraces you, kisses you, loves you. The Argentine does not keep his feelings and that is why his friends come first. The Argentine receives you as a friend even if you are not one yet, and he says goodbye to you with a kiss even if you do not like it.
The bond of friendship in Argentina is not broken and the unions are for life. Friends become confidants, brothers. And it is the asado one of the greatest symbols of friendship. The asado is not throwing meat on the grill. It’s all an event. It is meeting a bit early, with a glass of wine in your hand, some cheese or empanada, talk about life while in the background you can hear the coal burning, and the aroma of the fire begins to fill the air. The asado is an excuse for the reunion.
In the Estancia El Ombú, the asado could not be absent, logically. And that sort of avant premiere, those fried empanadas with the glass of wine, sitting in the outside living room, enjoying the views of the countryside, tasting the now, and savoring what will come.
We have gone to several estancias and honestly, the asado of El Ombú was one of the best. Not only for the quality but because during lunch time there were no shows that made you feel like a tourist, but the sacred moment of that great event was respected, which is to share the asado with your partner, family, or friends.
Then there would come music, and dancing, and one of the most beautiful moments of the day that made us thrill: the wonderful Indian dressage, an ancient tradition of horse-taming without the use of violence. A dance between a beast and a gaucho that merged into one, to the rhythm of soft guitar chords, face to face, leg by hand, from the air to the ground, and from the ground to the air.
But I’m going to let a beautiful poem by José Hernández explain it better than me.
THE INDIAN DRESSAGE
To remove the tickle
With care he touches him;
Whole hours he uses,
And, finally, he just leaves him alone
When he bends his ears
And the horse does not kick anymore.
He never hits him,
Because he treats the horse
With unparallel patience
-As he tames him, no unnecessary force is used-,
Until he finally gives in
As tame as can be.
And even though I know
How to shake the dust,
I mingle with that habit:
With patience, he works him
And leaves him the following day
Standing still at the stables.
So for everyone who wants
To have a perfect horse,
He must take care of him with respect
And must also defend him
From any blow
Or any jerk from the floor.
And so that gaucho went away, on the back of his tame beast, as is he has done that since the day of his birth.
He would wait for the visitors to take them on a walk, on the back of the horse or in a cart, and then, a little before sunset, to serve some mates in the stable. Mates … that other wonderful piece of the Argentine spine.
THE MATE: THAT SWEET BITTER HABIT
With the permission of Lalo Mir, a great Argentine journalist, I borrow this poem dedicated to this infusion because nobody could have described it in a better way. For those who do not know what mate is, here it goes, and for those who already know and love it like me, enjoy these beautiful words:
While the sun disappears behind the gate, while the last lights of the day are dyed red, the large ombú, which gives the estancia its name, serves as background to simply be there, in the moment, in the now , looking without thinking, without time, without haste, with nothing to do but to know that one exists.
PHOTOS AND INFORMATION
You can find all the information in their website www.estanciaelombu.com.
We also leave you images of their beautiful rooms and services. The Estancia offers a wonderful hotel experience with first class rooms (super spacious and complete), two swimming pools enabled since mid-October and a gastronomic service that includes reception, lunch, dinner, and breakfast.
If you want to live a real experience of the Argentine Estancia, do not miss visiting Estancia el Ombú. Remember that knowing a culture requires going beyond the big cities. And to know the Argentine culture and its roots, nothing better than to discover an Estancia.
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