This was the word we got from the Calchaquí Valley.

As regular Diary readers know, we were pinned down (delightfully) at our ranch in Argentina for nine months last year. We arrived in Buenos Aires on March 13. The next day, the airports were closed.

This turned out to be a lucky break for us.

We were like happy castaways enjoying our desert island. We rode our horses in the sunshine. We laughed every day.

At day’s end, we drank wine from our vineyard and ate beef from our cows.

Useless Lockdowns

The lockdowns, however, did nothing to stop the coronavirus.

Even with the most severe “lockdown” in the world – with police roadblocks every few miles… businesses closed… almost everyone forced to stay home…

…Argentina still suffered 116 deaths per 100,000 people, not substantially less than Sweden (125), which did almost nothing to prevent the spread of the dreaded plague…

…and many times the death rate in Nicaragua, which claims fewer than 3 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people.

Finally, the gauchos eased up enough so that we were able to get a flight out in November…

Plan B

But what has happened at the ranch since? Our Argentinian lawyer brought us up to date.

“It had better rain soon… even just a little. The situation is critical. Not a drop of water is coming in to irrigate the vineyards. And the cattle are getting dangerously thin.”

Each year, we face a calamity. An extinction event for life at the ranch.

It never rains there between March and December. By the end of the year, the land is parched. The cattle are dangerously thin. And fuses are short.

In a good year, we get 130 mm of rain – about 5 inches. So far this year, we have gotten only 1 inch. Without more, the grapes will dry up. And the cattle will starve.

But what about down along the river? Are we still able to irrigate the alfalfa, which is the cattle’s staple diet?

Remember, our Plan B was to get some land down in the valley, along the river. Even in a dry year, we’d be able to draw on the waters of the Calchaquí River to irrigate the alfalfa.

Then, to avert disaster, we could drive the cattle up over the pass and down into the valley, where they would eat the round bales of alfalfa we had stocked for them.

Plan C

Alas, it looks like we may need a Plan C.

This looks like an especially bad drought… There is scarcely any water in the Calchaquí River, either. And everybody, up and down the valley, needs it.

“We’ve already lost one cut of alfalfa (we usually get four per year). And if it doesn’t rain, we may not get another one. The situation is desperate,” our lawyer reported.

Violent Outbreak

Meanwhile, the war with the originarios continues (catch up on the latest here and here).

For newer readers, the originarios are people who claim to be the descendants of long-lost (or made up) tribes. They are trying to lay claim to our land, saying it was taken from their ancestors centuries ago.

Our lawyer met with them again and tried to explain that the laws of the country had not changed. Private property is still private property. We are still the owners of the ranch, and we will do all we can, short of violence, to protect our property rights.

As of last week, it was still tranquilo on the ranch.

But farther up the valley, violence has broken out.

The national newspaper, Clarín, reported that originarios had seized a property, claiming it as an ancestral property of the “Diaguita community.”

The owner went to court. Finally, the cops arrived to throw the originarios off the property. What followed, predictably, was a violent confrontation.


Violence breaks out in the valley [Source: Clarín]

Clarín points out that the “Diaguita” is an “ethnicity created in the city of Buenos Aires.” That is, it is made up… invented by politicians and opportunists.

The paper goes on to explain that historians all agree that there never was a “Diaguita” tribe… and that the people claiming to be members of the “community” are no different – neither culturally nor racially – from any others in the valley.

“They sow resentment,” explained a local priest – in a phrase that could explain many of America’s “culture wars,” too – “to harvest power.”


Historians believe that the term “Diaguita” was one used by the Inca as a derogatory tag for all the tribes in the area. After the Inca were beaten by the Spanish, the real tribes of the area were moved out. The valley was de-populated.

This left a need for labor, a need which was filled in the 19th and 20th centuries, largely by immigrants from Chile.

Almost all the “originals” on our ranch, for example, came from neighboring farms within the last three generations.

As for the reborn Diaguitas, they are imposters.

The chief of the new tribe is named Miguel Plaza Schaefer. If Schaefer doesn’t sound particularly “Indian” to you, it’s because Miguel’s mother’s family came from Germany (in Spanish-speaking countries, the last name is the mother’s family name).

He is just as much a member of some long-forgotten Teuton tribe as a member of a South American tribe that never existed.

Not surprisingly, he is also on the government payroll… twice – one job is with the province and another paycheck comes from the central government.

Fake Promises

Our ranch also has a local “chief.” He, too, is on the government payroll. And in his spare time, he encourages the locals to seize our land.

This guy has no connection with the locals at all… except claiming to be their chief. He was born in a neighboring province and raised in Bolivia.

But the fake chief of the fake tribe plays basically the same cards as America’s Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen.

That is, he promises to give something that doesn’t belong to him to people who have no right to it.

Or, as Clarín puts it, “He promises to give land to those who follow him.”

Alas… it is our land he is promising…

Stay tuned…




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