Greetings from Mendoza!
The first weekend of March in Mendoza, Argentina always signifies the beginning of the grape harvest festival. Mendoza is the home to some of the best wines in South America. La Vendimia is the symbol of the culmination of the agricultural labor and all effort it takes to produce a significant portion of Argentina's wine. Its a celebration of the fruits and labors that generations of Mendozians have invested into their city and country.
For a lot of people, its a big party. A few weeks prior to the big dance every district within the Mendoza province elects a candidate to be the Vendimia Queen. These girls are gorgeous and have their glamor shot all over the city. There is no Vendimia King. Friday night began with a big parade down San Martin Blvd, one of the main drags in Mendoza. Some things about parades - no matter where you go in the world stay the same. For example, lots of people crowd and cram their way to the barricades to see the elegant floats and the life sized paper machete figures. They jostle for position to see the people waving and maybe catch something the float participants toss into the crowd.
And that's when I noticed some large differences between the parades in the US and the ones down here in Mendoza. While there are kids clamoring for candy to be thrown their way in the States, there are people tossing (sometimes throwing) fruit into the crowd down here. No Tootise Rolls, no suckers, no stickers promoting whatever, no Jolly Ranchers, nada like that...Here are a few things that were thrown my way during the parade last night: Flyers promoting the Vendimia with little gifts attached to them (boring), grapes (appropriate), carrots, plums, apples, pears, eggplants (eggplants!?), bottles of water, boxed wine, small bottles of wine, even honeydew melons (no, really!) I caught egg plant but was like "ok, now what am i gonna do with this." The last float of the night was actually throwin MELONS into the crowd. Small honeydew melons! A quick note: Remember that Argentines are really good at football. This means they have soft feet. But they have rocks for hands. There hands are about as soft as a 3rd baseman's glove that is made by Al Kaline Steel Co. Nobody could catch these melons so you had to also watch out for the ricochet. The whole time I saw the spectacular I was like "are you kidding me?" and "when are they gonna throw some Tootsie Rolls?"
Being tall has some pretty decent advantages in parades, especially in South America where the majority of the folks are armpit size to me. I had a pretty good view of things six rows back. The only problem was that any time I would turn or reach for something in my pocket some unlucky person from Mendoza would get a elbow in the ear, nose, eye or whatnot. Sorry, perdón, disculpa, lo siento, aye! are all that I could say.
Each float was unique in the parade and each had lots of things in common. The primary thing that I noticed was the quantity of beautiful women on the float. Loads of them! And they were all like 19, 20, or 21...where in the heck were these ladytypes when I was that age? But there was one thing that I didnt not like about all these ladytypes throwing stuff into the crowd. If you were not one or two person deep in the line then you were out of luck. These girls couldn't throw. To tell you the truth, they throw like girls. Now if they were to kick the fruit and what not then I am pretty sure some windows would be knocked out.
Each float was better than the previous. And then there was That Float. The Float that I will always remember. I could not believe what I was seeing. It was a parrilla. It was a rolling barbecue pit. No, really!...There was a fire about 3 meters by one meter on the truck bed with several tiers. It had a roaring fire and was cookin some food for the folks in the parade. There were men that rotated the meat, some that cut the meat, prepped it with some bread, and then some that delivered it with a smile. That was... incredible.
And then there was the group of 10 Argentine guys next to me. You know how parents sometimes put their kid on their shoulders to allow the kid to see the show...well, these drunk group of fellas were doing that with each other. Except they were like 20 and weighed like 200lbs. They were competing for fruit and whatever with six year-olds. All the while they were drinking white wine out of honeydew melons. This continued for a good 90 minutes and well after the parade when I ran into them. The group of 10 were pretty funny, they invited me to a coupla bars after the parade. We got to hang out at some bars where there were absolutely no gringos at all. Loads of fun. Four of them who were in their own Metallica tribute band. We started to talk about heavy metal bands and they knew quite a few more American heavy metal bands than I did. Another cool thing about these fellas is that they had no fear in saying things to girls. Not talking to them, just saying things. This did help out when we saw a whole bunch of the girls from the float getting some ice cream...hello laaaaaydeeezz
Im gonna grab a steak. The steak here is good. Omaha Steaks - - -eat your heart out.
more about the festival and the wine bodega tours coming up.