The Rio De La Plata: The Ocean To Buenos Aires's Cape Cod

A Massachusetts-Born Ocean-Lover's Experience Of The Río De La Plata

"Reality likes symmetries", says Jorge Luis Borges. And it sure does.

Zak Erickson

Ever since I was little, I've gone on vacation with my family to Cape Cod, specifically to North Truro, to stay on the beach there, accompanied by a visit every so often to Provincetown. That constant experience of exposure to the wild beauty of the ocean (which is complemented by my house in Quincy, Massachusetts being so close to the water that it's across the street from a marsh) has made a very big impact on me. (It's not for nothing that, when asked during a service project a few months ago to pick a song to define myself, I picked this wonderful choral piece by a favorite composer of mine, which is, above all, a meditation on the beauty of the sea.) One of Jorge Luis Borges's poems reflects on how all poets, sooner or later, end up talking about the moon. I think that the ocean is also one of those things that poetry can't do without; just read "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot, which, in my humble opinion, is nothing without its "Death by Water" section.

The indispensable grandeur of the ocean comes to mind whenever I happen to be around any body of water. (Which reminds me--I've gotta remember to visit the Great Lakes someday.) This is naturally the case also when it comes to my current proximity to the Río de la Plata, but, actually, it isn't solely a mental association; it actually looks like the ocean. (Some would, indeed, say that the "river" is actually an estuary, but let's call it a river; if you called it an estuary to your average person on the street in Buenos Aires, they would have no idea what you're talking about.) It is so wide that you cannot see one side from the other, and it has beaches and the sound of waves to boot.

This past weekend, I spent the day in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, whose historical section is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a great place to spend the day, and it was fascinating to switch countries for a few hours. The big thing for me, though, was really being able to experience the river. The neighborhood of Buenos Aires where I'm living is not particularly close to it, but, crossing in a boat and then spending the day on the coast, I saw many wonderful things: the sunrise and sunset, the river as a stormy gray under the cloudy sky, the river as a deep blue (as in the cover photo above), and the river as a silver color to match its name. ("Plata" is Spanish for "silver", and thus the name means "river of silver".) Most important to me, however, was the appreciation of Colonia del Sacramento as the North Truro/Provincetown to Buenos Aires's Quincy/Boston. Argentina and the U.S. have been described (at least by me) as doppelgangers, a concept that lights my imagination up a bit because I happen to be an identical twin. In Colonia del Sacramento, I had a delightful (and even rather moving) experience of finding in my momentary adopted homeland a parallel version of home. I can just feel the Bay State waiting to be transformed by the new perceptions of my Argentinized eyes.

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