Published: August 23rd 2006August 21st 2006
Virgin of Lujan
I thought I died and had gone to heaven when I saw all the crap I could buy with Lujan on it
Today I went on my first pilgramage. I did not walk the 68 kilometers, or go crawling on my hands and knees....there were also no tears. Instead I hoped on the number 57 bus on its way to Lujan where Maria de Lujan, patron saint of Argentina, as well as protector of bus drivers and passangers, made her resting place in 1630. Considering her protecting me on all of my travels throughout the city I thought it best I go and visit with her.
The bus ride there was by far the best part of the trip. Oddly after 6 months I had not strayed far from the city limits of Capital Federal. The pilgramage was my first jaunt out into what I had started to question existed and others call "Argentina". I am pleased to report that I have been there and back. Argentina does exist outside of Buenos Aires!!
As La Pampa started to unroll its dusty carpet out in front of me so did the poverty. What I saw for miles and miles were the villas I had heard of and gotten glimpses of. Villas are the shanty towns that encircle the city as well as
exist within the borders. There was garbage everywhere. So much so that one large pond looked more like a dump...or a sea of plastic bottles. Only when I saw the bottles start to fly off did I realize that some of the bottles were birds sitting on water.
The poverty was starteling but what was more difficult was my almost unawareness of it in Argentina. It is one thing to read the high statistics of poverty in Argentina and try and put this into context while walking around Buenos Aires. I have seen poverty before and have been lucky to see the wealth of generosity and kindness that exists within its barriers. I also see poverty every day when I get a glimpse of someone slipping out of what looks like thin air or unlocks a padlock to their squatted apartment. But just to the west of the city poverty unfolded with such magtitude and unforgivingness that it shocked me and made me feel, well, naive.
Today was a beautiful cold day that held rich blue skies and on the chilly winds the promise of spring was whispered. Everyone was out on the grassy sides of the freeways
having picnics, kicking a soccerball or makeshift soccerball, flying kites and kissing. The kites made me smile and yearn to be so lucky as to sore through the winds fingers.
And so finally, I arrived in Lujan. To be honest....the place is a dump. The city is an old tattered grandmother who has raised too many thankless children. The basilica is a massive rose colored cathedral in a barren surrounding cluttered with mobs of worshipers.
As I stepped through the shadows I saw the alter was litup and full of brilla (sparkles) with swooping Argentina flags from the ceiling (in my opinion Argentina shamelessly has no seperation of church and state). A church service was taking place and there were hundreds of people participating and more in the wings having confession.
In my years of travels I have been to many many churches yet this was the first example of a church working. As I left I decided that I don't share the same beliefs that these people have but what I do believe in is the faith they have. To me the power to believe is the beauty and strength of religion.
The ride home
was long and uneventful. A couple of times people asked me questions and I had to explain that I didnt understand what they were saying...when they looked even more confused I had to explain that I dont understand Spanish. For once I didnt feel like I stuck out like an extranjero just more like a city slicker.
And when I rounded the corner of my apartment I decided to pick up some stuff for dinner at the chino (a small grocery owned by asians) and realized it felt good to be home. I think in that moment I finally found home here in Buenos Aires.
There are more photos below