The Complexities of Bariloche

Lucy McNamara
November 16, 2015

     My "Making of the Patagonia" class and I just returned from a long weekend trip to Bariloche, Argentina to enhance our studies by visiting face-to-face cultural sites about which we had read. In other words, we took a class field trip to Patagonia. 

     Bariloche is known by foreigners as a beautiful South American getaway - prime for skiing in the June, July, and August and spectacular for trekking in November, December, and January.

     This quaint Patagonian city, however, has a compicated history. To Argentines, Bariloche is the "suiza argentina" - the Switzerland of Argentina. It is the picturesque representation of the American perception of Patagonia: dramatic, snowcapped mountains encircling turquoise blue lakes. However, the majority of Patagonia is not lakes and mountains but rather vast brown plains and yellow grasslands-sparse in human population but abundant in sheep.

     Furthermore, the city of Bariloche in 1940 was entirely rebuilt and designed to compete with other South American tourist hot spots like Iguazú Falls or Machu Picchu. The Civic Centre consists of cute matching buildings that look Swiss or German. Whereas the center of the city is charming and popular with foreigners, the outskirts hold the thousands of Argentines who work in the hotels, restaurants, and shops. Many of them are of Mapuche (native) decent. 

     Finally, Bariloche is one of the well-known refuges for Nazis after World War II. Juan Peron, sympathetic with the fascist doctrine, welcomed many Nazis into Argentina by providing them with false documents in the 1950s. Former SS Officer Erich Priebke was even headmaster of a German school in Bariloche. Many conspiracy theorists still hold that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (because their bodies were never found) escaped from Berlin and lived the rest of their lives in Bariloche.

     I would not have understood the complexities of this little city if I had not visited it. It was quite an experience to spend my morning walking through the city center and seeing the post office, which matched the library, which matched the town hall, and then driving to the northern and poverty-stricken limits of the city to meet and play with and sing with the local children. 

Lucy McNamara

<div>My name is Lucy McNamara and I am twenty years old. I am from Bolton, Massachusetts but am currently studying&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13.0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;">history as a junior at the University of Virginia. I am the tenth out of twelve children in my family, thus I am an&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;">experienced arguer and am considering law school! I love to read, write, cook, and take photographs, and I could not be&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;">more excited to share all my new experiences in Buenos Aires with you.</span></div>

Home university:
University of Virginia
Major:
History
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