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Panorama

A special on Argentina, including: Francis Mallman brings Argentine campfire cooking to the world; Buenos Aires' world-class arteBA fair; 10 things to do in northwest Argentina; filmmakers Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn bring an aging novelist back to his pampas roots in The Distinguished Citizen.

In this issue:
mallman

Francis Mallman: From Patagonia to the World

Marina Martínez de Hoz

The Argentine chef brings campfire cooking to the world.

This article is adapted from AQ's special issue on the U.S.-Mexico relationship. To receive AQ at home, subscribe here.

Francis Mallmann, widely acknowledged as Argentina’s top chef, is credited with bringing southern Argentina’s traditional wood-fired cuisine of grilled meats to the world. “I think I have developed a particular language that allows me to communicate beyond taste,” said the French-trained Mallmann, who has been perfecting the country’s art of outdoor cooking over the past 40 years.

One reason for his success: Mallmann believes cooking is about more than satisfying the stomach — it’s also an aesthetic language that conveys the essence of his country. “It’s a way of life very related to dreams, the impossible,” he told AQ.

His unique cooking methods were recently featured in an episode of the Netflix series Chef’s Table. Apart from cooking with a traditional grill, he uses a plancha (a cast iron griddle), wooden and iron crosses, hot stones, or just ashes. He also developed what he calls “dome cooking,” a technique that involves hanging whole rib eyes, chickens or fish, as well as fruits and vegetables, from wires above a fire for hours.

Mallmann regularly spreads the gospel (and techniques) of Patagonian grilling culture at gastronomic events around the world, but diners can also sample the real thing at one of his six restaurants spanning Mendoza to Miami.

At 61, he has no plans to slow down. This year, Mallmann opens two new restaurants: one in Viña Montes, in the region of Colchagua, Chile, in March; and another in Château La Coste winery, in Aix-en-Provence, France, in April. He is also working on new books. His next goals: directing a film and having his seventh child.

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Martínez de Hoz is an associate at AS/COA. She is from Argentina.


Argentina on Display

AQ Online

A look at Buenos Aires world-clases arteBA fair.

This article is adapted from AQ's special issue on the U.S.-Mexico relationship. To receive AQ at home, subscribe here.

From London’s Frieze to Miami’s Art Basel, art fairs are the zenith of the art market, providing a platform for gallerists, artists, curators and collectors to interact. Buenos Aires, once isolated from the rest of the art world, is now attracting international attention. Its arteBA contemporary art fair has been operating for 25 years, but thanks to more recent efforts that have raised Argentina’s visibility on the global art scene, the annual fair is now considered one of the must-visit worldwide art events. Exhibit A: This year’s arteBA, from May 24 to 27, will feature galleries from 19 countries.

International audiences got an early example of Argentina’s art clout in February at the ARCOmadrid fair, which drew over 100,000 visitors. Each year, one country is invited as a featured country, and this year Argentina received that honor. Inés Katzenstein, director of the University Torcuato Di Tella’s art department, curated a selection of galleries displaying works by both young and established Argentine artists.

Later this year, Buenos Aires will become the first metropolis to partner with the Art Basel Cities initiative. Launched in March 2016, the initiative aims to develop partnerships with emerging centers of the global art community and link them with a larger cultural network.

But while international fairs have increased Argentina’s visibility in the art world, added recognition comes with a domestic challenge. Increased public and private-sector support for the city’s galleries, museums and institutions is critical to continuing Buenos Aires’ presence 0n the international art scene. 


10 Things to Do: Northwest Argentina

Brendan O'Boyle

A lesser-explored region of Argentina offers a variety of under-the-radar riches.

This article is adapted from AQ's special issue on the U.S.-Mexico relationship. To receive AQ at home, subscribe here.

Argentina’s northwest corner owes much of its appeal to the convergence of Andean deserts and fertile valleys, offering visitors an array of stunning natural landscapes to get lost in. Its isolation from the rest of the country, meanwhile, has helped the region retain a rich folk culture.

