Aug 302016


Today is the birthday (1907) Leonor Fini, Argentine surrealist painter, designer, illustrator, and author, known for her depictions of powerful women. In English she is sometimes called “The Forgotten Bohemian.” She is not forgotten in Argentina.

Fini was born in Buenos Aires, to an Italian mother and Argentine father (of Italian descent). Her parents divorced when she was very young and her mother moved back to Italy.  She was raised in Trieste, her mother’s home city. Custody battles often involved Fini and her mother in sudden flights and disguises. She moved to Milan at the age of 17, and then to Paris, in either 1931 or 1932. There, she became acquainted with Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico, who inspired much of her work. She also came to know Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, Georges Bataille, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Pablo Picasso, André Pieyre de Mandiargues, and Salvador Dalí. She traveled Europe by car with Mandiargues and Cartier-Bresson where she was photographed nude in a swimming pool by Cartier-Bresson. The photograph of Fini sold in 2007 for $305,000 – the highest price paid at auction for one of his works to that date.


Fini had no formal artistic training. Her first major exhibition was in 1939 in New York at Julian Levy’s Gallery. She was considered part of a pre-war generation of Parisian artists, and outlived most of her artist peers. Surrealist artists in France became very interested in her once she began setting herself up as an artist, and came to know her as important in the movement. She is mentioned in most comprehensive works about surrealism, although some leave her out (she did not consider herself to be a surrealist). In 1949 Frederick Ashton choreographed a ballet conceptualized by Fini, “Le Rêve de Leonor” (“Leonor’s Dream”) with music by Benjamin Britten. In London, she exhibited at the Kaplan gallery in 1960 and at the Hanover Gallery in 1967. In the summer of 1986 there was a retrospective at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris that drew in more than 5,000 people a day. It featured over 260 works in a variety of media. As a tribute to the many artistic and creative avenues that her career took throughout her lifetime, there were 100+ watercolors and drawings, around 80 theater/costume designs, and about 70 paintings, 5 masks, etc. Many of her paintings featured women in positions of power; an example of this is the painting La Bout du Monde where a female figure is submerged in water up to her breasts with human and animal skulls surrounding her. Madonna used the imagery in her video, “Bedtime Story” in 2006. In the spring of 1987 she had an exhibition at London’s Editions Graphique’s gallery. Fini was also featured in an exhibition entitled “Women, Surrealism, and Self-representation” at the San Francisco Modern Museum of Art in 1999.


She painted portraits of Jean Genet, Anna Magnani, Jacques Audiberti, Alida Valli, Jean Schlumberger (jewelry designer) and Suzanne Flon as well as many other celebrities and wealthy visitors to Paris. While working for Elsa Schiaparelli she designed the flacon for the perfume, “Shocking”, which became the top selling perfume for the House of Schiaparelli.


She designed costumes and decorations for theater, ballet and opera, including the first ballet performed by Roland Petit’s Ballet de Paris, “Les Demoiselles de la nuit”, featuring a young Margot Fonteyn. This was a payment of gratitude for Fini’s having been instrumental in finding the funding for the new ballet company. She also designed the costumes for two films, Renato Castellani’s Romeo and Juliet (1954) and John Huston’s A Walk with Love and Death (1968), which starred 18-year-old Anjelica Huston and Moshe Dayan’s son, Assaf.


In the 1970s, she wrote three novels, Rogomelec, Moumour, Contes pour enfants velu and Oneiropompe. Her friends included Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, and Alberto Moravia, Fabrizio Clerici and most of the other artists and writers living in or visiting Paris. She illustrated many works by the great authors and poets, including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, and Shakespeare, as well as texts by new writers. She was very generous with her illustrations and donated many drawings to writers to help them get published. She is, perhaps, best known for her graphic illustrations for Histoire d’O.


Fini once said:

Marriage never appealed to me, I’ve never lived with one person. Since I was 18, I’ve always preferred to live in a sort of community – A big house with my atelier and cats and friends, one with a man who was rather a lover and another who was rather a friend. And it has always worked.

She was, however, married once, for a brief period, to Fedrico Veneziani. They were divorced after she met the Italian Count, Stanislao Lepri, who abandoned his diplomatic career shortly after meeting Fini and lived with her thereafter. She met the Polish writer Konstanty Jeleński, known as Kot in Rome in January 1952. She was delighted to discover that he was the illegitimate half-brother of Sforzino Sforza, who had been one of her lovers. Kot joined Fini and Lepri in their Paris apartment in October 1952 and the three remained inseparable until their deaths. She later employed an assistant to join the household, which he described as “a little bit of prison and a lot of theatre.” One of his jobs was to look after her Persian cats. Over the years she acquired about 23 of them. They shared her bed and, at mealtimes, were allowed to roam the dining-table selecting what they wanted to eat.


Fini died in her apartment in Paris in 1996. By that time her star had fallen, largely because the French art world has always been deeply misogynistic. Dali described her work as “Better than most, perhaps. But talent is in the balls.” If you want a good tour of her art and life, go here:

I have spoken many times of the huge influence that Italian immigrants have had on Argentine culture and cuisine. It’s maybe a bit of a stretch to think of Fini as an Italian Argentine given that she spent almost all of her life in Europe. Many people think of me the same way. Like Fini, I was born in Buenos Aires, but have spent most of my life in other countries. The thing is that when I returned, many decades later, I knew I was HOME. So I’ll give a recipe for a very common Argentine dish of Italian descent – fainá – a skillet-baked flatbread made with chickpea flour. Fainá can be eaten as a side dish, with toppings, or on top of pizza. Argentinos have no trouble overdoing things.




1½ cups chickpea flour
2 cups warm water
5 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper


Combine the chickpea flour and water in a bowl and stir well until thoroughly mixed. Set aside covered at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Foam will form on the top. Skim off the foam and whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 500°F/260°C.

Heat a 10 inch cast-iron skillet over high heat until it is smoking hot. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and swirl it around over the heat to cover the surfaces of the skillet.

Pour in the chickpea batter in one go, and immediately place the skillet in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes. It should be golden all over. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serve in wedges.

Jul 232016


The Tratado de Límites (Boundary Treaty) of 1881 between Argentina and Chile was signed on this date in Buenos Aires by Bernardo de Irigoyen, on the part of Argentina, and Francisco de Borja Echeverría, on the part of Chile, with the aim of establishing a precise and exact borderline between the two countries based on the uti possidetis juris principle (designed to assign uncolonized territory). The main point of the treaty was to divide Patagonia between the two countries for fear it would be grabbed by foreign powers such as Britain, but there were also issues concerning trade routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific via the channels between Tierra del Fuego and the mainland. The treaty needed to be renegotiated several times, but the basics are still in place demarking Chile’s and Argentina’s current 5600 km of shared borders.

Argentina declared its independence in 1816 and Chile followed suit in 1818. Once the Spanish had been expelled, relations between the two nations soured primarily due to a border dispute: both claimed to have inherited overlapping parts of Patagonia. Independence movements in South America were catalyzed in the early 19th century by the weakness and instability of Spain and Portugal caused by the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Before that time South America was loosely divided into very large and unwieldy viceroyalties, which broke apart as successive regions fought for and won their independence. Then they set about fighting each other for land. The 19th century was a bloodbath all across the continent.

The Chilean constitution of 1833 established the Andes as its eastern boundary. This view of Chile’s borders was challenged in 1853 by Miguel Luis Amunategui in Titles of the Republic of Chile to Sovereignty and Dominion of the Extreme South of the American Continent, in which he put forward the notion that Chile had valid arguments to claim all of Patagonia. He traced Chilean claims back to the conquest of Chile in the 16th century by Pedro de Valdivia, arguing that de Valdivia obtained rights from the Spanish crown to establish a captaincy limited by the Strait of Magellan to the south. De Valdivia subsequently founded several cities through southern Chile with the goal of reaching the Strait of Magellan. However the remoteness of the region and the Mapuche in the War of Arauco limited further expansion to the south. The Republic of Chile founded Fuerte Bulnes in 1843, and later Punta Arenas in 1847, giving strong assistance to steam navigation through the Strait of Magellan and probably averting the occupation of the strategically crucial strait by the European powers or the United States.


In 1865 Welsh immigrants began to settle around the lower part of Chubut Valley. This colonization, supported by Argentina, meant that Argentina got a new exclave in Patagonia apart from Viedma-Carmen de Patagones, which had been founded in 1779. While the economic and geopolitical impact of this settlement was less than that of Chile’s Punta Arenas, it soon became a starting point for further colonization toward the Andes.

Chilean trade and culture were oriented towards Europe and therefore the complete control of the Strait of Magellan was a core Chilean interest. Chilean politicians saw control of the strait as vital to the survival of Chile as a nation. In contrast, the rest of Patagonia was seen by Chilean politicians as a worthless desert. This view was shared by Diego Barros Arana and was inspired by Charles Darwin’s description of the area as a useless moorland.

Mapuches and other indigenous groups had for a long time pillaged the Argentine southern frontier in search for cattle that was later taken to Chile through the Camino de los chilenos. The cattle were traded in Chile for weapons and alcohol. These groups had strong connections with Chile and therefore gave Chile certain influence over the pampas. Argentine authorities feared an eventual war with Chile over the region in which the indigenous locals would side with the Chileans, and that the war would be fought in the vicinity of Buenos Aires.

In the 1870s, Argentina built a more than 500-km long trench called Zanja de Alsina, which Argentina had undertaken during the Conquest of the Desert from 1876 to 1878 to defeat the indigenous people occupying northern Patagonia, and which was intended to control the eastern third or, at a minimum, the eastern mouth of the strait.

