Further Journeys with Ala Plástica
Dear friends -
Greets from Argentina! Buenos Aires is far behind and Claire and I are relaxing in a quirky countryside house near the town of Victoria, on the far side of the Paraná river delta from the grain-exporting ports of Rosario. We had a meeting here today, talking about how to make a journal that could be used for community work up and down the Delta. It could have recipes, interviews with locals, articles about ecological or political issues, some drawings or other artwork, stories drawn from workshops or other encounters. A possible name was “Atención Flotante” – a reference to the water, to the mixed character of a little notebook that Delta people might actually read, and also a kind of hidden homage to “evenly suspended attention” that goes along with free association in psychoanalysis. I thought it was good, especially when someone pointed out that it could also be read as “watch out, debris in the water!”
Yesterday we took a boat from the port of San Lorenzo out into the huge muddy brown river, which is wide like I imagine the Mississippi. Some members of a group called Floating Workshops had arranged an afternoon trip for us on a big bright-orange Zodiac piloted by two employees of the local prefecture, with official insignias and everything. We passed the loading docks and the grain chutes that slope down from riverside elevators toward ocean-going freighters. On the far side we got off at the home of the Dominguez family, who are “isleños,” or delta islanders. They are a couple living in a ramshackle compound with half a dozen kids, a few dogs, some chickens and a bright green parrot. It was fascinating to converse with these people, who seemed to be squatters on that land, though it wasn’t really clear (there are traditional land tenure rights which are neither property owning, nor exactly squatting either). Dominguez told us about working for big soy farmers in the region, driving GPS-guided combines where you just have to sit back, push a button and then watch while it takes in the harvest. After some more questions we realized that even inside the driver’s cabin you also have to wear a gas mask against the toxic emanations of the grain, which has been doused in glyphosate….