A welcome sign within the city of Ushuaia beholds the message, “Ushuaia: Fin del Mundo.” I’m traveling to the end of the world! Up until quite recently, my thoughts of Argentina consisted of only sub-tropical temperatures, the few words that I know in Spanish, and Eva Peróne singing woefully from a balcony. Now, in preparation for my vacation to Ushuaia, I expect that the southernmost city in the entire world will shatter all of my pre-conceived notions. Fortunately, I decided a bit of travel research on my behalf was necessary, so now I know not to bring my bathing suit and shorts. Instead, I’ve packed my most supportive hiking boots, and some new wool-lined leather gloves. I am ready to embark on my icy Argentine adventure.
One of my former erroneous notions was that of the whole country of Argentina consisting of sweltering temperatures. While the northern part of the country does have a subtropical climate, the southern part is quite the opposite. How fascinating that one country, which is only the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River, could contain such extremes. Argentina is also south of the equator, so that means its seasons are opposite of ours here in the United States.
The city of Ushuaia is a virtual winter wonderland, with a sub-Antarctic climate and the snow-capped Andes mountains. I can’t believe I’ll have the opportunity to see sea lions, penguins, and cormorants- and not just in a zoo! My digital camera is carefully packed along with my battery charger, and an extra memory card, too. I have a feeling I’ll want to capture each gorgeous waterfall, snowy peak, and icy curve of the Beagle Channel. This channel was named for Charles Darwin’s ship, which explored the area in 1833. It is known for its glassy, transparent waters, and is a flourishing wildlife sanctuary, too.
I can’t help but also be a little bit curious about the Military Prison Museum. It turns out that Ushuaia was the home of Devil’s Island, basically Argentina’s equivalent of Alcatraz, from 1902-1947. Now it’s filled with mannequins and cut-outs to show just how it would have looked when in use. Maybe it’s my love of history that makes me enthralled with the idea that I can walk through this landmark. Or maybe I’m just comforted by the fact that if I don’t want to be out in the cold every day, there are neat indoor things to do, too!
Now like the infamous Eva Peróne, it turns out the majority of the Argentine population is Roman Catholic. However, it turns out that Argentina also has the largest Jewish population in all of Latin America. It is estimated that there are currently between 280,000 and 300,000 Jews living in the country. The capital of Buenos Aires is home to the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina, which translates to the Argentine Jewish Welfare Association. This organization’s general mission is to promote the well being and development of Jewish life. Its mission reaches out not just to Buenos Aires, the largest city in Argentina, but to the entire country. To that I say, “olé!”