(Altitude: 57 m / 187 ft, Population: 198,074, Phone Code: 03717)
From Resistencia, paved Ruta Nacional 11 goes north to Formosa (166 km / 103 mi), the capital of Formosa Province. All along the route, fields of corn, sorghum and cattle briefly interrupt the thick vegetation scraped with thin country lanes. Marshes mirror the sky, and birds fly from caranday palm to caranday, the stately trees mottling the flat landscape. About 20 kilometers (12 mi) north of the Chaco capital is a monument to the Massacre of Margarita BelÃ©n, in which 22 political prisoners were killed December 12-13, 1976, during the last military dictatorship. A few more kilometers on is Reserva Natural Guaycolec, a park working to preserve the regionâ€™s fauna (daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Reserva Nacional 11, 27 km / 17 mi north of Resistencia, Tel.: 03717-42-7526 / 43-6822). Formosa is nicknamed the gateway to El Imperio del Verde (The Green Empire). From here roads depart to Parque Nacional RÃo Pilcomayo to the north and BaÃ±ado La Estrella to the west.
Formosa wasnâ€™t always here. Once upon a time, it was further north. Between 1811 and 1865 the border between Argentina and Paraguay was not well defined. In 1865, Argentina signed the Tratado de la Triple Alianza with Uruguay and Brazil. In this treaty, Argentina was promised lands as far as BahÃa Negra at the end of the war. With the help of indigenous nations of the region, General Emilio Mitre occupied the area and established the capital of Chaco Territory at Villa Occidental, just north of AsunciÃ³n. In 1878, following the War of the Triple Alliance, Argentina asked then-U.S. President Rutherford Hayes to arbitrate the border between it and Paraguay, hoping he would grant Argentina the Gran Chaco. But Hayes decided the RÃo Pilcomayo would etch the two nationsâ€™ boundary. Argentina was forced to move its Chaco capital elsewhere. Comandante Luis Jorge Fontana was sent to find a new place. He chose Vuelta Formoza (Formosa), a bend of the RÃo Paraguay, so named by the first explorers of the river searching for the legendary Sierra del Plata. On March 28, 1879, inhabitants of Villa Occidental relocated to the new site. The city was officially founded on April 8, 1879. The Paraguayans changed Villa Occidentalâ€™s name to Villa Hayes.
Formosa became the capital of the new territory of the same that was formed between the Pilcomayo and Bermejo Rivers in 1884. European immigrants began to arrive in waves, reaching a crescendo from 1914 to 1947 with the construction of the railroad from Formosaâ€™s port west to EmbarcaciÃ³n in Salta Province. The train ran until the 1993 provincialization of the national railroad. The government plans to intiate service once more, with the terminus at the new port to the south.
The principal avenue of modern Formosa is Avenida Gutnisky, which becomes Avenida 25 de Mayo. This boulevard is interrupted by Plaza San MartÃn, a shady park with an equestrian statue of Liberator in the center and bridges over small lakes. Avenida 25 de Mayo continues towards the RÃo Paraguay, passing through the cityâ€™s commercial district. Iglesia Catedral Nuestra SeÃ±ora del Carmen, built between 1898 and 1928 is between Calles Fontana and Moreno. The church has striking architecture outside and in. The twin bell towers look like the Franciscan fathers got happy with Lego blocks, adding tier upon tier with many spires. Inside, the temple has a Roman-cross floor plan. The second-floor balcony, with a balustrade, around the apse, is an exceptional feature. There are crypts on the right upper level, including that of Comandante Fontana.
Just before the river, Avenida 25 de Mayo meets Avenida San MartÃn, a major north-south artery, then ends at the port, the hub of the Paseo Costanero Vuelta Fermosa. Just to the north, the former EstaciÃ³n del Ferrocarril (train station) now houses municipal offices. In the crook of the riverâ€™s curve is Isla Alberdi, a Paraguayan island, duty-free zone and popular shopping destination. During siesta (noon-5 p.m.), when the heat and humidity swell, the riverside promenade and streets are empty. The only sound heard is the constant hum of cicadas. But come sunset, people emerge to enjoy the refreshing breeze before catching dinner or a cultural event.
Other places nearby Formosa: Villa RÃo Bermejito , Resistencia, Fuerte Esperanza, Parque Provincial Pampa Del Indio, El Sauzalito , Las Lomitas , Parque Nacional RÃo Pilcomayo, Reserva Nacional Formosa, Laguna Blanca and MisiÃ³n Nueva Pompeya.
Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...