Friday, 8 April 2011

Evidence of Heat

A walk down any town’s shopping street tells the tale. Take Caucete as an example. A place with in the San Juan sphere of influence, a town of 33,000 souls. We walk its hot pavements during siesta, hugging the shade, hunting the WiFi and a possible source of replacement shirts, but also counting the varying species of shop. Footwear scores highest, offering up to fourteen opportunities for retail therapy. Whilst the numbers are of some interest, it’s the styles that tell the story. Take out all the glyphs, the ticks and the felines, both spurious and genuine, from the globalised sportswear industry and youre left with female fashion. This year it's all about Romano ampitheatre leather, open toed-closed ankle with high heels. Hot, dry weather wear. Second in the league table would be clothes, in particular 'ropa por mujer', ladies attire, all thin straps and short sleeves: hot weather wear. Electro-mechanicals come a close third, their windows only confirm all previous observations: that it's hot summer time. Musical amplification, air conditioners and standalone fans fill out the plate glass windows. All three could be incorporated into an heraldic shield, that, with the addition of a rising sun, would graphically summarise our experiences in these Americas.

Our initial recce scores the techi-connection at the gas station, which, of course neccessitates the purchase of the mandatory 'cafe con leche' - grande. We also ferret out the workwear shop. Behind the drills and the spades, the compressors and the knives, I find the shirts, boots and bombachas, all in a generic colour of municipalidad mud or town-hall tan. Constructed from thorn and bomb proof cotton and stained the tincture of 'soil', a hue that, both allows council workers and touring cyclists to blend into the countryside and relieves the necessity for a daily laundry session.

However, investigations and explorations at siesta time have one inherent fault: the entire selection is not on full display. A shop can magically materialise out of nowhere in the early evening, out from behind shutters, out from what we had taken to be a private home's front-room, out from a facade of dereliction. It's whilst walking back to our room in the gloom of a thick, humid evening, negotiating the broken paving slabs and the heaps of builders' sand, that we spot the glow of an emporium of discovery. An amalgam of ironmonger and agricultural supply, gents' outfitter and arsenal. A place so utterly devoid of tourist tack, yet stuffed full of potential travellers souvenirs. Fencing tools to dog chow, rat traps to horse harness, cow bells to bird cages, seeds and poisons, guns and bullets, locks and latches, machetes and switch blades, knives and knives and knives. The complete gaucho rig, saddle to spurs, hat to boots, bolladores to falcon. Everything, save the dog and the horse. It's here that we find our shirts, that come with the unusual appendages of long sleeves. Un-hot weather wear, which probably explains why we had the challenge of sourcing them.

This is a hot, dry country, all the evidence points that way.