A mountain of a woman, Mercedes Sosa has a voice from the bowels of the earth. I came across her music when travelling through South America for a year. Argentina was probably my favourite country, and despite the fact that it was soon after the Falklands conflict, I was made to feel very welcome.
The first time I crossed over the border, between Chile and Argentina, a whole day journey by boat, foot, landrover, crossing rivers and mountains, I was anxious because I did not have the visa neccessary. To get the visa would have entailed a 2 day trip to Santiago, Chile’s capital. No problem, I was waved through. On the other side, a truck driver with a gourd of maté (a bitter herbal tea) and a silver straw to suck it through, gave us a lift to a tiny town in Patagonia. From there I visited Cueva de las manos, a pre-historic cave in the middle of nowhere, with some of the earliest cave paintings, a series of ghostly almost sprayed-on hand prints in ochre. Bruce Chatwin writes about this place in his book, ‘In Patagonia’.
The second time I crossed the border into Argentina was less successful. This time it was from the poor North, the location where originated the majority of the mortalities in the war, 18 year olds most of them, forced there by the junta. This time I had the right papers, but the border police would not let me in. No reason. Except perhaps the poster on the wall saying ‘Las malvinas son nuestras’. I turned back, another 2 day journey hitching in trucks, and entered at another border point.