Great Britain and the USA did not directly intervene in the distribution of land and maritime areas, but the U.S. ambassadors in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires, Thomas A. Osborn and Thomas O. Osborn (stupendous coincidence of names), did serve as mediators. The concern of the great powers was free navigation through the strait. The U.S. administration declared immediately before the negotiations leading to the treaty that:

The Government of the United States will not tolerate exclusive claims by any nation whatsoever to the Straits of Magellan, and will hold responsible any Government that undertakes, no matter on what pretext, to lay or impost or check on United States commerce through the Straits.

The colonial powers, United Kingdom and France, viewed Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego as terra nullius (unclaimed territory) and were active in land grabs. This was evident in the Malvinas, which Argentina claimed under papal concessions dating back to the 15th century, but which Britain occupied in 1833, expelling the Argentine colony of the time – making the assertion that no one owned the islands. Argentine fears about Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego were therefore well justified.


In 1874 Chilean minister Guillermo Blest Gana and the Argentine Minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Tejedor agreed to put the question to arbitration. However, the new Argentine president Nicolás Avellaneda, boosted by internal popularity, cancelled the agreement in 1875. Attempts to clear up the dispute about Patagonia were unsuccessful until 1881, when Chile was fighting the War of the Pacific against both Bolivia and Peru. At that time Chile had defeated Bolivia’s and Peru’s regular armies and had large contingents in occupying Peru and fighting Andrés Avelino Cáceres’ guerrillas. In order to avoid fighting Argentina as well, Chilean President Aníbal Pinto authorized his envoy, Diego Barros Arana, to hand over as much territory as was needed to avoid Argentina siding with Bolivia and Peru.

According to the Argentine view of the treaty, called the Magellan/Atlantic transfer, the general agreement was that Argentina was an Atlantic country while Chile was a Pacific one. Chile has never accepted that view. In the main the treaty is simple – the highest peaks of the Andes form a natural border between Argentina and Chile, down to latitude 52°S. There it gets a little contentious. Both countries wanted control of navigable waters between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Border disputes concerning Patagonia continued after the treaty because large parts were still unexplored. The concept of the continental divide based on highest points and drainage was easy to apply in northern regions, but in Patagonia drainage basins crossed the Andes leading to disputes over whether the highest peaks would be the frontier (favoring Argentina) or the drainage basins (favoring Chile). The Argentine explorer Francisco Perito Moreno suggested that many Patagonian lakes draining to the Pacific were in fact part of the Atlantic basin but had been moraine-dammed during the quaternary glaciations, changing their outlets to the west. In 1902, war was again avoided when British King Edward VII agreed to mediate between the two nations. He established the current border in the Patagonian region in part by dividing many disputed lakes into two equal parts and most of these lakes still have different names on each side of the frontier.

Navigation was basically sorted out by making the Strait of Magellan neutral and carving up the offshore islands between the two nations but minor disputes lingered for decades. This map (click to enlarge) shows some of the claims.


Argentina started to establish its right to the whole of Tierra del Fuego in the 1870s by proposing the building of a penal colony in Ushuaia, modeled on the British colony in Tasmania, but only really got going on the project after the 1881 treaty.  If you visit Ushuaia, as I did in 2011, you can ride the railway built by the prisoners and visit the remains of the colony. It is a bleak place.


The ubiquitous plant of the southern reaches of Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina is the calafate, also known as Magellan barberry, which has a characteristic yellow flower and bears a distinctive blue-black fruit. The plant has many close relatives in the Old World, but the Patagonian calafate has a unique flavor. It is commonly made into jellies and preserves, or a flavoring for ice cream and cocktails. The common legend is that if you eat calafate berries in Patagonia you will return. I have, and I will.


The hardest thing about recipes for calafate is getting hold of the berries themselves. No doubt you can get preserves and cordials easily enough online. To get the actual berries I expect you would have to go to Patagonia. They are everywhere. I doubt that they are grown commercially because they grow like weeds on any available land. You can pick them at will. In La cocina del fin del mundo, Jesús Fernandez, gives a recipe (in Spanish) for calafate jelly. I’ve not tried it, but I’ll give some pointers, and make some additional suggestions based on my general experience with jams and jellies.

First I note that Fernandez uses no pectin, but he does include apples whose juices will help set up the finished product. If you’re lazy, though, you can just add pectin according to the instructions on the package. I think the recipe would make a decent preserve as well as a jelly.

Calafate Jelly


1 kg calafate berries
½ kg green cooking apples
700 gm sugar


Wash the berries well in cold running water. Peel and core the apples and cut them in chunks.

Place the berries and apples in a heavy pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and add the sugar. Stir well and let the fruit cook to a pulp, stirring occasionally at first and then more frequently as the fruit softens – about 2 hours.

Test the gel by taking a small amount of the liquid with a spoon and placing a drop on a cool saucer. If it beads up and keeps its shape it is ready. If it flows outward you need to keep cooking. This step is critical. If the liquid does not gel it will never set up when cooled. There are no rules at this point except to keep cooking until you get the desired gel.

Now you have two choices. You can press the mixture through a conical jelly sieve to extract the liquid which will make your jelly, or you can just leave it as is and use it as a preserve. In either case, divide your product between air tight jelly jars and keep them in a cool place.

Jul 122016


I’m back !!! Did you miss me? I’ll continue moveable feasts as I can but July is not full of them. Instead today is the birthday (1852) of Juan Hipólito del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Yrigoyen Alem (usually Hipólito Yrigoyen), two-time President of Argentina and a hero of mine. His activism became the prime impetus behind the passage of universal male suffrage in Argentina in 1912. He is generally known as “padre de los pobres”(the father of the poor) in Argentina. Yrigoyen presided over a rise in the standard of living of Argentina’s working class together with the passage of a number of progressive social reforms, including improvements in factory conditions, regulation of working hours, compulsory pensions, and the introduction of a universally accessible public education system. He was also responsible for great economic growth in the country. For me he was one of the last truly caring and honest politicians, not only in Argentina, but throughout the world. His public career ended when the rich overthrew him in a coup – of course.

Yrigoyen was born in Buenos Aires, to a French Basque father, and grew up in the barrio of Balvanera which at the time was a notorious district for brothels and the birth of tango. He trained for the legal profession and worked at several jobs, including school teacher before entering politics. He used several spellings of his name over his lifetime, but Yrigoyen is now the most common. His father’s name was Hirigoyen, which means “city from above” in French Basque. The “h” is aspirated in French Basque but not pronounced in Spanish Basque or Spanish, so he changed it to Yrigoyen, and sometimes Irigoyen.

His background was basically lower middle class, and he had fought in the revolution of 1874 under Bartolome Mitre. I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say that following independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina had a tumultuous 19th century involving territorial wars with neighboring nations as well as civil wars. Yrigoyen was an immensely stabilizing force.


In 1891 Yrigoyen co-founded the Unión Cívica Radical (Radical Civic Union), together with his uncle, Leandro Alem. Yrigoyen was popularly known as “el peludo” which is a complicated word to translate. It is Lunfardo (Buenos Aires street slang) and usually refers to hairy people because it comes from the word for the hairy armadillo. But the hairy armadillo is also very shy and Yrigoyen was highly introverted and averse to being seen in public or having his photo taken. Following Alem’s suicide in 1896, Hipólito Yrigoyen assumed sole leadership of the Radical Civic Union. He took a strong oppositional position to the political establishment of the time which he considered corrupt and self serving. The Radical Civic Union took up arms in 1893 and again in 1905. Later, however, Yrigoyen adopted a policy of nonviolence, pursuing instead the strategy of “revolutionary abstention,” a total boycott of all elections until 1912, when President Roque Sáenz Peña was forced to agree to the passage of the Sáenz Peña Law, which established secret, universal, and compulsory male suffrage.

Yrigoyen was elected President of Argentina in 1916. He frequently found himself hemmed in, however, as the Senate was appointed by the legislatures of the provinces, most of which were controlled by the opposition. Several times, Yrigoyen resorted to federal intervention of numerous provinces by declaring a state of emergency, removing willful governors, and deepening the confrontation with the landed establishment. Pro-Yrigoyen political supporters were known as “personalistas”, a blunt suggestion that they were sycophants of Yrigoyen, anti-Yrigoyen elements were known as “anti-personalistas”.

Yrigoyen was popular, however, among middle and working class voters, who felt integrated for the first time in the political process, and the Argentine economy prospered under his leadership. Yrigoyen preserved Argentine neutrality during World War I, which turned out to be a boon, owing to higher beef prices and the opening up of many new markets to Argentina’s primary exports (meat and cereals). Yrigoyen also promoted energy independence for the rapidly growing country, obtaining Congressional support for the establishment of the YPF state oil concern, and appointing as its first director General Enrique Mosconi, the most prominent advocate for industrialization in the Argentine military at the time. Generous credit and subsidies were also extended to small farmers, while Yrigoyen settled wage disputes in favor of the unions.


Following four years of recession caused by war-related shortages of credit and supplies, the Argentine economy experienced significant economic growth, expanding by over 40% from 1917 to 1922. Argentina was known as “the granary of the world”, its gross domestic product per capita placing it among the wealthiest nations in the world. Yrigoyen also expanded the bureaucracy and increased public spending to support his urban constituents following an economic crisis in 1919, although the rise in urban living standards was gained at the cost of higher inflation, which adversely affected the export economy. Constitutionally barred from re-election, Yrigoyen was succeeded by Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear.

On the expiration of Alvear’s term in 1928, Yrigoyen was overwhelmingly elected President for the second time. In December of that year, U.S. President-elect Herbert Hoover visited Argentina on a goodwill tour, meeting with Yrigoyen on policies regarding trade and tariffs. Radical anarchist elements attempted to assassinate Hoover by attempting to place a bomb near his rail car, but the bomber was arrested before he could complete his work. President Yrigoyen accompanied Hoover thereafter as a personal guarantee of safety until he left the country.


