Last week I took a vacation to La Rioja, to a town called Chilecito. It was my first vacation within Argentina since I went to Mendoza over a year ago. Even that was just for the Semana Santa long weekend. Overall it was very cold. And it snowed a little. It was really nice for a change from the humid Buenos Aires weather.
The place is untouched to all tourists except backpackers on their way to somewhere else. The reason for the trip is that a friend of mine is looking into buying land to move there to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Though land in Chilecito is quite cheap (she’s looking at spending about $2000 dollars) there are some complications. The first item, which could theoritically be good or bad, is that everybody knows everybody and, in a strange Twin Peaks kind of way, they’re all in eachothers business. As La Riojas doesn’t produce many professionals like (doctors, engineers, etc.) these guys come from outside and form a bit of a ruling clique. This means that the folks who own the land are not locals but rather are from Cordoba, Mendoza and the like. Each time we went to a restaurant or confiteria to meet someone about seeing a house or advice on a property we would see a group of 8-10 older men talking easily around a big table. The person we were going to meet was invariably meeting with others we would see later. I am not used to this small town process and I distrust it.
This is made altogether more sketchy by the nature of the second complication which is that, like most provinces in Argentina, about 70% of the land does not have acceptable paperwork of ownership. And it is precisely this kind of land that sells for the $2000. People told us stories about how, because the paperwork is disorganized sometimes folks sell the same land to two different people because of the way things are filed. I’m used to a system where there’s a kind of a process. There’s a law that says you have to pay lawyers an amount to verify such and such a claim and there are consequents if people cheat. Here it’s not so much the case. It’s a free country: wide open.