( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Rosario presented us with a great boulevard or stretch of park, finely planned and planted, with palms, eucalypts and many other trees, and also shrubs and flowers. It was all dry and dusty, how-ever, and I complained to Dr. Garrahan, "Why, these people are careless; it is inhuman to let the plants suffer for water; why do they not irrigate them from the city water mains?"
"Because, Mr. Wing," replied the patient doctor, "all the coal for the pumping of water at the waterworks is brought from England, and it is therefore very dear; besides, the land is thirsty and the sun has been fierce."
I was ashamed; vividly was impressed on me the unwisdom of criticising others before one knows their conditions. In the omnipresent carriage we drove to the Gran Hotel Italia, exceedingly well kept, as are many of the best hotels, by superior Italians. It was a finely built hotel, with marble staircases and a patio or inner court filled with plants and flowers. The rooms were clean and comfortable and good food was accompanied by efficient service.
It was yet Holy Week; few men were at home. We met some who were of use to me. Among them was Dr. Fermin Lejarza. What a curious thing is type, and how universal. The doctor is a lawyer (abogado), and also a large land-owner. Excepting that he was rather more polished in his manners and better dressed, he strikingly resembled an intelligent and prosperous American farmer. From him I learned much about the Italian colonist's way of growing maize (Indian corn). Once he sowed it broadcast; now he drills it with our American drills, sometimes with the wheat drill, stopping some of the holes, but putting rows no more than two feet apart. Recently planting has been done with American corn planters. They cultivate once with a harrow and call it "bueno." The doctor says that the farmers commonly lie down to sleep after getting their maize planted, awaiting the harvest. This is a climate as hot and dry as Oklahoma's. Land in the best maize-growing country is worth from $50 to $75 an acre. It is marvelously fertile due to the deposits by the Rio Parana, which once flowed over all the provinces of Buenos Aires. The doctor told me. that sometimes his rentals amounted to as much as $9 an acre from his share of the maize crop; more often it was $3 to $5 an acre, in United States money. Two' years in the past twenty years he had seen drouths that had made the crop a total loss. Drouths must be reckoned with in Argentina ; they are the more serious because the cultivators have not learned the principles of dry farming, with frequent cultivations, as practiced in the United States.
Kafir corn seems not to be at all grown, although one would think that, as it would afford the colonist a sure crop which he could feed to his. animals in the event of a severe drouth, he would plant small areas of it. I think, however, that the proprietors would discourage its use, seeing that there is not now a good market for Kafir corn in Europe.
Considering drouths, we remember that in 1830 there occurred in Argentina a drouth so terrible that millions of animals died; in fact, nearly all of the horses, cattle and sheep of Argentina perished, especially in the province of Buenos Aires. There was neither water nor grass, and dreadful clouds of dust swept the parched plain. That was before the day of wells, windmills, fenced pastures and alfalfa. Such conditions will likely not soon be seen again.
THE THRIFT OF THE COLONIST
The colonist succeeds because of his thrift and his avoiding every possible outlay. He works his family instead of hiring labor. He lives in a mudwalled hut with often no chinmey and seldom a floor other than the natural earth. He is in some in-stances required to pay a cash rental in years of crop failure, a share of usually 25 to 35 per cent of his crop to the landlord. Sometimes he accumulates enough to buy a small farm or chacra of his own. Often he works many years before he accomplishes this. There is now a great rage for land speculation; many great estancias are being cut up and sold in small parcels to such men as these colonists. Ordinarily they pay from $25 to $75 per acre for such farms; they buy in tracts of 40 to 100 acres. Today a somewhat despised class, there is no doubt that the small farmers are destined in a short time to be the dominant factor in Argentine country life. In a large part, they will possess the land. They keep almost no live stock; with the coming of the colonist cattle and sheep leave an estancia, the chacereo keeping only his working animals—a cow or two, a few sheep that he eon sumes, and possibly a few pigs. He could become a great producer of pork, but he does not; he has perhaps not the right blood, nationality, instincts or training to *make him a stock-farmer.
Englishmen and Americans who have undertaken to do grain-farming in Argentina have usually failed, sometimes disastrously. They could not keep down the expenses, as the Latins can. With stock-farming the case is quite different. English-men and Americans have nearly all made money at stock-raising.
What a, huge river is the Parana. It is said to flow a volume of water two and a half times that of the. Mississippi. It looks even larger. It does not now flood its banks, excepting in certain regions. Great ocean steamers come to Rosario. Be-cause of the depth and width of the river and its keeping nearly the same level, steamers lie at wharves to discharge and take on cargo. Many steamers, mostly tramp steamers, were at anchor at Rosario; some were from the United States and were disgorging enormous quantities of our red-painted American machines. Returning to Europe, they would take little or no maize this year; instead they would transport wheat, hides and quebracho wood for tanning.