In his late seventies, he ended up surrounded by aides who censored his access to news reports, hiding from him the reality of the effects of the Great Depression, which hit towards the end of 1929. On December 24 of that year he survived an assassination attempt. Fascist and conservative sectors of the army plotted openly for a regime change, as did Standard Oil of New Jersey, who opposed both the president’s efforts to curb oil smuggling from Salta Province to Bolivia, as well as the existence of YPF, itself. On September 6, 1930, Yrigoyen was deposed in a military coup led by General José Félix Uriburu.  After the coup Enrique Pérez Colman, minister of finance in the Yrigoyen cabinet, General Moscini, former director of oil fields, General Baldrich and a number of Yrigoyenist deputies were placed under arrest by the provisional government of General Uriburu. The new government of Uriburu adopted the most severe measures to prevent reprisals and counter-revolutionary tactics by friends of the ousted administration of Yrigoyen.


Yrigoyen died in Buenos Aires on July 3, 1933 and was mourned throughout the city with a public funeral. The coup that ended his presidency also ended stability in Argentina. A lost time.

Here’s dulce de batata and cheese to celebrate Yrigoyen. Dulce de batata is a paste made from sweet potatoes that people normally buy commercially, but you can make it yourself (as you can dulce de leche or dulce de membrillo).  Dulce de batata and cheese is a common dessert, reportedly the favorite of the legendary gaucho Martín Fierro. You can eat dulce de batata with any soft cheese but Argentine cremoso is the most usual. Cremoso was first made by Italian immigrants as a form of Stracchino), also known as crescenza typical of Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto. It is eaten very young, has no rind and has a very soft, creamy texture and a mild, delicate flavor.


Dulce de Batata


2 kg sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 ½ kg sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract


Boil the sweet potatoes in water with the lemon juice until they are soft (about 40 minutes).

In a non-reactive saucepan place 1 L of cold water, the sugar, and vanilla. Bring to a low simmer and cook gently for 30 minutes to form a syrup.

Drain the sweet potatoes and add them to the sugar syrup. Cook the mixture on a low simmer, stirring regularly until the whole becomes thick and creamy. You can mash the sweet potatoes with a wooden spoon to hasten the process if you like. Add the cinnamon, stir, and let cool.

Serve with slices of cheese (as pictured).


Jun 192016


Today is the third Sunday in June which is Father’s Day in a great many countries – but not all by any means. It is Father’s Day in the countries I am, or have been, most closely associated with, namely Britain, the U.S., Argentina, and China, so I’ll use it as my day’s theme. Prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Father’s Day was celebrated in China on August 8. This was determined by the fact that the Eighth (ba) day of the Eighth (ba) month makes two “eight”s (八八, ba-ba), which sounds similar to the colloquial word for “daddy” (ba-ba,爸爸). It is still celebrated on this date in some areas.  Father’s Day in Italy is St Joseph’s Day (19 March).

I will add a caution. I tend to be a bit chary of celebratory days for things that I think should be normal, everyday things. I don’t like Valentine’s Day for that reason, for example. When I love another it is a permanent state, and I like to do “special” things all the time for that person, rather than on a particular day. Likewise “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” is one of the Ten Commandments. Not only is there no need to pick out a special day for this, but, in fact, having only one day in the year for such action is really counter to the whole spirit of the commandment. You should hold your parents in high esteem EVERY day.

I imagine that all these “special” days are promoted by greeting card manufacturers and the like to boost sales at slow times of the year. Valentine’s Day shifts people out of the doldrums of the post-Christmas blahs, and June is a slow month, so why not stick Father’s Day in there to liven it up? Maybe I sound cynical, but I am sure I am right. All that having been said, let me honor my own father today after a little discussion of the history of the celebration.


After Anna Jarvis’ successful promotion of Mother’s Day in Grafton, West Virginia, the first observance of a “Father’s Day” in the United States was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father when, on December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around 1,000 fatherless children. It has been described as the worst mining disaster in US history. Clayton suggested that her pastor, Robert Thomas Webb, honor all those fathers.

Clayton’s event did not have repercussions outside of Fairmont for several reasons, among them: the city was overwhelmed by other events, the celebration was never promoted outside of the town itself and no proclamation was made in the city council. Also two events overshadowed this event: the celebration of Independence Day July 4, 1908, with 12,000 attendants and several shows including a hot air balloon event, which took over the headlines in the following days, plus the death of a 16-year-old girl on July 4. The local church and council were overwhelmed and they did not even think of promoting the event, and it was not celebrated again for many years. The original sermon was not reproduced in the press and it was lost. Also, Clayton was a rather quiet person, who never promoted the event or even talked to other people about it.

papa12 papa11

In 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held on 19 June in Spokane, Washington, at the YMCA by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who had raised his six children in Spokane. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, “sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city.”

It took a long time for Father’s Day to be recognized officially in the US, and was not signed into law as a national holiday until 1972. People – rightly – feared that it would be commercialized and resisted movements in this direction. Oh well, it happened anyway. Stores throughout the US and Britain put out an unceasing barrage of advertisements for stuff to give dad. Very annoying.

My father died 35 years ago, so even if I were tempted to, I can’t run out and buy him a new power saw or tool belt. He wouldn’t have wanted them anyway. Maybe he would have been touched, though, if I had paid tribute to him in some way. In the family he was known as papa (and still is). This is the Spanish version of “dad” but I am not sure if it originated in Argentina, where one of my sisters and I were born, or in some other way.


This is what I wrote a few years ago:

Here’s my papa some time in the 1950’s — my sisters could probably narrow it down more. He was the man responsible for the fact that I was born in Argentina and had lived on 3 continents by the age of six. He was the man who showed me what fun it was to cook. He was the man who passed on to me the joy of knowledge. He showed me that it was all right for men to cry. He was the man who loved me. When I was an infant and he took my hand for safety on the street I was nine feet tall. He loved to play with me on his knees when I was a little boy — a happy memory. I never met his father but it was clear from the stories he told me that he idolized him. Fathers and sons are a powerful force of nature. Get between them only if you do not value your life. We are permitted to fight with one another — NO ONE else is.

Papa and I had our differences, of course, but I’m certainly not going to wash our dirty linens in public, and I take very seriously the Roman adage, de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est.  I’ll be his Mark Anthony. He was born in Glasgow, and his father was a horse breeder and mortician. On my papa’s birth certificate his father is listed as an ambulance driver because that was his service in World War I when my papa was born. Otherwise he kept a stable of pure-black horses and conducted funerals using a horse-drawn hearse. Papa always spoke admiringly of him.


Papa left Glasgow at the age of 18 and joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman, training at the Royal Naval College. Before World War II he served on several ships in the Atlantic and Pacific, visiting Argentina, India, Australia, China, and Japan, among other places, at a time when most Brits barely left their home towns. In this way he developed a zest for world travel, and began picking up languages. I don’t know the full extent of his linguistic ability, but I spent many hours with him as a boy while he happily conversed with people in Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, and Danish. He held an honors degree from London University in Spanish, and most of his personal library – which we dragged around the world – was books in Spanish.


When World War II began he spent most of his time on ships in the Atlantic and was part of the evacuation forces at Dunkirk. In 1944 he was crippled in action and repatriated to a hospital in Sussex where he met my mother. Several months after he was taken to England, his ship was torpedoed with enormous loss of life. After recuperation he served in the Merchant Navy and retired after the war. Then the traveling began in earnest – Argentina, England, Australia, then back to England, and finally back to Scotland. I see in him a mirror of my own life. Though born in Scotland, he lived most of his life in other countries. Yet he was always a Scot at heart, and returned in later life because Scotland was his home. I was born in Buenos Aires but, courtesy of papa (and then on my own), journeyed the world until at age 59 I returned to Argentina and immediately knew that I was home.

Fatherhood, in turn, changed me beyond recognition. I used to say when my son was a baby — “you know you are a father when your son throws up on your best tailored suit, and all you care about is whether he is all right.” This is not the place to tout my own credentials as a father, but I will say that by becoming a father I became aware of what my papa had done for me.


My mother was the main family cook, with my elder sister pitching in. But on Saturdays my papa was the lunch cook. He also cooked on special occasions sometimes. His normal lunch dishes were curry and spaghetti. It’s important to realize that in the 1950s, when he began cooking for the family, Indian and Italian food were virtually unknown in England and Australia. Best you might do is get tinned, processed spaghetti (to warm up and eat on toast). Yet in that miasma of ignorance papa created amazing international cuisine. I have a vivid memory of him making ravioli from scratch once. The filling was brains, spinach, and cheese, and he hand made the pasta on the kitchen table.  He made the pasta by building a hollow mound of flour, cracking eggs into the middle, and working it all together with his hands, then rolling it into flat sheets with a rolling pin. Making the ravioli was genius. Papa laid one sheet of pasta on the table, dabbed the filling around and then laid a second sheet of pasta on top. We had a wooden utensil for shaping the ravioli, a little like the one in the photo, but larger and without the serrated edges. When papa placed it over the pasta it separated the sheet into square pillows which he then cut out with a pastry wheel.


My legacy from my papa in cooking was at least two-fold. First, he taught me that food was much more than roast lamb and boiled cabbage. English cooking has many merits, as I have been at pains to point out over the past 3 years, but papa taught me how much more there was to world cuisine by making it right in our own kitchen. Second, I grew up watching him cook exotic stuff, but just figured it was regular. So, when it came my turn to make pasta I was not remotely daunted; I figured it was normal. I should say too that both my sisters are superb cooks.

Spaghetti and tuco was a perennial Saturday favorite. I was a mature teen before I realized that “tuco” was not the regular Italian word for a tomato-based pasta sauce. Argentinos call that sauce tuco. In our kitchen my papa used several Argentine-Spanish words that I just assumed were the regular words for things. A big stock pot was an olla for example (pronounced /ozha/). How was I to know that no one else outside of Argentina called it that? Somewhere knocking around the house was a gaucho-style mate and bombilla set that I can still smell – the smell of Argentina. Late night if papa were hungry he’d break out the skillet and make a classic Argentine tortilla. That’s how I learned to make them. Argentine Milanesa was a favorite dinner.

