Córdoba in Argentina

Friday 23 to Sunday 25 February

It was a short 50 minute flight from Mendoza to Córdoba, without cabin service but with headphones. Stick your credit card in, if you want to get music. 

Córdoba is named after the beautiful city in Andalucía, Spain, which has been a prominent city from the 8th century, both under the Islamic Caliphate and Catholic Kings. 

We arrived early so we walked into the Plaza San Martin, with the massive and ornate Catedral de la Ciudad de Córdoba Argentia, to get our bearings. We stopped for coffee and lunch at a nice little cafe, first. Córdoba was founded on 6 July 1573 by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera. A statue of the founder stands behind the cathedral. Cabrera was a Spanish conquistador who led numerous campaigns, especially to suppress the revolts of the Ica and Nazca first peoples.

In front of the cathedral is yet another statue of José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras, known simply as José de San Martín or El Libertador of Argentina, Chile and Peru. He was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern and central parts of South America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire. We had seen statues and squares named after him all over Southern America. Perhaps he has considered more important than Cabrera.

We found an English tour of the Jesuit Square which started at 6pm, giving us enough time to explore further.

We wandered down the Avenue Hipolito Yrigoyen to Plaza España, including La Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesus (the church of the Sacred Heart). This striking church was built in the 1920s and has beautiful high towers and colourful columns. Plaza España was a sad looking place, heavily graffitied and full of rubbish. A nearby sign announced its forthcoming renovation, but I think they will struggle to beautify it, as the whole structure is extremely ugly from eye level with four big block like columns set in a square structure. 

We returned to the Jesuit Square for the English tour with Maximilian who talked too fast. He went through the history, how the Jesuits founded a college in 1610, which was given authority to confer degrees in 1621, marking the beginning of higher education in Argentina. 

In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled by order of King Carlos III of Spain and leadership was passed to the Franciscans. As explained to us, the Jesuits would not take orders from the King, they regarded their power higher than the state. 

Law studies were added at the end of the 18th century, so it was no longer just a theological college. It is now the second largest university in Argentina and Córdoba  is a university town.

We were shown an extensive library of ancient books, some dating back from the 15th century. Subject matter was mostly theology and law. 

Within the Jesuit block is the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús (Society of Jesus Church) which is the oldest church, built around 1600. In later years the Native chapel was built on its north side and the Spanish chapel was built on its south side. The Native chapel has an interesting sculpture of a Pregnant Mary. The Spanish chapel was later converted to the graduation room, where students would defend their studies to be allocated to their Doctorate. 

Exhausted after a long day of sightseeing, we went looking for a pre-dinner drink. There were plenty of bars around but none of them served wine. This seemed odd, since our last stop was in Mendoza – in the wine region of Argentina and only a 50 minute flight away.

After a very frustrated search we finally found a nice bar that served wine as well as beer, and an English speaking waiter who was able to explain the root of our frustration:

This is a university town and beer is cheaper to drink than wine. But, he added, a lot of students come from Mendoza and have been raised on wine, so they, like me, are disappointed in what’s offered here.

We continued our tour of Córdoba next day and were far from impressed. Along with Plaza España we wandered into Bicentennial Park with its Historic Sculptures. These were rings that created a path of exploration, each with information about a period in the history of the city. It was an interesting installation but marred by rubbish, particularly related to forthcoming nuptial celebrations with empty cans of Silly String and other paraphernalia. The rest of the park was disappointing and we avoided the zoo.

The Faro del Bicentenario (Bicentennial Lighthouse) was opened in 2011 and intended to serve as a city icon.

We finally reached the Faro Museo Emilio Caraffa a fine arts museum where we saw interesting exhibitions by Argentinian artists Aníbal Cedrón, Adrián Doura and photographer Franco Verdoia . There was also a sculpture exhibitions by David Rivolta. The museum was excellent, but hot – we were given free entry because the air conditioning had broken down. This, it seems, is the story of Argentina a beautiful country badly in need of an injection of money.

We were booked on a 17:40 flight to the Iguazu Falls so we had the day to fill in. It was wet. It was Sunday. I guess wet Sundays are a tourist’s nightmare – with very few options to fill your day. Funny, I met Bruce and Denis on a wet Sunday, I was hitchhiking in England and had to take shelter from the rain – no-one will pick up a wet hitchhiker – except of course them.

We walked to the Patio Olmos or ¡O!. The building was once a boy’s middle school commissioned in 1906 by Governor José Vicent de Olmos and inaugurated in 1909. It was named after Olmos who died prior to the inauguration. An earthquake in San Juan (480km away) severely damaged it and led to its closure. It was finally redeveloped as a big shopping mall with just the façade remaining of the old structure and inaugurated in 1995. So we stayed dry and grabbed some lunch. 

It was another short flight to Iguazu on Argentinian side, our last stop in Argentina. We arrived in time to raise a glass of Argentinian Chandon in memory of Michele Moloney whose ashes were spread over the rip at Point Lonsdale today, and also to celebrate Krysti and Damien’s engagement. So sad that Phil is missing for all the celebrations that are ahead. 

These melancholy periods must mean I am looking forward to being home soon.