28 May 2007

Revolution Day weekend

The long weekend was fairly quiet. I got out with the gang on Thursday for some unhealthy fun and slept through all the glorious morning of Revolution Day. Patriotic celebrations don't really do much for me anyway, and after watching how President K turned the commemoration of the (bloodless, burgeois and porteño-centered) revolution of 25 May 1810 into a political meeting, busloads of hired voters included, I was pretty much satisfied that I didn't get up earlier. K went to Mendoza this year, ostensibly to reinforce his pro-federalist stance again, though as before, there were many who guessed he didn't want to go to the Te Deum at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires, where he would've had to listen to the de facto intellectual leader of the opposition, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio; and then Julio Cobos, governor of Mendoza and K Radical, is a likely candidate for the vice-presidency along with First Lady Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, or, as some like to abbreviate her, CFK.

Enough of politics... After a few much-needed glasses of water and an aspirin, I sat down with my folks to eat some extremely heavy empanadas, as tradition demands, and then set out to my next task — going to the movies. Pirates of the Caribbean III was a very good movie. Mind you, I liked the first two issues, but they weren't exactly earth-shaking for me. I don't quite understand the fanatic devotion of many people for these picturesque characters. But PotC3 was different: much darker, more dramatic, longer, and more complicated and complex (those two are not the same). The characters were less cartoonish, more developed, more troubled, and at the same time they didn't lose their freshness; the movie was still clearly an adventure-comedy, not a depressing personal drama. If you haven't seen I and II, go get them and then see this one (you won't get a thing if you don't).

Well, a couple of misunderstandings later, I was left without suitable plans for the Saturday and Sunday, so paradoxically, I took the greatest advantage of the long weekend on Thursday night and Friday afternoon... Saturday afternoon, however, was not a complete loss. The sun again came out in full glory and the freezing cold abated a little. I took my bike and went first east, then north, then a bit west, to reach an old train station I was determined to photograph, the last one: Sarratea Station.

Sarratea Station is in the north of Rosario, in what I think is still Barrio Alberdi (though the area looks definitely poorer than the typical middle-upper-class Alberdi), about 1.5 km west of the river's shore. The railway was part of the Ferrocarril Mitre company, back when the state-owned railway covered all of Argentina. This line ran north–south. Sarratea was closed down and more-or-less abandoned in 1977, like most other passenger stations. After talking to a lady who was doing her sobremesa (post-lunch relax time) inside, and who came out to see what I was doing (possibly), I learned the building is now the home of railway personnel of the Nuevo Central Argentino. I'm not sure if any trains are still going down this line, but it looks well-maintained. Of course the train, if there's one, doesn't stop here anymore. The old station sign is still there, but rust and the trees' shade make it very difficult to spot:

I've been reading up a lot on railway history, as I told you once already, and I tell you the nostalgic, bittersweet feeling that I get from unearthing these old stations is very special. If this country needs something, it's a renewed railway system. Cheap, safe, spacious, comfortable trains — not bullet trains that plunder your pockets and blur the landscape and seem a bit ridiculous in a country where millions are starving, and not buses, no matter how luxurious. It's very difficult to explain where this feeling of mine comes from, since I've never travelled by train that I can remember. Sure, I went on the Rosario–Buenos Aires line several times with my grandpa, but that was ages ago and I have no recollection of it. I don't live near a train station either; I have never had the rhythm of my activities marked by the noisy arrivals or departures of trains. Must be some sort of preternatural memory, even though I don't believe that's even possible.