Visual tour of La Pampa

La Pampa is not known as one of the tourist traps of Argentina.  In fact, very few tourists make their way through the area aside from passing through, which some guide books actually suggest (lonelyplanet said it is a place without interests, but conveniently located in between Buenos Aires and the various attractions along the Andes making it an ok location for spending the night).  However, La Pampa has numerous outstanding qualities and is beautiful in it’s own right if you have the opportunity to actually get out and see it (ie if you have a field project that takes you out to the field at least half a week every week).  Here are some photos of the place I called home for three months:




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Argentine Culture: the Asado

Argentina is a country known throughout the world for it’s beef production.  In recent years export of their higher quality beef and lamb meats has risen, changing the market within the country.  Regardless of changing markets, Argentina still reigns as the country of the best griller masters in the world.  The Argentine grilling (a more complex form of a barbeque) is called an asado.  Normally people all partake in a payment of the meat, which generally includes sausages and a cut or two of beef or lamb, which is later accompanied by some form of salad, bread and a wine.  The sausage, which cooks faster than most of the cut meats, is generally eaten as an appetizer.

There are many different techniques for grilling the meat depending on the cut.  The most common grill is called a parilla, an adjustable grill that is set in a columnar chimney-style concrete frame (see images below).  The coals are prepared using various types of wood (depending on what part of the country you are in).  In La Pampa the most common wood is calden; however, many forms of wood can be bought at local stores.

Another form of grilling is done over larger fires.  This is generally for very large asados where a whole animal is grilled.  Below is a lamb that was grilled with salt (the most common way of grilling meat is simply with salt, though sometimes spices such as paprika, oregano, thyme and pepper are used) for a large asado held for about 30 people (firefighters and families) after a prescribed fire out in the La Pampa country side.  Everyone grabbed a chunk of bread, split it open and put a chunk of meat inside with a bit of salad.

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Seminario y Carnaval

Apologies for being so late in updating the blog!  Aside from a busy schedule, the internet has had a series of vacations, which is to say I’ve had problems with it for the past few weeks, not an uncommon occurrence.  So, to update, a few weeks ago, my colleague and I were asked to give a seminar to the agricultural/ecological faculty and graduate students of la Universidad Nacional de La Pampa.  Raul presented an outline on Ecological Site Descriptions and State-and-Transition models, while I gave a more in depth account of our project here in the caldenal.  The link below is the powerpoint presentation that I gave and below that a translation of the presentation.

Diseño de muestras

Sampling Design posted for AGG

Though the majority of my days have been spent doing field sampling, laboratory analysis of soils, system modeling in ArcGIS and project coordination with collaborators, a few weekends ago I also had the opportunity to enjoy a few days of wandering around down town Santa Rosa with my good friend and fellow NMSU-AGG graduate student Vanessa Prileson.  Argentina has a series of long weekends that are distributed through the school/work months (considering they have summer and Christmas at the same time leaving no official winter break, each month the government proclaims one to two weekends as long ferriados, where people have four days of break, usually Fri-Mon), and two weeks ago was the ferriado for Carnaval (the equivalent of Mardi-gras).

Vanessa and I had the opportunity to see the night time celebrations of the small city and watch how quickly people can disassemble the festivities when a huge lightning storm/torrential downpour passes through.  The parade had been held near a Club de Boys (essentially a soccer stadium and sports center, though not exclusively for boys) on the outskirts of town.  Little and not-so-little kids ran around spraying a shaving-cream type foam into the faces of any bystanders they saw fit to spray.  Scantily clad dancers (young and old) were shimmering and moving around to the beat of a large drummer troupe dressed in bright Roman military costumes.  A group of doctor and patient clowns ran around with a small ‘medical unit’ in support of the local hospital.  And salty, greasy, and sweet foods were being sold at two little side vendor shops.

All was fun and merriment, until a slight change in the wind occurred and what was wind became rain, and then a downpour!  People started running like a herd of wild animals.  The road barricade for the parade was knocked down.  Mothers threw coats over there small, relatively unclothed daughters and picked them up running.  People ran for their cars or any form of shelter that could be found.  Vanessa and I made our way to the cover of a nearby gas station where a large group of people was forming.  We stood mesmerized by the quantity of water that was falling out of the sky.  Rivers were forming in the streets.  Soon a few drummers joined the group and started to play.  Then they played louder, and faster and pretty soon the party had started back up under our small gas station refuge!  Foam was sprayed once again in the air and kids started running back and forth through the maze of people.  What better way to celebrate Carnaval than a freak change in weather?

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Argentine Culture: the art of drinking Mate

At 4pm, on a summer afternoon in Argentina, it can be accurately assumed that the majority of people, young and old alike will be drinking a mate in good company.  It is a time to be shared with family, friends, colleagues and associates.

