Aug 3, 2009

Two days in the Puna: Yavi

Yavi is a very small town set in a relatively green valley amidst a high, dry region. It's also at 3400 meters above sea level, which is 11, 154 feet, or just plain stinkin' high . Indeed, the thinner air caused this flatlander to pause and enjoy her surroundings during frequent rest breaks. We took a hike along the river for a spell, following the directions of a local mozo, or waiter, in order to reach some pictographs that this region is known for. That remote orange spot in the middle of the photo above is Elizabeth in search of more pictographs.
Buildings in this region, known as the altiplano or puna, are almost exclusively built of adobe. It is an extraordinary, time-tested technology. It stays cool in the heat, and remains fairly warm during winters. Central heating is quite unusual in these parts so people typically heat with small woodstoves and wear many layers wool sweaters, scarves and ponchos. In the picture above you can see that even the roof is covered with adobe, under which is a layer of straw, and under that are bamboo or canes, which are themselves laying on the rafters.

The church is also built of adobe. It is unusual in that it has cream-colored windows of onyx, and large paintings of the Cusco school. The retable in front, a huge facade behind the altar, is completely covered in gold leaf. You can expect to see this kind of things in urban settings, but in this little indigenous hamlet, quite unusual. I really liked this shot, showing Elizabeth resting for a spell, and the church caretaker attending to her knitting.
This herd of sheep came down the road without a shepherd. Seems that there was a sheep dog, but in every other way those sheep were on a mission and that was to get where they were going.
I was surprised to find that there was not much activity in the streets here, that people were not strolling in the evenings, and children were not playing in the plaza, as in other Argentine towns. In talking to one of our innkeepers, Elizabeth learned that most of the men of working age in Yavi must leave in order to make money. They travel as migrant workers farther south in Argentina to work in tobacco or sugar cane, both very labor intensive and hard, hard work. We also observed that there is much livestock in this area, principally sheep and goats, and they need tending. Finally, it seemed to be that Yavi is less Latin and more indigenous than other Argentine towns we had been in, and perhaps it is not their custom to be out and about in public.

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