when a glacier calves it is a sound not unlike thunder, less sharp, deeper. everyone would stop and hold their breath, listening until it was done. but to see the perito moreno glacier you have to pay an exorbitant entrance fee. they run everyone through chutes, counting us as we go, onto a fenced platform where a man tries to explain what we were all feeling: length and width, metric tons and cubic meters. the contrast between the natural and the artificial was jarring.
the highways and biways of argentina are peppered with the shrines of their ersatz saints. my personal favorite was difunta correa who died of thirst and exposure in the western deserts. her husband had been forcibly recruited during the civil wars. desperate and alone she followed his tracks out into the desert. ranchers found her without life but their infant child had somehow survived suckling at her breast. deemed a miracle her story spread and her devoted grew along with prayers for intercession, pilgrimages and over a century and a half later, public roadside shrines. these later would fill with water bottles meant to quench her eternal thirst. i would always greet them from a distance with thanksgiving. the further west i went the dryer the land became and the further apart lay the towns. it might have been sacrilege but it did seem wrong that i should have died of thirst in the desert, too.
in southern argentina the blue sky summer winds can easily reach hurricane force and the trailer trucks end up on their sides. most of claudio's work was specialized and industrial but being an enthusiast had condescended to weld a piece of a motorcycle the relentless wind had thrown down. claudio was an enormous man, spilling out over his overalls, a little unstable on his own legs, his swollen hands pinching the delicate work.