Argentine tuco is, of course, derived from Italian pasta sauces. Papa’s tuco was close to a Bolognese sauce. You can find them meatless in some households in Buenos Aires but usually they contain a lot of ground beef. Papa, like me, was not wedded to recipes, and in any case it’s been 55 years since I last tasted his offering. This is my recipe based on what I remember. The main point is that you are aiming for a sauce in which the meat is prominent and the consistency is thick. Oregano is commonly available in Buenos Aires, but my papa did not use it for tuco, and it is not a usual ingredient for the sauce in Argentina. Garlic and onion are the prime flavorings. Papa normally used lard for frying, but once he used olive oil and was delighted with it. He said that the aroma of it heating reminded him of olive groves in Italy. For health and taste I’d go with olive oil. Argentinos use beef but my papa used lamb or beef depending on what was available. Lamb was more usual in Australia.




500 g ground beef
500 g tinned tomatoes, chopped with juice
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
vegetable oil
1 cup beef stock
salt and pepper


Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft. Add the beef and brown it gently. You will probably need a wooden spoon to break it up and separate it, so that you do not have any clumps. The ground beef pieces should all be separate.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, the tomato paste, the garlic, and the beef stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simmer gently, uncovered, over low heat for about an hour. You want the sauce to be very thick and meaty.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

May 252016


Today is one of two national days of independence in Argentina. I have already covered the main events of 25 de Mayo here  The May Revolution of 1810 initiated the independence movement, but what followed was a bloody century in Argentina and throughout South America. First there were the wars of independence with Spain, followed by various internecine wars in South America to carve out national territories from the former vice royalties of Spain, coupled with civil wars inside Argentina between the forces in favor of federalism along the lines of the USA (Federales), and those who wanted a centralized government in Buenos Aires (Unitarios). Internal strife within Argentina did not end until 1880. War with foreign nations, especially Britain (seeking to colonize Argentina after independence from Spain), dribbled on mid-century. The 19th century in Argentina was an incredibly bloody and contentious century, that eventually forged the modern nation, the events of which are commemorated publicly, and drilled into the heads of all school children from an early age.

It is reasonable to argue, I think, that the horrendous blood letting of the 19th century led to a pacifist 20th century in Argentina, with no external wars excepting the Malvinas conflict, which was trumped up by the generals to bolster their fading hold on power during the Dirty War.  The Malvinas are the last vestige of 19th century British colonialism in the region, still a major sore spot in Argentine national consciousness.


In the early decades of the 19th century following independence, various efforts were made to draft national constitutions for Argentina. The Argentine Constitution of 1819 was drafted by the Congress of Tucumán and promulgated on this date because it was the anniversary of the May Revolution. It was promoted by Buenos Aires but rejected by the other provinces and did not come into force.

The Congress of Tucumán had moved to Buenos Aires, after having issued the Argentine Declaration of Independence in San Miguel de Tucumán (9 July 1816). The draft constitution of 1819 was based on the current laws ruling the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, as well as in foreign constitutions such as those of the US, France, and Spain. It was written by José Mariano Serrano, Diego Estanislao Zavaleta, Teodoro Sánchez de Bustamante, Juan José Paso and Antonio Sáenz.

The Constitution set the separation of powers into three distinct branches, with the executive power to be held by a “Supreme Director,” who would be elected by a majority of a Joint Session of Congress, and who would serve a 5-year term. Under the form of government established in 1814, the executive power had been exercised by the Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, but there had been attempts to crown a Bourbon as King of the United Provinces. He would have had the authority to designate the governors of the provinces.

The legislative power was meant to be exercised by two chambers; one of Senators, the other of deputies. Besides a fixed number of Senators per province, the chamber of Senators would also be composed by three military officers (colonel or higher), one bishop, three clergymen, a representative of each University, and the former Supreme Director. Both senators and deputies had to show evidence of an estate of $8000 and $4000 respectively. The chamber of deputies was to have the initiative in issues related to taxes.


The constitution was promulgated on May 25, 1819. It was immediately rejected by the provinces, which then waged war against the Supreme Directorship. The national armies that were fighting the War of Independence refused to fight a civil war, so the diminished troops of Supreme Director José Rondeau were defeated in February 1820 at the Battle of Cepeda. The 1819 Constitution was subsequently repealed to be followed by a new constitution in 1826. And so on . . .

25May5 25May4

On this date, Argentinos celebrate the events of the May Revolution with locro and pastelitos de 25 de Mayo which I have described at length in other posts. Both are classics of Argentine cuisine.


Today I will probably make something resembling picada, a classic Argentine between-meals snack which can also serve as a light meal. It is influenced by the Italian antipasto, but in Argentina it consists of local products such as matambre, cheeses, and cured meats. Breakfast in Argentina is usually mate plus some pastries and the evening meal often does not start until 9pm or later. Lunch can be heavy, followed by a siesta (a grand tradition I follow), so something relatively substantial is necessary to fill the gaps. I have no chance of finding Argentine sausages and cheeses in Italy, so I will have to make do – you will too if you want to celebrate the day outside of Argentina. I will, at least, be able to drink mate (which I do every day), but, sadly will have no one to share with me. This is the tragedy of my current life. My friends keep reminding me: “Juan – se tiene que compartir los mates !!!” YA ENTIENDO !!! Voy a volver, eventualmente hermanos.

Apr 162016


Salta (now in NW Argentina) was founded on this date in 1582 by the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Lerma, who intended the settlement to be an outpost between Lima and Buenos Aires. De Lerma was named Governor of Tucumán, (in present Argentina) in 1577 by Spanish King Philip II. Described by historians as a man of violence, de Lerma had problems with several people from the area, including fellow countrymen. Among those he persecuted were the spokesman of a Catholic bishop. He also disliked Francisco Salcedo who built a church in Santiago del Estero. Many of de Lerma’s opponents ended up in jail or being killed. Salcedo fled to another city, but he was returned to Tucumán by de Lerma’s men after his location was discovered. In Tucumán, Salcedo was tried and jailed. A number of Salcedo’s supporters were killed.


In April 1582, de Lerma founded the city of Salta, next to the Arenales River. He foresaw Salta as an economic center, since the Spanish government had opened seaports in Santiago de Chile, Callao, and Buenos Aires. Salta’s situation between the Viceroyalty of Peru and Buenos Aires, according to de Lerma, would be an advantage for the city, because he believed that Madrid’s government would re-route their shipments through Salta. He named the city Ciudad de San Felipe y Santiago del Lerma en el valle de Salta, which was subsequently shortened to Salta. De Lerma befriended Indians who populated the area, believing they could be of help to him, especially with their labor. He also attracted Spaniards to the area.

After he established the city, however, de Lerma had to face many new rivals and problems. More conquerors arrived in Salta and tried to seize the city, causing multiple feuds. The city went through many periods of disease, and it had been erected in an area with frequent tremors. In 1584, de Lerma was arrested and sentenced to jail in Salta. He appealed, and returned to Spain to take his case to the supreme court, but his appeal was rejected and he was sent to a Spanish jail. While it is known he died in jail, the year in which he died is not known.

Historian Paul Goussac wrote that “de Lerma’s administration was nothing but a series of criminal attempts.” Salta-born historian Armando Bazan describes de Lerma “as malign as a disease.”  Well, I think all of the conquistadores were as malign as a disease, but Lerma was apparently more like pneumonia whereas the others were simply a bad case of ‘flu.


During the war of independence, the city became a commercial and military strategic point between Perú and the Argentine cities. Between 1816 and 1821, the city was led by local military leader General Martín Miguel de Güemes, who, under the command of General José de San Martín, defended the city and surrounding area from Spanish forces coming from further north. Salta emerged from the War of Independence politically in disarray and financially bankrupt, a condition that lingered throughout much of the 19th century. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the arrival of Italian, Spanish and Arab immigrants, particularly Syrians and Lebanese, revived trade and agriculture all over the area while further enhancing the city’s multicultural flavor.


Salta is one of my favorite destinations in Argentina, and I have many friends there. I’m debating living there when I return to Argentina. It is situated in the Lerma Valley, 1,152 metres (3780 feet) above sea level, at the foothills of the Andes mountains. The weather is warm and dry, with annual averages of 756 mm (30”) of rainfall and an average temperature of 16.4 °C (20.4 °C in summer, 10.8 °C in winter). January and February are the months with greatest rainfall. During the spring, Salta is occasionally plagued by severe, week-long dust storms.


Nicknamed Salta la Linda (“Salta the beautiful”), it has become a major tourist destination due to its old, colonial architecture, friendliness, excellent weather and natural scenery of the valleys westward. Attractions in the city proper include the 18th century Cabildo, the neo-classical style Cathedral, and the 9 de julio central square along with San Bernardo hill and its surroundings. The city’s museums exhibit a wide range of artifacts and art work from the native civilizations that flourished in the area (Salta is located in the southernmost region of what was the Inca empire, belonging to the Collasuyu, one of the four areas the empire was divided into until the Spanish conquest), as well as from the 16th century Spanish conquest and the colonial and post-colonial periods. Salta is also the starting point of the “Train to the Clouds” (Tren a las nubes), and on the way to the red soils of Cafayate.

The general region of Salta is regarded as the one most influenced by native Indians, and its foods are closely linked to the Andean-Incan tradition. When preparing regional dishes, potatoes and corn are common, along with quinoa, peppers, squashes and tomatoes. The most celebrated dishes are humita and tamal, in which the corn husk is stuffed with a corn filling and seasonings or meat. The popular Argentine dish, locro, also comes from this region. Arguably, however, the empanadas from Salta are the best in Argentina.

