|Lola at a Chilean mechanic's, 1992|
Twenty-some years ago, when I wrote my first-ever guidebook to Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, I traveled the Southern Cone highways and backroads in a 1969 Peugeot T4B panel truck that my wife nicknamed “Lola.” Purchased indirectly from my late father-in-law, Lola was a wreck waiting to happen and, in the course of my travels, I seemed to meet every mechanic in the Southern Cone countries just to keep it going. After doing another book on Chile the following year, we sold the car in their Buenos Aires province hometown of Olavarría and, I understand, it’s now doing duty on a ranch - its roadworthiness was always questionable but now, at least it’s one vehicle that won’t cause an accident. I photographed the Ford pickup at the top of this entry in the city of Salta at what, amazingly, is a detailing shop - like Lola, it’s a chata, a word that Argentines apply to any utilitarian pickup (in Mexican slang, the same word has some off-color meanings) . Its etymology is unclear, but it’s superficially close, at least, to chatarra, a word best translated as “scrap metal.” There are chatas and chatarra everywhere in Argentina, but the two really come together in El Bolsón, the northern Patagonian town renowned for its Plaza Pagano street fair (pictured below). In the parking lot behind the plaza is an extraordinary assortment of junk cars - both chatas and chatarra - that mostly, fortunately, are incapable of getting far beyond the city limits. If you have found this article informative, please consider clicking on one or more of the AdSense links that accompany it - always presuming, of course, that it's a product or service that interests you.