Of Tigre and river deltas in general

I took a little trip, before the cool set in on the city, to Tigre. It’s about 40 minutes outside of Buenos Aires, a river delta where houses on stilts dominate much of the landscape and there are restaurants and little ‘corner stores’ that you can get to only by boat.

The water is muddy, coffee-colored, and when it’s hot out there, all you want to do is jump in.

Tigre is a favorite summer getaway for porteños, and has been for a very long time. Were it not for the stilts and the commerce, I’d think of it something like Rio Chama in northern New Mexico.

I once spent an immensely pleasurable afternoon knee-deep in the mud-banks on Rio Chama and had I the ability to drive a boat or the money to rent somewhere to stay on stilts, you can bet I’d be spending more than an afternoon floating around in Tigre’s waters.

The Klee-esque argentine painter, poet and creator of languages Xul Solar had a house in Tigre. The red door to it is now in the museum in his honor in Buenos Aires. He was a good friend of Borges and, seeing Tigre, you understand a little better why he and his friend were so truly odd, and so truly wonderful.

Solar in particular believed in all sorts of things that we might call, for lack of a better term, ‘new age.’ He developed not one but two languages which he thought might unite all of Latin America and, eventually, the world in peace and mutual understanding. He designed and built a board game whose point is not to win but only to play. He’s weird and lovely and was more interested in color than any painter I know of. If you travel along the canals in Tigre you start to get the sense that this might be as much a result of geography as of fantastic imagination.

Maybe it’s just my limited experience, but it seems to me that river deltas can do a lot to a person. Think of what the Mississippi delta did to Blues. Think of New Orleans and jazz. Think of the long and fascinating history of the Nile. Maybe its the combination of warmth and water and the occasional but deeply felt sorrow that can accompany floods. Maybe it’s the weird way the water changes the way you have to get around or farm or live. Whatever it is, Tigre is an example of the magic of such geological phenomenon.

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