Empanadas salteñas are distinctive in that the meat for the filling is chopped, not ground, and is mixed with potatoes and hard boiled eggs (among other things). In Argentina I buy the pastry discs for the empanadas readymade, but you can easily make them yourself if you have the time. Argentinos are divided about spices. In Buenos Aires all hot spices are avoided, but in Salta a little heat is all right. Your choice.


Empanadas Salteñas


500g pastry dough (see )

egg yolk, beaten (for brushing the tops of the empanadas)

1kg beef
500g onion
300g potatoes
3 hardboiled eggs
250g spring onion
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp red chilli powder (optional)
1 tbsp paprika
olive oil


Boil the potatoes until they are al dente. Do not overcook them.

Finely chop the meat, onion, and potatoes. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the meat until golden brown. Add the onion, potatoes, cumin, chilli (if used) and paprika, and enough water from the potatoes to cover the mixture. Cover and cook until the meat is tender. Add salt to taste. Leave to cool, then add the chop the egg and spring onion, and add to the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Shape the dough into circles approximately 13cm in diameter. Add a heap of filling into the centre of each disc. Wet the edges with water. Fold the disc in half, then seal the edges with a fork or finish the empanadas with the repulgue fold (pictured). Brush the tops with beaten egg yolk and bake for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve hot from the oven.

Yield: about 36

Mar 112016


Today is the birthday (1921) of Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla, Argentine tango composer, bandoneón player and band leader whose work revolutionized the traditional tango by incorporating elements from jazz and classical music. I can’t say that I am a fan because I have a deep purist streak in me, but I recognize his skills. Here’s a sample:

Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1921, the only child of Italian immigrant parents, Vicente “Nonino” Piazzolla and Asunta Manetti. His paternal grandfather, a sailor and fisherman named Pantaleo (later Pantaleón) Piazzolla, had immigrated to Mar del Plata from Trani, a seaport in the southeastern Italian region of Apulia, at the end of the 19th century. His mother was the daughter of two Italian immigrants from Lucca in Tuscany. In 1925 Astor Piazzolla moved with his family to Greenwich Village in New York City, which in those days was a violent neighborhood inhabited by a volatile mixture of gangsters and hard-working immigrants. His parents worked long hours and Piazzolla soon learned to take care of himself on the streets despite having a limp. At home he would listen to his father’s records of the tango orchestras of Carlos Gardel and Julio de Caro, and was also exposed to jazz and classical music, including Bach, from an early age. He began to play the bandoneón after his father spotted one in a New York pawn shop in 1929.


After their return to New York City from a brief visit to Mar del Plata in 1930, the family went to live in Little Italy in lower Manhattan, and in 1932 Piazzolla composed his first tango La catinga. The following year Piazzolla took music lessons with the Hungarian classical pianist Bela Wilda, a student of Rachmaninoff, who taught him to play Bach on his bandoneón. In 1934 he met Carlos Gardel, ( ), and played a cameo role as a young paper boy in his movie El día que me quieras. Gardel invited Piazzolla to join him on his current tour. Much to Piazzolla’s dismay, his father decided that he was not old enough to go along. This early disappointment of not being allowed to join the tour proved to be a blessing in disguise, as it was on this tour that Gardel and his entire orchestra died in a plane crash in 1935. In 1936, he returned with his family to Mar del Plata, where he began to play in a variety of tango orchestras and around this time he discovered the music of Elvino Vardaro’s sextet on the radio. Vardaro’s novel interpretation of tango made a great impression on Piazzolla and years later he would become Piazzolla’s violinist in his Orquesta de Cuerdas and his First Quintet.


Inspired by Vardaro’s style of tango, and still only 17 years old, Piazzolla moved to Buenos Aires in 1938 where, the following year, he realized a dream when he joined the orchestra of the bandoneónist Anibal Troilo, which would become one of the greatest tango orchestras of that time. Piazzolla was employed as a temporary replacement for Toto Rodríguez who was ill, but when Rodríguez returned to work Troilo decided to retain Piazzolla as a fourth bandoneónist. Apart from playing the bandoneón, Piazzolla also became Troilo’s arranger and would occasionally play the piano for him. By 1941 he was earning a good wage, enough to pay for music lessons with Alberto Ginastera, an eminent Argentine composer of classical music. It was the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, then living in Buenos Aires, who had advised him to study with Ginastera and delving into scores of Stravinsky, Bartók, Ravel, and others, Piazzolla rose early each morning to hear the Teatro Colón orchestra rehearse while continuing a grueling performance schedule in the tango clubs at night. During his five years of study with Ginastera he mastered orchestration, which he later considered to be one of his strong points. In 1943 he started piano lessons with the Argentine classical pianist Raúl Spivak, which continued for the next five years, and wrote his first classical works Preludio No. 1 for Violin and Piano and Suite for Strings and Harps. That same year he married his first wife, Dedé Wolff, an artist, with whom he had two children, Diana and Daniel.

As time went by Troilo began to fear that Piazzolla’s advanced musical ideas might undermine the style of his orchestra and make it less appealing to tango dancers. Tensions mounted between the two until, in 1944, Piazzolla announced his intention to leave Troilo and join Francisco Fiorentino’s orchestra. Piazzolla led Fiorentino’s orchestra until 1946 and made many recordings with him, including his first two instrumental tangos, La chiflada and Color de rosa.


In 1946 Piazzolla formed his Orquesta Típica, which, although having a similar formation to other tango orchestras of the day, gave him his first opportunity to experiment with his own approach to the orchestration and musical content of tango. That same year he composed, El Desbande, which he considered to be his first formal tango, and then began to compose musical scores for films, starting with Con los mismos colores in 1949 and Bólidos de acero in 1950, both films directed by Carlos Torres Ríos.

Having disbanded his first orchestra in 1950 he almost abandoned tango altogether as he continued to study Bartok and Stravinsky and orchestra direction with Hermann Scherchen. He spent a lot of time listening to jazz and searching for a musical style of his own beyond the realms of tango. He decided to drop the bandoneon and to dedicate himself to writing and to studying music. Between 1950 and 1954 he composed a series of works that began to develop his unique style: Para lucirse, Tanguango, Prepárense, Contrabajeando, Triunfal and Lo que vendrá.

At Ginastera’s urging, Piazzolla entered his classical composition Buenos Aires Symphony, in three movements, for the Fabian Sevitzky Award on August 16, 1953. The performance took place at the Law School in Buenos Aires with the symphony orchestra of Radio del Estado under the direction of Sevitzky himself. At the end of the concert a fight broke out among some members of the audience who were offended by the inclusion of two bandoneóns in a traditional symphony orchestra. In spite of this Piazzolla’s composition won a grant from the French government to study in Paris with the legendary French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger at the Fontainebleau conservatory.

In 1954 he and his wife left their two children (Diana aged 11 and Daniel aged 10) behind with Piazzolla’s parents and traveled to Paris. At this stage in his life Piazzolla was tired of tango and at first, he tried to hide his tanguero past and his bandoneón compositions from Boulanger, thinking that his destiny lay in classical music. By way of introduction to his work, Piazzolla played her a number of his classically-inspired compositions but it was not until he finally played his tango Triunfal that she immediately congratulated him and encouraged him to pursue his career in tango, recognizing that this was where his true musical talent lay. This was to prove an historic encounter and a crossroad in Piazzolla’s career.

During his time with Boulanger he studied classical composition including counterpoint which was to play a key role in his later tango compositions. Before leaving Paris he heard, and was deeply impressed by, the octet of the American jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, which was to give him the idea of forming his own octet on his return to Buenos Aires. At this time he composed and recorded a series of tangos with the String Orchestra of the Paris Opera and began to play the bandoneón while standing up, putting his right foot on a chair and the bellows of the instrument across his right thigh. Until that time bandoneónists played sitting down.

Back in Argentina, Piazzolla formed his Orquesta de Cuerdas (String Orchestra), which performed with the singer Jorge Sobral, and his Octeto Buenos Aires in 1955. With two bandoneóns (Piazzolla and Leopoldo Federico), two violins (Enrique Mario Francini and Hugo Baralis), double bass (Juan Vasallo), cello (José Bragato), piano (Atilio Stampone), and an electric guitar (Horacio Malvicino), his Octeto effectively broke the mould of the traditional orquesta típica and created a new sound akin to chamber music, without a singer and with jazz-like improvisations. This was to be a turning point in his career and a watershed in the history of tango. Piazzolla’s new approach to the tango, nuevo tango, made him a controversial figure in his native land both musically and politically. However, his music gained acceptance in Europe and North America, and his reworking of the tango was embraced by some liberal segments of Argentine society, who were pushing for political changes in parallel with his musical revolution.


In 1958 he disbanded both the Octeto and the String Orchestra and returned to New York City with his family where he struggled to make a living as a musician and arranger. Briefly forming his own group, the Jazz Tango Quintet with whom he made just two recordings, his attempts to blend jazz and tango were not successful. He received the news of the death of his father in October 1959 while performing with Juan Carlos Copes and María Nieves in Puerto Rico and on his return to New York City a few days later, he asked to be left alone in his apartment and in less than an hour wrote his famous tango Adiós Nonino, in homage to his father.

Copes and Nieves packed out Club Flamboyan in San Juan, Puerto Rico with “Compañia Argentina Tangolandia”. Piazzolla was serving as the musical director. The tour continued in New York, Chicago and then Washington. The last show that the three of them did together was an appearance on CBS the only color TV channel in the USA on the Arthur Murray Show in April 1960.