I quote from my journal: "I love to ramble along the quaint old streets near the riverside and see strange plants peeping over garden walls or growing along the bluffs. It was today (April 15), awfully hot until a shower cooled the air; it is perfect now. I hope the fearful drouth may be broken. We have met many business men of the city, and been to their rural association club rooms. It is a fine type of business man that we find in Rosario, the Chicago of the southern hemisphere. It is astonishing how kind and courteous every one is, all helping me as much as is within their power. The living at the hotel has put me in splendid condition; eschewing the meats, I live on soups, salads and fruit and feel like a baron. Pomegranates are excellent here and seem wholesome. There is fine music at the hotel. I dropped in to the great cathedral just in time to see the great veil of black dropped, hiding the altar. It was a high veil, as the church is lofty; it was dropped from a balcony aloft and is left hiding the altar during the time that the crucifixion took place. I must drop in on Easter to hear the music. The church bells have lovely tones; one hears them calling before day. I cannot help recalling Easter Sundays at home—the snowy vestments of the choir of boys and girls in our little church, their sweet voices, their good faces, and our wholesome minister radiating health and spirituality. How little one appreciates one's best things until one loses them."
We visited a cabaña or breeding establishment - near Rosario, where were magnificent Hackney horses. I enjoyed the horses and the energetic Frenchman who showed them to us. He was of the familiar type seen in the Perche country, and little changed by his transplantation. The carriage for the long ride to see the cabaña cost but $3, in paper, or about $1.27 in United States money. Our hotel was not on the side of cheapness, however, but the reverse.
ESTANCIA SANTA ROSA
Roldan is not far from Rosario. It is in a typical region of rich, black soil. Near Roldan is Estancia Santa Rosa, belonging to Albide & Sanchez.
We went out by train on a Sunday morning. As to its environment, let me say that a wide road runs through a country that is much like the land in Nebraska about Hastings. On either side were cornfields with stunted, drouth-smitten corn, with-out ears. The rows of corn were but two feet apart. On one side of the road was alfalfa, green but short. Rather stunted eucalypts grew along the roadside; the road was very wide. Our drive was of five miles. In the distance loomed up a fine grove, sur-rounding. the estancia buildings and the house of the manager. We passed many country folk in two-wheeled carts going to church. These were the Italian colonists, an intelligent and dependable people. They were dressed in their best, for it was Easter Sunday. As they had lost their crop they did not appear to be jubilant, as one would reasonably expect. As we neared the estancia head-quarters, I looked interestedly at the trees. Many were of the familiar China berry type, common in our South. These trees thrive in Argentina because they endure drouth and are not eaten by locusts. There also were many eucalypts and many shrubs and fruit trees, orange and quince, were laden with fruit; the garden was no doubt irrigated.
To my astonishment our driver dared not approach the house, although a fine drive led that way, but took us back to the corrals and barns. The manager was absent for the time. There were great barns and stables, and in them some very high-class. Short-horns and handsome draft horses.
The men were washing the bulls as though preparing for the showring. There were splendid sheep in pens in an airy shed adapted to their use. All these animals subsisted on alfalfa, cut fresh every day. I am not sure that I have ever seen better Short-horns or Lincoln sheep than were here kept. It was curious to me to note the air of suspicion and semi-hostility displayed by the capitaz (fore-man) toward us. It was possibly because he, a Spaniard, took me to be an Englishman. After a time the manager returned and gave us what facts and figures he could as to the expense and profit of keeping Lincoln sheep on these rich and valuable lands. It turned out that the land is recognized as being too valuable for agriculture to be kept longer for grazing. Steadily the pastures of native grass are plowed and steadily grow the corn and alfalfa fields. When we had our facts and figures, as well as we could get them (the books of the estancia being kept in Rosario, and the owners not at home), we drove back to the railway. It had been a fine morning. A cold wind began to blow, chilling us almost to the bone, and reminding us that April 16 in Argentina was not the beginning of warmer but of colder weather. Fall was passing swiftly away.
The estancia Santa Rosa is in the midst of the best of the maize-growing and alfalfa-growing region of Santa Fe. The land is extraordinarily fertile and productive when there is sufficient rain. Unfortunately the two dry years just past nearly destroyed agriculture here, temporarily, and the fields of maize that we passed did not look as though they would yield or had yielded any crop whatever. The alfalfa was also short. It was being pastured by large herds of cattle.
The general aspect of the land is level, with rich fields, and small trees by the wayside. The land is much of it under the care of Italian tenants. Alfalfa is usually harvested by the land-owners. We have in America very little land intrinsically so fertile as this, when it has rain. This estancia has in it about 22,195 acres. There are 10,000 cattle and 12,000 to 14,000 sheep on the place. The cattle are Short-horns. They are much of the time on alfalfa pasture. Viewing the bulls in use, I found them wonderfully good. The sheep are Lincolns with a slight infusion of Down blood. The rams are pure-bred Lincolns, in part imported and of good quality. Land values advance steadily; they did not decrease even with the drouth. On 100 hectarias (one hectaria equals 2 1/2 acres) or about 250 acres the manager places about 960 sheep. This is on natural camp, with a mixture of coarse and fine grasses and a sprinkling of weeds, one of which, the romeryllo, is poisonous to sheep not accustomed to it.
Lambing time is in June ; owing to cold, the manager does not save more than 50 lambs from 100 ewes. There was no disease in the flock during the past two (dry) years; previously, there was some stomach worm trouble. The sheep are on natural camp; the rams are fed alfalfa; the ewes never fed or watered. The wool is in a manner skirted; that is, the belly wool is taken off and sold at half price. The wool brought this year for the main flock $7.25 per 10 kilos or 14 1/2 cents per pound, United States currency. The yearling wool brought 121/2 cents per pound. Wethers for the frigorifico brought at the estancia $3.08 each, and fat ewes $2.42 each, United States money.