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Laguna Blanca

From Clorinda, Ruta Nacional 86 heads westward through flatlands decorated with caranday palms, banana plantations and small villages like Laguna Blanca, the main portal for Parque Nacional Río Pilcomayo. This town’s access street, Avenida 25 de Mayo, is marked by a Lions Club sign. After a few blocks, it meets Avenida San Martín, the main street with the city hall, bank and public plaza.

The area was first populated by indigenous communities. In the late 19th Century Franciscan missionaries and Paraguayan immigrants came. The first European colonos, or colonists, arrived 1902-1910 from Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Poland. The new settlement was dependent on the Franciscan mission at Tacaaglé, 68 kilometers (42 mi) to the west. A 1921 decree established Pueblo Alfonso, so christened for one of the original founders, Isabelino Alfonso. February 9, 1924, the town’s name was changed to Laguna Blanca. Cotton became the keystone of Laguna Blanca’s economy. The harvest was brought here for processing. Some farmers still grow it, but corn is now the major crop.

Laguna Blanca’s biggest draw to Laguna Blanca is Parque Nacional Río Pilcomayo, a national park with incredibly diverse wildlife. The Laguna Blanca sector is the most popular with swimmers looking for respite from the heat. Across from the access road to the this sector is Colonia Primavera, a Q’om communtiy where baskets, bags and other crafts may be bought directly from the artisans. Near Espinillo, 130 kilometers (81 mi) west of Laguna Blanca, is Reserva Ecológica Pai Curuzú, a 40-hectare (99-acre) nature reserve (Ruta Nacional 86, Tel: 03718-47-0045).

In town is the well-laid out Museo Regional del Nordeste Formoseño. Through photographs and items donated by the villagers, it describes the history and life of the region. It also has a section on the fabulous beings found throughout Formosa Province, so you’ll recognize them in the event of a close encounter (January-February: Monday-Friday 8-11 a.m.; March-December: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-noon, 4-6 p.m. Ruta Nacional 86 and Av 25 de Mayo).

Laguna Blanca has a sub-tropical climate. Summers are hot and humid. Businesses open early morning and evenings, when temperatures are a bit more moderate. Summer is also mango season, with the trees plunking their ripe fruits at the very feet of walkers. Winters are dry and cooler. This is also the time of year for Laguna Blanca’s big event, the Fiesta de Pomelo (Grapefruit Festival), in July. The great fair features expos, a rodeo, musical shows and, of course, the election of the Grapefruit Queen. Argentine Independence day, July 9, is marked with a parade featuring the national park crew on horseback. Patron saint San Francisco de Asís is feted on October 4 with a special mass and procession. The night before, at midnight, the saint is serenaded. On June 24, young maidens consult Saint John the Baptist about whom they shall marry, and others walk hot coals in his honor.

(Altitude: 68 m / 223 ft, Population: 6,508, Phone Code: 03718)

Services

The municipalidad (city hall) can provide very basic tourism information (San MartĂ­n and Alem, Tel: 47-0504, E-mail: lagunablanca@formosa.gov.ar, URL: www.lagunablanca.gob.ar). A new tourism office is being built at Ruta Nacional 86 and Avenida 25 de Mayo. For information about the national park, drop by Informes AdministraciĂłn de Parque Nacional RĂ­o Pilcomayo, which also has an excellent, bilingual research library (Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-2 p.m. PueyrredĂłn s/n and Ruta Nacional 86, Laguna Blanca, Tel: 47-0045, E-mail: riopilcomayo@apn.gov.ar). Most services in town are located on Avenida San MartĂ­n, including the police department (Tel: 47-0043), Banco de Formosa (ATM), Telecentro Plaza phone center, LiberĂ­a Ibera (internet), the hospital (47-0020) and a pharmacy. The post office is on Fontana, 1.5 blocks north of Plaza San MartĂ­n.

Hotels

Residencial Guaraní (San Martín and Hernández, Tel: 47-0024)—with fan: single $17, double $23; with air conditioning: single $21, double $27

Hotel Luisín (Hernández and Av San Martín, Tel: 47-0307, E-mail: luisindeportes@hotmail.com)—single $23, double $29

Both sectors of Parque Nacional RĂ­o Pilcomayo have free camping. During the Grapefruit Festival, families rent rooms in their homes.

Restaurants

Along Avenida San MartĂ­n are several grocery stores.

El Monumental Comedor (Av 25 de Mayo, between Fontana and Av San MartĂ­n)

El Amigazo (Hernández and Av San Martín)

El Rincón de Don Juan (Hernández and Fontana, Tel: 40-1515)

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Other places nearby Laguna Blanca: El Sauzalito , Las Lomitas , Fuerte Esperanza, Misión Nueva Pompeya, Parque Nacional Río Pilcomayo, Parque Provincial Pampa Del Indio, Reserva Nacional Formosa, Ingeniero Juárez , Clorinda and Parque Nacional Chaco.







By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

30 Jun 2010

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