My plan for Saturday had been to go to Estancia El Ombú de Areco in the pampas, but heavy rains on Friday changed my mind. I know from experience that even if it’s a nice day, rains from earlier in the week can ruin a day in the country. As a result, I rescheduled the estancia for next Saturday. Instead, I was offered tickets to the Rural Society’s 134th Agricultural Exhibition, which is being held in Palermo until Tuesday. The last couple of weeks have been abuzz with this fair, which is one of the most important in the country. As an agronomic-based culture, Argentina loves its livestock, and this fair promises to award the best in the nation and display over 4,000 animals.
Even with a late start on the day, we rode the bus through traffic on the bright, sunny afternoon up to Palermo. We got there just in time however, because while the crowd was already large, we got in quickly. As we left later on, the line wrapped down around the block and walking though people was difficult. While agricultural fairs are interesting for a short while, a “city boy” like myself can only look at a giant tractor for so long before losing interest. My main goal of the event was to get a nice steak sandwich, assuming I couldn’t just pick out my own cow.
Large amounts of people waiting by a rodeo ring tricked us into wasting about 10 minutes, hoping for something big to happen, but finally we realized it was a lost cause, so we moved on. There was a warehouse with horses, some proudly displaying their awards for best in show, others not quite so proud. Another warehouse held the chickens, another with pigs, and another with bovines. The most striking thing about the event was how commercialized it was. You couldn’t take two steps without seeing an advertisement or waving flag for Ford or Toyota. But that comes with the territory.
When I lived in Palermo I had a view of the Rural Society from my balcony and was always trying to figure out why they had a huge empty lot that looked like a daisy cutter had cleared it out. I finally figured it out when I saw the 4×4 truck obstacle course set up. Guests were able to wait in line (a long, long line) and get a ride with a professional driver going up extreme inclines and over shaky log see-saws. The rain from the day before added a nice touch to the course. We watched for a while but had no intentions of going for a ride. Steak was on our minds.
We did finally pick a spot out of the so many available options, though I was sort of disappointed with the prices. I expect that if you pay a ticket price for a fair, you should get cheaper meat inside, if you can’t get free samples. All the ticket gave was the right to be gauged, and a small bife de chorizo sandwich ran me $20 pesos. It wasn’t a bad sandwich, but it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had either. Ultimately, I wasn’t satisfied and needed something else. Some provinces had set up stands with information on touristic things, so we quickly checked out the Chubut and Salta stalls. Immediately after leaving we ran into the cheese and meat stands, where I was happily satiated.
Samples, though small and not overly generous of cheese and deli meet were given out by women screaming that we should take advantage of the good deals and buy something. We walked around to a few stands sampling and hearing the same thing before I gave in and bought a strudel filled with dulce de leche for $6. It was worth it. Our last stop at the bovine stand got me up close with the brahman cows, a breed I’ve never seen before. I think it’s one of the oddest looking species I’ve ever seen. With a head similar to a dog or donkey, a large hump by the back like a camel, and the body of a bull, these large beasts seem docile enough, though I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side.
Tons of gauchos were sitting around sipping mate or tending to the animals, and for the time, they run this section of Buenos Aires. We only needed to stay for a couple of hours to get our agro-fill for a couple of years, and while they brought us the farm this week, next week I’ll be going to the country.