Argentina with Marcelo Burlon

Text by Paola Corini
Photographs by Bratislav Tasic

Its frontiers mainly rest upon natural features: rivers to the north and north-east, the Andes to the west, the river and the Atlantic further to the east. We touched the edges of the country, which tease the bordering states: the Misiones subtropical forest, the watery north-eastern province wedged inbetween Paraguay and Brazil, the Andean north-west where the people’s faces are burnt by the altitude and the light fazes the roads, the beginning of the south, on the border overlooked by Chile where Patagonia pushes up against the beautiful precordillera. The landscapes that stayed with us most of all were the sounds: waterfalls, birds and winds played the lead roles on our trip. These, and the hugs, from the people waiting for us even before we arrived: elderly mamme in Argentina forgetting their Italian for the second time and taxi drivers in Buenos Aires saving up euros for their next holiday to Italy. We breathed in the similarities and the mixed ways of people who introduced themselves by listing the European races flowing through their veins and the journeys that had brought them here.

Argentina is the most Europeanized country in Latin America. The records of the arrivals and departures of immigrants at the end of the nineteenth century form a constant flow of landings. They split the arrivals into two main categories, ultramar, from overseas, or via fluvial, by river. Marcelo’s parents were children when they arrived in Argentina at the end of the 1950s, just as the last wave of Italian emigration was fizzling out. Late 1970s: the forests close to the Andes were the television for the young Marcelo, El Bolsón the most successful hippy community in Patagonia. Marcelo would have to turn 14 to see Italy for the first time. By nature, most Argentines have a good heart, and a lust for life. For Marcelo life is a dance, from dawn to dusk, a dance accompanying him in his sleep, singing praise for being in the world. And Patagonia celebrates all that. Go in with him, and it’s the biggest fiesta you can imagine. This is the hospital where I was born. See that tower over there? That’s where I had my first taste of love. In the little fruits of the forest farms, the chacras of El Bolsón, he takes you straight to the farmer, who fills your hands with firm, red cherries. He knows the old, white witches of the valley, the family who live without electricity on the other side of the lake and reach civilization on a little yellow boat which they load up with their friends for a visit. A summer in the twenty-first century: his mum Olga is frying some milanesas, the thin South American cutlets, for everyone. The dogs don’t bark, they race up to us. Marcelo’s back in El Bolsón. 

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