The ride from Cafayate to Tucumán was a lot longer than we’d estimated, & the scenery wasn’t very interesting until we got closer to Tafí del Valle. So I read. As we rode into San Miguel de Tucumán along Avenida Presidente Néstor Kirchner, Darío & I gave each other a suspicious look… it seemed like an urban planner’s nightmare. Our first impression didn’t improve much after navigating through a sea of people at the bus terminal. Absolute chaos. I guess the cute & quaint part of our vacation was over.
The temperature was higher than in Salta or Jujuy & the sun a lot stronger. While Darío prepared to go to his conference, I relaxed. I think I just needed to rest. Sometime in the late afternoon I ventured out to get an idea of the city’s layout & sí o sí find some coffee. That’s about all I did that day 🙂
After a good night’s sleep, I was ready to tackle Tucumán. The temperature had dropped so it was ideal for walking around. And my earlier suspicions were confirmed… there was obviously no attempt to preserve architectural heritage. This tweet says it all:
SM de Tucumán city center = a mix of Once & the pedestrian part of Lavalle in BsAs. You get the idea.
Only a couple of buildings really caught my attention: Correos & the Mercado del Norte:
But the main plaza was wonderful. At least someone had the sense not to mess with a good thing. The Casa de Gobierno, the Jockey Club & the Iglesia de San Francisco were a treat… even if the cathedral interior was a little simple:
Enjoying the afternoon, I never expected to find a Neocolonial gem on the main square. I’d walked by the front door a few times since arriving but when I saw the building from across the street, I stopped dead in my tracks. No way. Really? Could it be? It seemed like I was looking at a work by one of my favorite architects: Estanislao Pirovano.
Fortunately the building was open because an event was taking place. I walked in & started taking some photos. Since there was a lot of foot traffic, no one bothered to question me. What a gorgeous building.
On leaving, I noticed that there were two guys in the admin office, so I popped in to ask about the architect & the history of the building. There was no exterior signature… what could it hurt to ask? Their response was much more than I expected. As I explained my suspicions & gave them links to this blog, they photocopied articles & found brochures to give me. So incredibly nice. Plus, I got a couple pics of the office while chatting & waiting:
As it turned out after reading the articles & comparing photos, Spanish architect José Graña copied —to the letter— the work of Estanislao Pirovano. The same shapes, the same forms, but with slight variations. Makes me wonder if Pirovano knew what Graña was doing! The owner was an admirer of Pirovano’s work for his relatives in Buenos Aires… currently the Biblioteca Ricardo Güiraldes, formerly the home of Dr. Federico Helguera. So a direct connection exists, even if Pirovano did not participate in this building’s renovation. Much more to say about this wonderful work, but that will have to wait for a separate post.
After an intense day of getting to know the city, the best feature of San Miguel de Tucumán is without a doubt the people. Forget that the city is mish-mash of architecture, crowded & hot. I’ve never met people so consistently nice in Argentina. It goes beyond the fact that tucumanos use Usted so much more than in the rest of the country… whatever the reason, they completely changed my mind about the city & I thank them for it.
Estuve en Tucumán en 2008, y mi conclusión también fue “un once”.
(I also happened to be at Yerba Buena. San Isidro, un poroto)
Yerba Buena was where Darío’s conference was located. I would have gone out there but was busy exploring Tucumán. Maybe next time… but wait for tomorrow’s post. The southern section of the city was much, much nicer.
The real charm of Tucuman lays in the surrounding countryside. Its just as good as Salta but without the high prices and tourists.
Thanks for the comment, Rodrick. You’re quite right, but there are only so many one-day excursions a guy can take 🙂 After Salta I was a bit over those 12-hr minivan rides. But I’ll be back, I’m sure. As we passed through Tafí del Valle, there was some fantastic scenery. Saludos!