Back in Buenos Aires later that year he put together the first, and perhaps most famous, of his quintets, the first Quinteto, initially made up of bandoneón (Piazzolla), piano (Jaime Gosis), violin (Simón Bajour), electric guitar (Horacio Malvicino ) and double bass (Kicho Díaz). Of the many ensembles that Piazzolla set up during his career it was the quintet formation which best expressed his approach to tango. In 1965 he released El Tango, an album for which he collaborated with the Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges. The recording featured his Quinteto together with an orchestra, the singer Edmundo Rivero and Luis Medina Castro reciting texts.

In 1967 he signed a five-year contract with the poet Horacio Ferrer with whom he composed the operetta María de Buenos Aires, with lyrics by Ferrer. The work was premiered in May 1968 with the singer Amelita Baltar in the title role and introduced a new style of tango, Tango Canción ( Song Tango). Soon after this he began a relationship with Baltar. The following year he wrote Balada para un loco with lyrics by Ferrer which was premiered at the First Iberoamerican Music Festival with Amelita Baltar and Piazzolla himself conducting the orchestra. Piazzolla was awarded second prize and the composition would prove to be his first popular success.

In 1970 Piazzolla returned to Paris where with Ferrer he wrote the oratorio El pueblo joven later premiered in Saarbrücken, Germany in 1971. On May 19, 1970 he gave a concert with his Quinteto at the Teatro Regina in Buenos Aires in which he premiered his composition Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas.

Back in Buenos Aires he founded his Conjunto 9 (aka Nonet), a chamber music formation, which was a realization of a dream for Piazzolla and for which he composed some of his most sophisticated music. He now put aside his first Quinteto and made several recordings with his new ensemble in Italy. Within a year the Conjunto 9 had run into financial problems and was dissolved and in 1972 he participated in his first concert at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, sharing the bill with other Tango orchestras.


After a period of great productivity as a composer, he suffered a heart attack in 1973 and that same year he moved to Italy where he began a series of recordings which would span a period of five years. The music publisher Aldo Pagani, a partner in Curci-Pagani Music, had offered Piazzolla a 15-year contract in Rome to record anything he could write. His famous album Libertango was recorded in Milan in May 1974 and later that year he separated from Amelita Baltar and in September recorded the album Summit (Reunión Cumbre) with the saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and an Italian orchestra, including jazz musicians such as bassist Pino Presti and drummer Tullio De Piscopo, in Milan. The album includes the composition Aire de Buenos Aires by Mulligan.

In 1975 he set up his Electronic Octet an octet made up of bandoneón, electric piano and/or acoustic piano, organ, guitar, electric bass, drums, synthesizer and violin, which was later replaced by a flute or saxophone. Later that year Aníbal Troilo died and Piazzolla composed the Suite Troileana in his memory, a work in four parts, which he recorded with the Conjunto Electronico. At this time Piazzolla started a collaboration with the singer Jose A. Trelles with whom he made a number of recordings.

In 1978 he formed his second Quintet, with which he would tour the world for 11 years, and would make him world-renowned. He also returned to writing chamber music and symphonic works.

During the period of Argentine military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, Piazzolla lived in Italy, but returned many times to Argentina, recorded there, and on at least one occasion had lunch with the dictator Jorge Rafael Videla. However, his relationship with the dictator might have been less than friendly, as recounted in Astor Piazzolla, A manera de memorias (a comprehensive collection of interviews, constituting a memoir).

In 1982 he recorded the album Oblivion with an orchestra in Italy for the film Enrico IV, directed by Marco Bellocchio, and in May 1982, in the middle of the Falklands War, he played in a concert at the Teatro Regina, Buenos Aires with the second Quinteto and the singer Roberto Goyeneche. That same year he wrote Le Grand Tango for cello and piano, dedicated to Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich which would be premiered by him in 1990 in New Orleans.


On 11 June 1983 he put on one of the best concerts of his life when he played a program of his music at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. For the occasion he regrouped the Conjunto 9 and played solo with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, directed by Pedro Ignacio Calderón. The program included his three-movement Concierto para bandoneón y orquesta and his 3 movement Concierto de Nacar.

On 4 July 1984 Piazzolla appeared with his Quinteto at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the world’s largest jazz festival, and on 29 September that same year they appeared with the Italian singer Milva at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris. His concert on 15 October 1984 at the Teatro Nazionale in Milan was recorded and released as the album Suite Punte del Este. At the end of that same year he performed in West-Berlin, and in theater Vredenburg in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, where VPRO-TV-director Theo Uittenbogaard recorded his Quinteto Tango Nuevo, playing, among other pieces, a very moving Adios Nonino, with as a backdrop – to Piazzolla’s great pleasure – the extremely zoomed-in “live”‘ projection of his bandoneon playing.

In 1988 he wrote music for the film Sur, and married the singer and television personality Laura Escalada on April 11. In May that year he recorded his album La Camorra in New York, a suite of three pieces, the last time he would record with the second Quinteto. During a tour of Japan with Milva he played at a concert at the Nakano Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo on June 26, 1988 and that same year underwent a quadruple by-pass operation.

Early in 1989 he formed his Sexteto Nuevo Tango, his last ensemble, with two bandoneóns, piano, electric guitar, bass and cello. Together they gave a concert at the Club Italiano in Buenos Aires in April, a recording of which was issued under the title of Tres minutos con la realidad. Later he appeared with them at the Teatro Opera in Buenos Aires in the presence of the newly elected Argentine President Carlos Menem on Friday, June 9. This would be Piazzolla’s last concert in Argentina.

He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in Paris on August 4, 1990, which left him in a coma, and died in Buenos Aires, just under two years later on July 4, 1992, without regaining consciousness.


Here’s a photo of a pizza I had for lunch in Buenos Aires some years ago (on this date, as it happens). It’s as eclectic as Piazzolla’s music – born also of the immense immigration of Italians to Buenos Aires in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You can make something similar. From the photo you will notice three things: the crust is thick and doughy, there is no tomato sauce, just mounds of cheese, and assorted ingredients are baked into the cheese. Styles vary considerably in Buenos Aires, but this is the norm. Sometimes you can find a thinner crust, but tomato sauce is very rare. If tomatoes are used at all they are sliced as a topping. But . . . absolutely anything goes as a topping. In famous pizzerias, such as Los Inmortales, they have set combinations (with fancy names), but usually customers just order what they want. Unlike U.S. pizzerias, they don’t have lists of available toppings; you ask for what you want and chances are they have them – artichoke hearts, langoustines, prosciutto . . . whatever. As in Italy, the discussion with the waiter can get long and involved if you are not careful. Best to keep questions to a minimum.

My wife used to make pizza dough, but I’m not much of a baker. I do make pizzas from time to time, but I buy the dough ready made. Here in Italy it’s available in a number of places. In the U.S. it’s easy enough to buy from your local pizzeria. Then it’s a question of the right equipment. Commercial pizza ovens are hotter than home ovens. Crank yours up to the highest temperature possible. I used to have a pizza stone which I kept in the oven all the time. This also simulates the evenly heated stone surface of a commercial oven. Have your oven well preheated with the stone in place if you have one. Otherwise use a greased baking sheet. Knead the dough a little and then stretch it out to form a circle (don’t roll it), on a wooden paddle, as thick or thin as you wish. Sprinkle lavishly with grated mozzarella, then add whatever toppings you want. Slide it into the oven on the paddle and bake. After 10 minutes, turn the pizza so that it cooks evenly. It’s finished when the bottom is golden when you lift it a little to peek.

Oct 082015


Today is the birthday (1895) of Juan Domingo Perón, Argentine military officer and politician. I’m deeply ambivalent about this post because there are a lot of things not to like about Perón. But he, and his second wife, Eva, are immensely popular in Argentina to this day, and his political legacy remains an important component of Argentine life. So, I am not going to talk about Perón as a person so much as his ideology and its long shadow in 20th and 21st century Argentina. Let’s make sure we put the bad stuff first, as is my wont when discussing difficult material. Perón sympathized with fascist countries. He was an admirer of Mussolini, and during his exile from Argentina after 1955 he spent the bulk of his time in Franco’s Spain. Yet, his respect for certain fascist ideas was not uncritical. He did believe in patriotic nationalism, but he did not believe in racism, nor in limiting immigration. From the outside it may seem paradoxical that in post-war years he welcomed Nazis and Jews, yet this fact is one small part of the complexity of Perón and Peronismo (his socio-political philosophy).

I can’t say that I fully understand Peronismo (or Peronism) even now after years of trying. Nowadays there are right-wing and left-wing Peronistas (Peronists). The current government is Peronist, but it is nothing like the Peronist movement of the early 1950s. For me Peronismo is a very strange umbrella under which crowds a whole spectrum of political views. More than anything else Peronismo is a cult of personality more than a definable set of viewpoints – focused now more on Eva than Juan. The Peróns’ followers praised (and still praise) their efforts to eliminate poverty and to dignify labor, while their detractors considered them demagogues and dictators.


Peronismo is also called Justicialismo, the latter name giving rise to the party name Partido Justicialista (Justicialist Party), ultimately derived from justicia social (social justice), one of the three “flags” of Peronismo. The pillars of the Peronist ideal, or the “three flags”, are social justice, economic independence, and political sovereignty. Peronismo can be described as a third position ideology, since it rejects the extremes of capitalism and communism. Peronismo espouses corporatism and thus aims to mediate tensions between the classes of society, with the state responsible for negotiating compromise in conflicts between managers and workers.

It is, however, a generally ill-defined ideology; different, and sometimes contradictory sentiments are expressed in the name of Peronism. Today, the legacy and thought of Perón have transcended the confines of any single political party and bled into the broader political landscape of Argentina, therefore Peronists are usually described as a political movement. Traditionally the Peronist movement has drawn its strongest support from the working class and sympathetic unions, and has been characterized as proletarian in nature. From the perspective of opponents, Peronism is an authoritarian ideology. Perón was often compared to fascist dictators, accused of demagoguery, and his policies derided as populist. Proclaiming himself the embodiment of nationality, Perón’s government often silenced dissent by accusing opponents of being unpatriotic. The corporatist character of Peronism drew attacks from socialists who accused his administration of preserving capitalist exploitation and class division. Conservatives rejected its modernist ideology and felt their status threatened by the ascent of the Peronist apparat. Liberals condemned the Perón regime’s arbitrariness and dictatorial tendencies.