1. Take a road trip. Several major roads make exploring Argentina’s northwest easy by connecting larger capitals like Tucumán and Salta with smaller towns in the Quebrada de Humahuaca Valley, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

2. Gorge yourself on empanadas. Salta’s version of one of Argentina’s favorite bites is in a class of its own. Typically smaller than the empanadas served in Buenos  Aires, the empanada salteña is filled with chopped beef, potato, hardboiled egg, and green onion. Try them at El Buen Gusto in Salta’s capital city.  ($1 per empanada)

3. Reach new heights. The top of San Bernardo Hill, east of Salta’s city center, provides an excellent view of the city. A cable car, within walking distance of Salta’s central plaza, goes to the summit, but if you’re feeling fit, it’s 1,000 steps to the top. ($10 round trip)

4. Explore wine country. Argentina’s robust wine industry isn’t limited to Mendoza. Salta province is known for Torrontés, an aromatic white wine. Tour a winery in picturesque Cafayate, just three hours outside of Salta city.

5. Retrace ancient footsteps. A five-minute walk from the town of Tilcara brings you to Pucará de Tilcara, the hilltop ruins of a fortification overlooking Jujuy’s Río Grande. An adjacent museum provides a fascinating look at the pre-Columbian cultures of northwest Argentina. ($4 for foreigners, free on Mondays)

6. Go back in time. Spend a night in El Cortijo Hotel Boutique, a colonial house in the village of Cachi, Salta. On the way, drive through Los Cardones National Park, home to the cardon grande cacti. (Double rooms from $85)

7. Enjoy dinner and a show. Peñas, a restaurant-music venue hybrid, are a unique way to get a taste of the region’s traditional folk music. Dine on regional dishes while listening to performances, and join an impromptu jam session after a couple glasses of wine, perhaps.

8. Soak in a spa. After long days of sightseeing, relax at one of the hot spring oases sprinkled throughout the region. One of the best spots is the resort town of Termas de Río Hondo, approximately halfway between Tucumán and Santiago del Estero.

9. Satisfy your inner geologist. The Hill of Seven Colors in Jujuy province is a breathtaking formation of rock layers, each with its own vivid hue, overlooking the charming town of Purmamarca.

10. Get salty. If a trip to neighboring Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni isn’t in the cards, Argentina offers an alternative. Reaching some 13,000 feet above sea level, the expansive white landscape of the Salinas Grandes feels otherworldly. (Talita Kum Tourism offers tours for $70 a person).

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O’Boyle is an editor for Americas Quarterly


Film Review: "The Distinguished Citizen"

Benjamin Russell

A Nobel Prize-winning author returns to his rural home town in this dark Argentine comedy.

This article is adapted from AQ's special issue on the U.S.-Mexico relationship. To receive AQ at home, subscribe here.

Early in The Distinguished Citizen, Daniel Mantovani (Oscar Martínez) says the only thing he’s ever done is escape the town of his youth. The truth is that his past sustains him more than he would like to admit.

Daniel, the “distinguished citizen” of this dark comedy by Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn, is an aging novelist who earned a Nobel Prize by retelling the tales of his native Salas, a rural town in the Argentine pampas. He lives in Europe and hasn’t been back to Salas in nearly 40 years, preferring to revisit the places and characters of his adolescence only by setting versions of them down on the page.

But five years after winning the Nobel, Daniel has run out of ideas, and spends more time turning down interview requests than actually writing. An unexpected invitation from the mayor of Salas — who wants to honor its illustrious native son — lures Daniel back to the source of his creative inspiration.

The saying that you can’t go home again proves true. Over several days of parades, lectures, and an unfortunate turn as judge of a local art competition, Daniel’s intellectual principles come into conflict with the small-town politics and petty temptations of his former home.

At the heart of The Distinguished Citizen are questions about the nature of creativity, ownership of art, and the vagrancy of truth. There is enough virtue in Daniel to keep the film’s title from being entirely ironic, but the wicked fun of this story comes when he gives in to his baser instincts and proves no more or less “distinguished” than his provincial counterparts.

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Russell is a senior editor for Americas Quarterly