A heritage and cultural tour in Northwest Argentina
That Argentina is a huge country is not news; indeed, it is the 8th largest country in the world. This gives us an idea of the great variety of regions and landscapes to discover, coupled with the fact that its cultural heritage is very rich and extensive.
A large part of the territory was occupied by native peoples before the arrival of the Spaniards and their process of occupation and “colonisation”. Sadly, much has been lost, although today it is still possible to learn about the original cultures through rural community-based tourism programmes that rescue and enhance the heritage of our ancestors.
Immersion in a rural community
This is the case of the Ocumazo community, a small rural village on the outskirts of the tourist city of Humahuaca in the Argentinean Northwest, where a few families offer services to travellers who come from all over the world.
Raúl and Daniel, our first hosts, are waiting to welcome us into their community. We walk with them along a narrow path that leads us to the family home where we will spend the night, passing by the school and the meeting hall that is mainly used for community meetings, neighbourhood assemblies and celebrations such as the carnival and the Fiesta de la Pachamama (Mother Earth’s festival).
After settling into a simple and warm room, a delicious dish of seasonal vegetables and legumes awaits us, where the big star is the haba (broad bean), as we are right in the harvest season. Later, together with Raúl we hike to one of the hills surrounding the house while he tells us about the connections of this region with the Inca Trail (Qhapaq Ñan) and the great Inca empire. The Omaguacas, inhabitants of this land, have left a great cultural legacy throughout the area. In the ancient site of the Antigal, we could imagine their passage through the fertile lands of the Ocumazo Valley.
Enjoying rich culture and unique landscapes
In the evening we visited Inés, who taught us the secrets of Andean gastronomy rescued from generation to generation. In her words, rural community-based tourism not only represents an additional economic income for families, but also generates other benefits such as preventing young people from migrating to the city, a growing trend in these rural areas where there are few youths left. This is the case of her grandchildren, who today find in tourism “the excuse” to stay in the community, through genuine employment that also allows them to continue with their grandmother’s gastronomic traditions.
The next day, we set off early with Daniel to explore the rural roads of Ocumazo. Along the roadside, we see plantations of all kind until we find quinoas. This famous Andean plant has hundreds of properties that Daniel is quick to explain in detail. After crossing a small stream that serves as irrigation, we arrive at the old water mill, a wood and stone construction that is still used by the families of the area.
In the afternoon we leave for the Hornocal, a 14-colour hill located on the land of the indigenous community of the Omaguacas. The views are truly impressive and the reflection of the sun and the shadows of the clouds create a unique spectacle.
This cultural tour in Northwest Argentina undoubtedly awakes our senses and allows us to connect with the places and their people through stories and traditions that fill our souls.
All pictures by Hervé Landetcheverry
This post was a contribution by Hervé, a local expert from our trusted tour operator in Argentina. To learn more about these cultural activities and nature adventures, you can see our tour Culture and Nature Treasures of Argentina.
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