Defenders of Peronism also describe the doctrine as populist, albeit in the sense that they believe it embodies the interests of the masses, and in particular the most vulnerable social strata. Admirers hold Perón in esteem for his administration’s anti-imperialism, and non-alignment, as well as its socially progressive initiatives. Amongst other measures introduced by Perón’s governments, social security was made universal, while education was made free to all who qualified, and working students were given one paid week before every major examination. Vast low-income housing projects were created, and paid vacations became standard. All workers (including white-collar employees) were guaranteed free medical care and half of their vacation-trip expenses, and mothers-to-be received three paid months off prior to and after giving birth. Workers’ recreation centers were constructed all over the country, including a vast resort in the lower Sierras de Córdoba that included eight hotels, riding stables, swimming pools, movies, and scores of cabins.

Since 1946, Peronist candidates have won 9 of the 11 presidential elections that they have not been banned from participating in. As of 2015, Perón was the only Argentino to have been elected president three times. Perón’s ideas were widely embraced by a variety of different groups in Argentina across the political spectrum. Perón’s personal views later became a burden on the ideology; for example, his anti-clericalism did not strike a sympathetic chord with upper-class Argentinos.

Peronismo is often regarded as a form of corporate socialism, or “right-wing socialism”. Perón’s public speeches were consistently nationalist and populist. It would be difficult to separate Peronism from corporate nationalism; Perón nationalized Argentina’s large corporations, blurring distinctions between corporations and government. At the same time, the labor unions became corporate, ceding the right to strike in agreements with Perón as Secretary of Welfare in the military government from 1943–45. In exchange, the state was to assume the role of negotiator between conflicting interests. Now the unions are at odds with the current president, Cristina Kirchener, who likes to cultivate the image of Eva Perón as well as evoke the image of Peronist Argentina of the 1950s, but with none of the charisma or ideology.


Perón and his administration resorted to organized violence and dictatorial rule. Perón showed contempt for any opponents, and regularly characterized them as traitors and agents of foreign powers. Perón maintained the institutions of democratic rule, but subverted freedoms through such actions as nationalizing the broadcasting system, centralizing the unions under his control, and monopolizing the supply of newspaper print. At times, Perón also resorted to tactics such as illegally imprisoning opposition politicians and journalists, including Radical Civic Union leader Ricardo Balbin, and shutting down opposition papers, such as La Prensa.

Peronismo also lacked a strong interest in matters of foreign policy other than the belief that the political and economic influences of other nations should be kept out of Argentina. On the positive side, his isolationism meant that he opposed participation in foreign wars. Early in his presidency, Perón envisioned Argentina’s role as a model for other countries in Latin America and beyond. Such ideas were ultimately abandoned. Despite his oppositional rhetoric, Perón frequently sought cooperation with the United States government on various issues.

Perón’s admiration for Benito Mussolini is well documented and many scholars categorize Peronismo as a fascist ideology. Carlos Fayt writes that Peronismo was just “an Argentine implementation of Italian fascism”.] Hayes reaches the conclusion that “the Peronist movement produced a form of fascism that was distinctively Latin American”. One of the most vocal critics of Peronismo was the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. After Perón ascended to the presidency in 1946, Borges wrote:

Dictatorships breed oppression, dictatorships breed servility, dictatorships breed cruelty; more loathsome still is the fact that they breed idiocy. Bellboys babbling orders, portraits of caudillos, prearranged cheers or insults, walls covered with names, unanimous ceremonies, mere discipline usurping the place of clear thinking… Fighting these sad monotonies is one of the duties of a writer. Need I remind readers of Martín Fierro or Don Segundo that individualism is an old Argentine virtue.

Perón’s ideology was economic and political in character and did not have the racism of Nazi Germany, though he was sympathetic to the Nazi government in some respects. Peronismo did not have anti-Semitic or other racial biases. The Jewish Virtual Library writes that while Juan Perón had sympathized with the Axis powers, “Perón also expressed sympathy for Jewish rights and established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1949. Since then, more than 45,000 Jews have immigrated to Israel from Argentina.” In the book Inside Argentina from Perón to Menem author Laurence Levine, former president of the US–Argentine Chamber of Commerce, writes: “although anti-Semitism existed in Argentina, Perón’s own views and his political associations were not anti-Semitic”. While Perón allowed many Nazi criminals to take refuge in Argentina, he also attracted many Jewish immigrants. Argentina has a Jewish population of over 200,000 citizens, the largest in Latin America and one of the largest in the world.


In the final analysis I have to say that Peronismo is very difficult to understand, partly because of the complex character of Perón himself, and partly because of the shifting sands of Argentina’s political landscape. Ask 1,000 Argentinos for a definition of Peronismo and you will get 1,000 answers. In theory Peronismo embraces social justice, but not often in practice. On the surface Argentina is not a racist country but under the surface there are problems, particularly with the indigenous populations (especially in the north), occasional violence against Jews (who have a complex love/hate relationship with Israel), and a largely unspoken history of genocide against Afro-Argentinos. Any black people you see on the streets of Buenos Aires nowadays are almost certainly new immigrants from West Africa.

Argentina is a nation of immigrants, and unlike the U.S., for example, is not ambivalent about new immigration. Buenos Aires has well established neighborhoods for Chinese and Korean immigrants who peacefully co-exist with the rest of the population. The cuisine reflects this multiculturalism, particularly when it comes to restaurant food. The Italian influence is obvious there. All Italian dishes, notably pizza and pasta, have an Argentine twist, such as the heavy, and very popular combination of ravioli with beef stew or estofado.


Vitel tonné (vitello tonnato in Italian) is of Italian Piedmontese origin, very popular at Christmas Eve meals in Buenos Aires. It is a dish of cold, sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavored with tuna. It is served chilled or at room temperature, and is considered very elegant. It is prepared at least a day (or more) in advance by braising or simmering a piece of veal from the back leg, which is then cut into thin slices. For the sauce, originally fresh white tuna (in most cases now canned tuna is used to reduce cost and preparation time) is simmered until fully cooked in white wine, cider vinegar, white onion, and garlic, and then puréed with a mix of olive oil and egg yolks in an electric blender or food processor to form a thick mayonnaise. For the mayonnaise a variety of seasonings can be used, including anchovies, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. The thick, smooth purée is then somewhat thinned with a little water and cooking liquid from the veal and a few capers are stirred in. Some of the sauce is spread out on a serving platter and the cold slices of veal are arranged in a single layer on top. The rest of the sauce is then poured over the veal so that it is, completely covered. The dish is allowed to refrigerate for a period up to 5 days to fully develop the flavor.

Jul 202015


[Bits of Spanish mingled with English]

Today is Día del Amigo (Friend’s Day) in Argentina, an excuse for a friendly gathering and greeting both current and old friends – as if we need an excuse !!. Since it is not an Argentine public holiday, people tend to gather during the evening. Seats in most restaurants, bars, and other establishments are usually completely booked at least a week before the celebration.


Friend’s Day has in recent years turned into a very popular mass phenomenon. In 2005, the amount of well-wishing led to a temporary breakdown of the mobile phone network in the cities of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Córdoba, and Rosario.

Since the death of the Argentine cartoonist and writer Roberto Fontanarrosa in 2007, a proposal has existed to change the date to July 19, the day of his death. He was known affectionately as “el negro” which generally means “good friend,” or something like that. He once wrote:

De mí se dirá posiblemente que soy un escritor cómico, a lo sumo. Y será cierto. No me interesa demasiado la definición que se haga de mí. No aspiro al Nobel de Literatura. Yo me doy por muy bien pagado cuando alguien se me acerca y me dice: «Me cagué de risa con tu libro».


“People would say that I’m comic writer, at most, and that will be true. I don’t care too much how people will define me as a writer. I don’t want to be a Nobel laureate. It will be enough for me if anyone tells me ‘I laughed my ass off with your book.'” My kinda guy. I doubt very much that the date will change, however.

En la Argentina, el Doctor Enrique Ernesto Febbraro, oriundo de la ciudad bonaerense de Lomas de Zamora (que en mérito a su iniciativa es la Capital Provincial de la Amistad por decreto municipal y además sede de la Asociación Mundial para el Entendimiento), profesor de psicología, filosofía, historia, músico, masón y odontólogo y socio fundador del Rotary Club del barrio San Cristóbal y del barrio Once de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, creó el Día del Amigo después de enviar mil cartas a cien países de todo el mundo (de las cuales recibió 700 respuestas) luego de ver que, al alunizar el Apolo XI el 20 de julio de 1969, por una vez en la vida toda la especie humana estaba unida.

Meeting friends for a meal is always a good idea. Here’s a few of my friends in Buenos Aires.

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I cooked for my friends all the time. Once in a while I would cook Argentine food and they would help me. Most of the time, though, they wanted me to cook European food because it seemed so exotic to them. Here’s a little gallery of dishes I cooked for them — mostly comfort food — and lots of it.

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Rodrigo, Belen, Carla, Juan, Uma, Diego, Angel, William, Sergio y todos mis amigos – ustedes extraño muchoooooo.

Jul 092015

9 de julio2

Today is Independence Day in Argentina, one of the biggest celebrations in the country (akin to 4th of July in the U.S.). To celebrate I am going to post mostly in Spanish. The recipe at the end is in English. If you are Spanish challenged you can hit the TRANSLATE button on the sidebar on the left.  It’s slightly complicated because WordPress does not think this is in Spanish so does not give you an English option, so you have to first “translate” into Spanish, and then press “English.”  Or you can just skip to my empanadas recipe.  The Spanish text basically says that delegates met in San Miguel de Tucumán to sign a declaration of independence from Spain on 9 July 1816, which precipitated a war with royalists and Spanish forces in South America that Spain eventually lost.

