I quote from my journal: “We came back to Rosario in time to see in the principal street of the town the Easter day parade of carriages. There were two lines of these carriages, one passing in each direction, many of the carriages were fine and the horses good. In the carriages were elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen, bowing and smiling as they met friends. I like Rosario ! it is not so grand as Buenos Aires, but it is a fine, busy, pushing city, and unless I have been exceptionally lucky in meeting people, it has an unusually intelligent, courteous, enterprising class of people. Also a hotel. How I wish I could carry this with me around the world.”
We were up early the next morning and boarded a train for Santa Fe, which is higher up the river. It was a long and crowded train, for people were going home from their holidays. Many branched off and went on up to Tucoman, far in the north, where there is an ancient colony and civilization with much modern enterprise. Also there are sugar plantations. It was cold enough on the train for me to wear my fur-lined overcoat all day. I quote again: “I enjoyed the ride very much, with the good midday breakfast in the dining-car. Along the way were wide perfectly level flat fields, often of maize, extending as far as the eye could reach, and alternating with alfalfa, which was a cheerful green in contrast with the burned maize stalks waist-high. Along the fences were miles of Chinaberry trees. Suddenly when we were near Santa Fe we came to groves of small, stunted trees, scattered over the plain, the beginning of a forested area, the `chaco,’ that reaches northward to Brazil. The trees were not close-set at first; grass grew between them. Here one finds the Texas fever tick; here one sees an abrupt transition, too, in the cattle. Now they are no longer the finely-bred Short-horns that we saw in the south, but more scrubby sorts, as one sees in our own Gulf States. The wood of the little trees is durable. Some of the wood, that of the quebrachos, is as red as blood. It is also nearly as heavy as iron. From these forests go fence posts to fence all of Argentina. They are not straight posts, but are everlasting in the earth. I need two suspender buttons. I must find the words for them in my pocket dictionary.”
THE INTERVENTION IN SANTA FE
Santa Fe is a fine little city, the capital of the great rich state of Santa Fe. There is almost a revolution on; the government at Buenos Aires has intervened, is in charge of affairs and will order new elections. The story of this affair illustrates well political life in Argentina. At the risk of having misunderstood and being inaccurate, I will give it, as it was told to me. The state of Santa Fe is a rich state, lying along the Rio Parana and having two principal cities, Rosario and Santa Fe. There would have been keen rivalry between the two cities had not Rosario so great a natural advantage; it is nearer the sea and has deeper water for ships. Naturally, therefore, Rosario soon vastly surpassed Santa Fe in commercial importance and growth. Santa Fe, it seems, devoted much of its energy to politics and, being the capital, managed to retain a firm grip on the government. There was much complaint at Rosario that its port was neglected; that money was spent lavishly in building magnificent docks and other harbor works at Santa Fe, while Rosario suffered by reason of a lack of such things. Large ships cannot go to Santa Fe, so it seemed an economic blunder to try to build a great port there. Meanwhile Rosario with its pressing needs was neglected. And all this, I was told, was because the governor and some others were elected from the city of Santa Fe.
“Well, but why did you not elect a governor from Rosario? You have the voting strength to do so,” I asked.
“Because,” my informant made haste to answer, “the government at Santa Fe would not permit it. We repeatedly nominated candidates from our part of the state, but when the election was held and the ballots were counted we were always found to be defeated. Mind, señor, I am not saying that there was any robbery there; only it is strange that always the ballot boxes were found to hold a majority of votes for the candidate at Santa Fe.”
Always it seems the government was in the hands of one family, a rich and highly intelligent family. It was in a sense hereditary. One man would hold the governorship as long as seemed good to him, then hand it down to a son or a nephew or some one within the charmed circle. That worked well enough for a time, but unhappily the family was too prolific, and the young men became too ambitious. There came a time when certain of the younger men wished to become governor, but an old man held the office, refused to relinquish it and insisted on renomination. There were, however, a lot of the nephews and grandsons in the legislature; they rebelled and refused to appropriate funds for carrying on the government. That meant of course a deadlock ; nothing could be done ;,the central government at Buenos Aires had to intervene, appoint a temporary governor, investigate all the affairs and order a new election. “And I will wager they found a pretty mess in the treasury when they investigated that,” I remarked.
“On the contrary, señor, the funds in the treasury were intact and a searching investigation showed not one bit of irregularity. These people are honorable people; they may manage to steal an election from Rosario, but they take pride in administering the government honestly, once they have it in their hands.”
As a side-light on Argentine political life this story is suggestive. It has, in fact, tremendous significance. Not so very long ago the country would have been plunged into civil war over such an episode as this; now there is no talk of revolution; the trust is yet in the ballot to cure all ills. Doubtless the Argentine government is imperfect and it may take a period of evolution and education for it to emerge into a state of high efficiency and moral probity. Nevertheless there are here and there found in that government men of splendid qualities of honor, intelligence and ideals, for such men I learned to know. Their whole thought was for the people of Argentina and their advancement. Some of these men have my profound sympathy; they struggle against great difficulties in a land where many of the official class are of a quite different order.
SANTA FE AND ITS GARDENS
Santa Fe is a well built, clean little city, with a. good river front and fine stone docks. The river is miles wide and some ocean steamers come for maize, the chief article of export, apart from quebracho wood, which is very rich in tannin and tans a large percentage of the leather of the world, going to Europe and North America for that purpose. There were many pretty gardens and orchards at Santa Fe. Oranges, by the way, thrive from south of Buenos Aires north to the limits of the republic. The patio of our hotel was shaded by a fine grape vine and a few palm trees. We continued to enjoy magnificent grapes and large pomegranates, which, however, are best. eaten in a bathtub. They are most refreshing and healthful.
There was so much excitement politically at Santa Fe that we could not find the men to whom we had letters of introduction, and Dr. Garrahan thought it wise to escape the turmoil and go where we could find affairs less disturbed. Accordingly we arranged to cross the river into the state of Entre Rios (between rivers.) I quote from my diary :
CROSSING THE RIVER
“April 18, I am on the river; it is fully eight miles across, with islands in the channel. The water flows strong and is yellow in color. They say there are immense fish, something like our cat fish, in the river. All the vast plain of Argentina is perishing of thirst, with this enormous river so little below the land. The difficulty in irrigation no doubt is that there is not descent enough to let one take out a canal without a dam, and to dam the river is an inconceivable thing. Fuel for pumping is high in price. Some day sun engines will pump water to irrigate millions of acres; they have al-most unlimited sunshine during the crop-growing season. The little steamer is very comfortable and if one is in the sun and wears an overcoat one is warm. It is difficult to get accustomed to the idea of winter coming on, now that May approaches. I just had a curious side-light on Argentine conditions when a pleasant young Englishman and his sweetheart passed me on the deck. A young Spanish acquaintance said, ‘Diable! I hope those two are not going the same journey that I am going.’
” ‘Why?’ I asked in wonder.
” `Because I hate the English and dislike to travel with them,’ was his very frank reply. Pinned down, he confessed that the reason for his dislike of the English was their very blunt and needlessly outspoken way of expressing their opinions of Argentina and more especially of Argentine people.
“The shores of Entre Rios drew near ; there were high banks at Parana, and the land of Entre Rios proved to be not flat but rolling, the little city pleasant and interesting and the hotel good; then we took a train southward to Gualleguay, a good-sized provincial town in southern Entre Rios.”