Salta

Wandering the streets of Salta, Argentina, I finally figured out why I was so bothered by the buildings in San Antonio.

For an old Spanish settlement–one of the oldest in the United States–there is not a lot of Spanish colonial architecture.

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I’ve seen the style all over Phoenix and the rest of the Southwest. And especially in Argentina. White buildings, red roofs, black railings. Massive cathedrals. I can’t throw a stone without hitting a cathedral in some places.

San Antonio has the missions. And the hotel La Mansion. Maybe a few houses in the Alamo Heights and Olmos Park neighborhoods. But, mostly, it’s something else, something hard to describe. The downtown area is sand-colored. Like they made bricks out of the south Texas dirt. King William is beautiful, but has more in common with the Garden District in New Orleans than Santa Fe.

I’m not going to look up the answer online right now. It’s more fun to wonder about. Maybe the Mexicans destroyed all the Spanish-style buildings in some sort of protest toward their former rulers across the Atlantic?

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Enough looking back at San Antonio. I’m in Salta now. A gorgeous city, if ever there was such a thing. It’s set in a valley in the foothills of the Andes–I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot, lately. The city of Salta dates back to 1582, but the region has been inhabited as far back as the days of the Incan Empire.

Salta is flanked to the west by the Andes. To the east are two smaller mountains–Cerro 20 de Febrero and Cerro San Bernardo. A gondola goes to the top of Cerro San Bernardo. This time, I took the gondola up and walked back down–in Santiago, I did the opposite. I’m either getting smarter, or lazier.

There is a small man-made waterfall at the top of Cerro San Bernardo. It was cool to look at, although any waterfall feels a little underwhelming after my experience at Iguazu.

The real highlight was looking over the city. Seeing the neat, orderly grid with the snow-covered mountains as a backdrop.

Oh! I just remembered San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio.

Salta sees one cathedral and laughs. Here they have the Catedral Basílica, the Iglesia San Francisco, the Iglesia San Alfonso, the Parroquia San Juan Batista de la Merced, and more. Iglesia San Francisco in particular is visible from the hill, with its bright red facade.

Northwest Argentina has a distinctive cuisine. It’s not all meat and wine. Empanadas are popular everywhere, but they originated from Salta (and Tucumán, though I haven’t seen many fried empanadas). Corn is a key ingredient, used to make humitaslocro, and tamales–the last of which will be familiar to anyone from Texas, though in Salta tamales are kind of shaped like a ball.

Every time I think I’ve found my favorite place in Argentina, the next one finds a way to exceed my expectations.

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