Next March it will be 10 years since I left Mendoza behind and moved back to the UK.
The city of Mendoza is a cosmopolitan City of some 1,000,000 inhabitants (also including greater Mendoza) , wide tree-lined streets, beautiful plazas and a unique irrigation system where asequias channel water around the city. Although the population is large, it is still very much a manageable city to get around, and walking from one end to the other is quite dooable!
I arrived in in this oasis that is Mendoza, in January 2004, after making a beeline from Lima, Peru. This trip from Lima took around four months in total as I hitched most of the way, stopping for Christmas and New Year in Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lake Titicaca.
I knew straight away as the coach pulled in (I got a bus for the last leg from La Rioja!!!!) that this was the place that I was going to make my home, I had that feeling you have when you don’t just think “yes” this is it, you feel it in your gut. Mendoza had been “jumping” out of the guide books at me for quite some time…Now I had finally made it and I was intrigued to see what was in store for me. I have since learnt to listen closer to my inner voice – or gut feeling as I now like to call it and follow it always…it is a way of life for me today, if something doesn’t feel right, well then it just probably isn’t!
The trip from Lima had pretty much absorbed my “cash safety net” that I had earned teaching English in Quito, Ecuador, so I was conscious that I had to conserve the little bit of money that I had left and get a job asap. By now I was used to just pitching my tent anywhere so I camped out in the City Park (located right next to the City Zoo – I could hear the Lions roaring at night!!) What I didn’t know is that during the summer months of December, January & February Mendoza completely SHUTS down, so my hopes of scoring a job teaching English as soon as were soon crushed and my temporary camp-out in the Park soon extended to one month.
Three weeks into the “great park camp-out”, still no sign of job posibilities and I was starting to think Mendoza wasn’t for me and maybe I should move on to Chile. I decided to give it a week and if nothing had happended then I would move on. It was then that things started to change for me!!! I found an appartment in the “quinta Seccion” and soon started teaching. Mendoza at that time was a City of opportunities and one thing quickly led to another – by March I was publishing an English language tourist Magazine called The Grapevine – I had “finally” arrived !!!
Founded in 1561 by Pedro del Castillo, the city of Mendoza takes it´s name from the then governor of Chile; Don García Hurtado de Mendoza.
In 1788 work began on the first irrigation sistem which was to improve those already established by the INKAS and Indians but which were somewhat primative for the ever-growing City.
The improvements in the irrigation systems made way for a new industrial activity – agricultural. Wines, brandy, dry fruit, flour and oil soon took over cattle-raising and by the 18th Century Mendoza´s was becoming an important Nacional player.
In January 1817 Mendoza was liberated from the Spanish as the result of an epic liberation march by General José de San Martín who led his Liberation Army from Mendoza over the Andes Mountains into Chile. The photo above is of a statue in honor of San Martín and is on the other side of the Park, next to the Zoo and my temporary campsite !!!
Mendoza has been re-built twice as the result of two earthquakes. The first by on March 20 in 1861, following it being re-built Mendoza became the regional metropolis of Cuyo, with an important commercial, industrial, financial and cultural development. More recently the earthquake of 26th January 1985 the one that is most present in the memories of the “Mendocinos”, where six people died, 238 people were injured and more than 12 thousand homes were destroyed.
Today Mendoza city has replaced it´s adobe houses for “anit-sismic” buildings and has grown into a green oasis of calm amidst a hot and sweltering desert. Mendoza is a striving cosmoplotan capital – a garden city of tree-lined streets and sculpted parks. Every leafy town in the province is surrounded by hundreds of vineyards and farms producing everything from olives to peaches.
Mendoza Province is one of the driest places on earth. The mammoth Andes mountain range catches any cloud blowing in from the pacific, meaning there is very little rain. Yet Mendoza produces 70% of Argentine wine and Argentina is the fifth biggest producer in the world. Mendoza’s capital is a garden city of tree-lined streets and sculpted parks. Every leafy town in the province is surrounded by hundreds of vineyards and farms producing everything from olives to peaches.
How? Those same mountains that stop the rainfall catch the snow. The snow melts on the peaks (including Mt. Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas) and is carried through a complex system of rivers, dykes and dams. This miracle of water supports people and industry. Mendoza city has grown into a green oasis of calm amidst a hot and sweltering desert.
Arriving to Mendoza is either by plane to Santiago de Chile then drive across the Andes or fly into Ezieza Buenos Aires and transfer to Jorge Newbery for domestic flights to Mendoza or catch an overnight coach across land (12 hours) to Mendoza.
¡Hasta la próxima Mendoza – te quiero!