Thursday, April 03, 2008

Quilmes (Consitución)

The train ride between La Plata and Buenos Aires, moving impossibly slowly, stopping even, unannounced, and for no apparent reason, in the middle of a field--lush green expanse of the Argentine countryside--el campo--and then a bump and slowly again underway. The year 1962. Industrial suburbs to the south of Buenos Aires--names on signs along the right-of-way: Bernal, Don Bosco, Quilmes. Signs as markers--apparitions--the places unknown, even if right there alongside the tracks...(were they towns?)...but the land, being so flat, the perspective never offers a vantage point. Then, Avellaneda, rough, urban, and soon enough the grand southern depot of la capital federal--Constitución.

The names themselves a kind of memory. Or perhaps as anchors for a kind of memory. All still tucked in, un medio siglo después, waiting.

I was barely sixteen, so much not known. Just the names. Quilmes, for example. An indigenous people who once lived far to the northwest, above Tucumán, in the Cerro Alto. Their settlements built on terraced slopes, overlooking elaborate irrigated fields. Present now as ruined walls. Fighting the Spaniards, fiercely, but defeated by 1664--a remnant forced to march overland in the direction of Buenos Aires--kept under watch--and settled in an industrial area to the south of the city--the site of a brewery, to this day (Cerveza Quilmes) and soon the name of the town itself.

A sign on a railroad siding, amidst green fields.

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