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La Declaración de Independencia de la Argentina fue una decisión tomada por el Congreso de Tucumán que sesionó en la ciudad de San Miguel de Tucumán de las entonces Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata. Con dicha declaración se hizo una formal ruptura de los vínculos de dependencia política con la monarquía española y se renunció a toda otra dominación extranjera. Fue proclamada el martes 9 de julio de 1816 en la casa propiedad de Francisca Bazán de Laguna, declarada Monumento Histórico Nacional en 1941.

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En 1814, el rey Fernando VII había regresado al trono de España. Esta situación quitó argumentos de acción a los hombres que habían iniciado la Revolución de Mayo e instaurado la Primera Junta —y los gobiernos que habían sucedido a ésta— bajo la premisa de la Máscara de Fernando VII.  Ya no podían actuar en nombre del rey de España porque éste volvía a estar en el poder efectivo. España quería reconquistar sus colonias; los realistas (los partidarios del colonialismo) habían triunfado en Huaqui, Vilcapugio y Ayohúma, y eran fuertes en el Alto Perú, la actual Bolivia. Desde allí pensaban atacar las bases de los independentistas e invadir todo el territorio de Argentina teniendo como objetivo la ciudad de Buenos Aires.

El 15 de abril de 1815, una revolución terminó con el gobierno unitario de Carlos María de Alvear. Los revolucionarios exigieron la convocatoria de un Congreso General Constituyente. Inicialmente se enviaron diputados de todas las provincias iniciando las sesiones el 24 de marzo de 1816. Cada delegado representaba 15.000 habitantes.

El Congreso de Tucumán inició sus sesiones el 24 de marzo de 1816 con la presencia de 33 diputados. Según la decisión de los propios delegados, la presidencia del Congreso era rotativa y cambiaba cada mes.

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Fueron distintas las causales por las que no enviaron diputados diversas provincias que habían pertenecido al Virreinato del Río de la Plata.

Varias provincias del Alto Perú, entre ellas Potosí, Cochabamba, La Paz y Santa Cruz de la Sierra, habían caído nuevamente en poder de los realistas. Empero gracias a la Tercera expedición auxiliadora al Alto Perú enviaron diputados Chichas, Charcas y Mizque.

Distinta fue la situación de las provincias “de abajo”. Salvo Córdoba, las provincias de la Liga de los Pueblos Libres o Liga Federal —que estaba compuesta por la Banda Oriental, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Misiones y Santa Fe— resolvieron no concurrir al Congreso de Tucumán ya que a la oposición del caudillo oriental José Gervasio Artigas a la ratificación definitiva del acuerdo de paz alcanzado en el Pacto de Santo Tomé, firmado el 9 de abril de 1816, por el que se había reconocido la autonomía de Santa Fe, se sumó la negativa tanto del nuevo Director Supremo, Antonio González Balcarce como del Congreso de Tucumán.2 3 Esta fue una clara manifestación de protesta y oposición hacia las políticas centralistas o unitarias y pro monárquicas tanto del Directorio como del Congreso de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata.

En cuanto al Paraguay, esta provincia actuaba como un estado independiente desde 1811, en que se había independizado de España, ante las actitudes centralistas de los sucesivos gobiernos establecidos en Buenos Aires.

Los actuales territorios de la Patagonia, el Comahue y el Gran Chaco se encontraban bajo el dominio indígena o deshabitados.

En una de sus primeras decisiones, el Congreso nombró Director Supremo de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata a uno de sus diputados, el general Juan Martín de Pueyrredón.

Durante varias semanas se discutieron los alcances de sus atribuciones y su funcionamiento interno, además de tomar decisiones de política nacional e internacional. El cuerpo tenía la facultad de intervenir en casi todos los asuntos que se presentaban a su consideración, lo que provocó interminables debates.

9 de Julio8

La presión de algunos de sus miembros, y de influyentes dirigentes nacionales —entre ellos el general José de San Martín, gobernador de la Intendencia de Cuyo— hizo que se iniciara la discusión sobre la Declaración de Independencia.

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La votación finalmente se concretó el 9 de julio. En ese momento presidía el cuerpo uno de los representante de San Juan, Francisco Narciso de Laprida. Ningún país reconoció en ese momento la independencia nacional.

El 21 de julio fue jurada la Independencia en la sala de sesiones por los miembros del Congreso, ante la presencia del gobernador, el general Manuel Belgrano, el clero, comunidades religiosas y demás corporaciones.4

Las discusiones posteriores giraron en torno de la forma de gobierno que debía adoptarse para el nuevo Estado. La situación de guerra abierta con la monarquía española y la creciente injerencia del Reino Unido de Portugal, Brasil y Algarve hizo que, tácticamente, muchos de los que podían tener simpatías por el federalismo, decidieran abroquelarse monolíticamente en una especie de “unitarismo” coyuntural ante los ataques externos.

Las labores del Congreso continuaron en Buenos Aires, donde comenzó a deliberar a principios de 1817, y donde sancionó la Constitución Argentina de 1819. El Congreso fue disuelto en 1820, tras la derrota del Directorio en la batalla de Cepeda, que marcó el inicio de la Anarquía del Año XX.

En la benemérita y muy digna ciudad de San Miguel de Tucumán a nueve días del mes de julio de 1816: terminada la sesión ordinaria, el Congreso de las Provincias Unidas continuó sus anteriores discusiones sobre el grande, augusto y sagrado objeto de la independencia de los pueblos que lo forman. Era universal, constante y decidido el clamor del territorio por su emancipación solemne del poder despótico de los reyes de España, los representantes sin embargo consagraron a tan arduo asunto toda la profundidad de sus talentos, la rectitud de sus intenciones e interés que demanda la sanción de la suerte suya, pueblos representados y posteridad. A su término fueron preguntados ¿Si quieren que las provincias de la Unión fuese una nación libre e independiente de los reyes de España y su metrópoli? Aclamaron primeramente llenos de santo ardor de la justicia, y uno a uno reiteraron sucesivamente su unánime y espontáneo decidido voto por la independencia del país, fixando en su virtud la declaración siguiente:

Nos los representantes de las Provincias Unidas en Sud América, reunidos en congreso general, invocando al Eterno que preside el universo, en nombre y por la autoridad de los pueblos que representamos, protestando al Cielo, a las naciones y hombres todos del globo la justicia que regla nuestros votos: declaramos solemnemente a la faz de la tierra, que es voluntad unánime e indubitable de estas Provincias romper los violentos vínculos que los ligaban a los reyes de España, recuperar los derechos de que fueron despojados, e investirse del alto carácter de una nación libre e independiente del rey Fernando séptimo, sus sucesores y metrópoli. Quedan en consecuencia de hecho y de derecho con amplio y pleno poder para darse las formas que exija la justicia, e impere el cúmulo de sus actuales circunstancias. Todas, y cada una de ellas, así lo publican, declaran y ratifican comprometiéndose por nuestro medio al cumplimiento y sostén de esta su voluntad, baxo el seguro y garantía de sus vidas haberes y fama. Comuníquese a quienes corresponda para su publicación. Y en obsequio del respeto que se debe a las naciones, detállense en un manifiesto los gravísimos fundamentos impulsivos de esta solemne declaración.” Dada en la sala de sesiones, firmada de nuestra mano, sellada con el sello del Congreso y refrendada por nuestros diputados secretarios.

9 de Julio6

El 19 de julio, en sesión secreta, el diputado Medrano hizo aprobar una modificación a la fórmula del juramento, con la intención de bloquear algunas opciones que se contemplaban en aquel momento por las que se pasaría a depender de alguna otra potencia distinta a la Española. Donde decía «independiente del rey Fernando VII, sus sucesores y metrópoli», se añadió:

“…y toda otra dominación extranjera”

El acta original, firmada por todos los miembros del Congreso, fue redactada en el libro de Actas de las sesiones públicas de dicha Asamblea. Ese libro se ha perdido. Algunos historiadores consideran que fue depositado en 1820 en la Legislatura de Buenos Aires, de donde posteriormente habría sido sustraído. En el Archivo General de la Nación Argentina lo que se conserva es una copia realizada por el secretario Serrano, a fines del mes de julio de 1816.

I’ve already given my recipe for empanadas here but I thought I would add a recipe for a different filling to make empanadas tucumanas to honor the Congress of Tucumán. They are not very common, even in Tucumán, but delicious. The filling is like a mashed up version of Argentine matambre (which I will get round to providing a recipe for eventually). Matambre (“kill hunger) is a roulade of flank steak wrapped around boiled eggs and chopped vegetables which is poached then roasted, and cut into thin slices to be eaten plain or on toasted bread. This empanada filling adds extra ingredients.

9 de julio9

Empanadas Tucumanas (al horno)


900g precooked veal flank steak, minced
100g lard
150g chopped white onion
100g chopped green onion tops
10g sweet paprika
5g cumin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
30g plain flour
3 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

empanada dough (see below)


Melt the lard over medium heat in a heavy skillet and sauté the white onions until soft. Add the meat and spices and warm through.

Add the flour to the filling and mix well. Then add the green onions and chopped eggs.

Fill the empanadas and bake in the usual way.

Empanada Dough (for baking)


2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup lard, finely shredded
1 egg, beaten
pinch salt


Mix the egg with the salt and enough water to make ½ cup of liquid.

Work together the lard and flour with your fingertips, then add enough liquid a little at a time to form a soft, pliable dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes and then let it rest before rolling out on a floured surface as thin as possible and cutting into 6 in/15 cm rounds (or 4 in/10 cm for empanaditas).