Fellow Forum participants,
I wanted to get things started with a post on the road, as some of us have already hit the ground in Argentina. I am currently in Salta, a provincial capital in northern Argentina, along with other forum participants who joined the country pre-tour. Our diverse and fun group hails from Germany, Singapore, China, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and the Philippines.
It’s been a fascinating couple of days in the country, starting off with Buenos Aires, a quick flight over to Iguazu, and another flight to Salta. First impressions of Buenos Aires have been quite impressive – the energy and bustle of an emerging economy coupled with the old grandeur of a country with European heritage.
Having spent a full day exploring the city on my own, I was struck by the contrast between the glitzy new offices, condos and venues at the Port Madero waterfront (which remind me of the London Docklands and Canary Wharf) versus the leafy and posh neighborhood of Recoleta (which could easily be mistaken for streets on the Upper East Side or South Kensington). In any case, Buenos Aires promises to be a great venue for this year’s forum!
Our first stop took us to Iguazu Falls and National Park – recently voted as one of the world’s seven world wonders, and rightly so. Even those of us, who have had the chance to visit Niagara and Victoria Falls were awestruck by the forces of nature and the magnitude at display in Iguazu. Despite the aviation strike, rough weather and crowds, all of us agree that is was definitely worth the trek to get there. There is nothing quite like it.
Our second leg has taken us to Salta, one of the largest cities in northern Argentina. Using Salta as a base camp we explored the wonderful indigenous village of Purmamarca a few hours drive away, including the famous Cerro de Siete Colores, the Hill of the Seven Colors. Words cannot describe the landscape and the vast mountain ranges we crossed over the past 48 hours, including an ascent to over 4,000m above sea level and a stop at the Salinas salt lakes with their moon-like surface.
On the way back from Purmamarca, we also had a chance to visit an award-winning NGO engaged in community building work in Abra Pampa. The Asociación de Mujeres Warmi Sayajsuqno, founded by Ms. Rosario Quispe and a core group of perservering indigenous women, has sought to alleviate the challenges of high local unemployment, famine, and an exodus of the working men to the big cities. In addition, local industry appears to have caused contamination of soil and water, which poses severe health risks to the local population.
Through a combination of micro finance loans, skill and capability building, and job creation schemes linked to local cottage industries, the NGO has done a great deal to help the community. Against all odds, these women continue their daily struggle to make a difference for their families and community members. My hat goes off to them. Coming from a developing country myself, the Philippines, I can relate to the uphill battle they face against industry, government, and other vested interests.
Let me stop here for today. Stay tuned for more posts once we return to Buenos Aires. / Paul@Vega.org