The actual drinking of mate consists of three parts: the mate (a distinctive cup traditionally used), bombilla (essentially a metal straw with a small filter at the bottom), and the yierba mate (the plant that is processed into tea sized pieces).  The mate was traditionally made out of gourd, which had to be cured with used leaves before it could be used.  Today, however, mates can be found in an array shapes, forms and sizes.  In the provinces of the Pampa grassland where calden trees grow well, mates are commonly made out of calden wood.  In major cities, like Buenos Aires, shops will carry mates made out of glass, plastic, metal, silicon and wood.  The bombilla, though it can be found in slightly varying forms, generally maintains one style, metal with a rounded bottom piece.

To prepare a mate, people put a bombilla in the mate cup and fill the cup three-quarters full of leaves.  Water is put to boil and, for ease of serving, many people put the hot water in a thermos.  When everyone is sitting around, the mate is filled with water and passed from person to person, with one person generally refilling it with more hot water at each turn.  Only one mate is used and everyone shares the exact same straw.  When you no longer want to drink, you simply say, ‘Gracias.’ and eventually everyone finishes.

There are three types of mate to drink: amargo, dulce (with sugar), and terere (ice cubes are put in the mate with the yierba and a cold watery juice is poured instead of hot water).  Though all of them have pleasant, wonderful tastes and can be enjoyed at any time by oneself, the true pleasure of sharing a delicious mate with good people has no comparison.

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Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires holds the largest international airport in Argentina (Eziza), so anyone traveling to Argentina from the North America, Europe, and most other distant countries will most surely have the opportunity to pass through one of the world’s most famous cities.  There are many cultural sites and activities to imbibe in; however, the city itself holds a personal charm.  Simply walking around the pleasant tree lined neighborhoods, stopping at a park or cafe to take a mate or mid-afternoon coffee, can be a joy.

The few days that I spent in Buenos Aires before heading off to La Pampa were spent in this way, walking around, listening to the distinctive porteño accent of the city people, going out to eat at asados (places or parties with Argentine grilled meat), drinking the excellent wine from the interior provinces of Argentina (Malbec being possibly the most famous of their wines), and enjoying the company of good Argentinian friends on the rooftop of their apartment building.  During the day people bustle about with work, shopping, errands and other daily tasks, but at night the pace slows down and everyone enjoys the smell of a warm summer night.

Though Buenos Aires can be a great city to visit, in recent years, crime and theft have increased (a response to the ever fluctuating economic situation), so a person traveling around must keep an eye open.  This is not to say that it is the most dangerous city in the world, but any city with a multitude of tourists unfamiliar with the area is bound to have it’s keep in thieves.  Buenos Aires is no exception to this rule.

A friend of mine had come to Argentina for two weeks to help with the project I am involved with in La Pampa.  After her work was finished she took a night bus back to Buenos Aires and expected to spend the day seeing a few sights before her 10pm flight back to the United States.  From the bus station she headed over to a cafe and pulled out her ipod to email friends and check her flight.  She set her backpack down at the side of her leg.  One minute after checking the internet she looked down and the bag that had been touching her leg was gone, along with it’s contents including her passport, gifts, personal care products, a credit card and various other small item contents.  Not one of the three other people in the cafe saw a thing and she spent the day in the embassy only to find that there had been 36 similar cases that week alone.  She was able to get a temporary passport in time to make her flight, but missed the opportunity to see the city.  I mention this story, not to scare people, but simply to remind everyone that even experienced travelers can be victim of such situations and it is always good to keep an open eye to new surroundings.

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Hola Argentina!

Hi everyone!

My name is Lauren Svejcar and I am a graduate student at New Mexico State University in the department of Plant and Environmental Sciences under the direction of Brandon Bestelmeyer (USDA-ARS, Jornada Experimental Range) and Curtis Monger (NMSU-Soil Sciences). My current residence is in La Pampa, Argentina working on an international collaboration project on State-and-Transition Modeling and Ecological Site Description of the Caldenal Ecoregion. Coordination of the project has involved professionals from NMSU, USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, and Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA) and has had financial support from Aggies Go Global.

Our goal is to develop a spatial perspective of the Caldenal forest through field sampling, modeling and statistical analysis and create a base for management planning and strategies implemented at the landowner and gubernatorial levels of the La Pampa province.  The Caldenal region has recently received attention from  the Argentine government as an area to be protected, and is incorporated in a national movement to re-mediate the deforestation that occurred between 1998 and 2006 and promote healthy management of native forest systems.

More information on the Argentine National Forest Law (Ley Nacional del Bosques) can be found at:



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