Another parade has come and gone. After months of strategic preparation, the streets of Mendoza at last erupted in early March with blaring music and vibrant colors; galloping gauchos and beautiful reinas. This is the international wine festival of Mendoza...also known as La Vendimia. Here is our travel log:
The annual festivities begin with a raucous parade through downtown, celebrating a fruitful harvest...and rejoicing in local culture. Small children and grown adults frantically wave their hands in the air, begging the pageant queens of each passing float to share their "emblems" of the harvest. In return, grapes and gourds are soon tossed into the crowd, gathered up in makeshift baskets attached to broom handles. Laughter is contagious as desperate onlookers struggle to catch the goods, only to eventually squash some of the fruit below their feet. With a sense of pride, smiling sons and daughters run to their parents to show off their newly acquired gifts: cantaloupes, garlic heads, and even bags of oregano (or so I think). Dallin found his own success...as you will see below.
Native cowboys, both young and old, trot down the avenue atop their horses. Decorated soldiers march to the rhythm of the himno nacional. Glamorous dance groups move, twist, and entertain the crowd, causing a reaction of cheers and applause. Each queen represents her provincial department aboard an extravagant float...competing for the adoration of neighbors - and politicians - in order to be voted the official Reina de la Vendimia later that evening. Vamos Godoy Cruz! Sos hermosa!
Tonight, almost 40,000 people pack the outdoor theater inside San Martín Park - Teatro Griego Frank Romero Day. A brilliant and dazzling performance begins with singers, dancers, and queens of years past. Vice President Cobos is present - and greeted with a roar of cheers. I believe Presidenta Kirchner is also here - yet welcomed with thunderous boos.
Following two hours of entertainment - with third row tickets thanks to The Grapevine - all seventeen queens are called out and line up on stage. We listen as the ballots are read. Who will be this year's "first lady of wine"? The crowd is wild...with fans screaming and yelling in support of their neighborhood queen. Massive banners and posters are waved in the air as provincial departments are read aloud: "Luuuuuuján!! Godooooooy Cruz!! San Marrrrrrrtín!!" And the winner is...San Martín by a landslide! Well, at least Godoy Cruz took second place. We now enjoy an impressive display of fireworks at 12:30AM...and Dallin is still awake!
Time to head home, face the traffic, and crash in bed. As for the rest of the week...well, it is the annual wine festival. Salud!