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CULTURE | 19-10-2023 13:00

A trip through Argentina’s most strangely named places

Odd places with odd names – a surrealistic tour through Argentina’s most unusually named locations.

Argentina is beyond a doubt one of the biggest countries in the world – specifically, the eighth-biggest with an area of 2.78 million square kilometres. It’s a nation big enough to include many places with exotic, funny and even terrifying names.

The best-known among most Argentines is Salsipuedes (translating to “get out if you can”), whose 10,000 inhabitants are now considered to have been absorbed by Greater Córdoba since it is only 37 kilometres away from the city centre of the provincial capital.

Tourism has recently bloomed in this zone with bathing spots, valleys and museums to enjoy. The history of its name remains unknown, but the legend has it that a Querandi Indian abducted a woman at the riverside after overcoming her husband in a fight, before chucking him into the water with the taunt: “Get out if you can."

Santiago del Estero is Argentina’s oldest province with its capital founded 470 years ago by the Spanish. Over the years some of the adjacent localities were given highly original names. Four of these near the city of Clodomira have a funereal tone: Sepultura (“burial”), El Hoyo (“the pit”), Negra Muerta (“dead black woman”) and Bayo Muerto (“dead bay horse”). 

Looking south, the names in Chubut, the third-largest province in the country, often carry a Welsh imprint alien to local ears. Thus in the late 19th century the carts would descend the lower valley of the Chubut River from the city of Trevelin (the only one founded by the Welsh) to Gaiman, Trelew or the provincial capital of Rawson.

Rather strangely, there is also the Cajón de Ginebra region. On one of those journeys transporting food, drink and clothing, a crate of gin is said to have fallen off a cart with the resulting location becoming known as “where the crate of gin [fell].” Almost as if it were a prophecy, an even bigger crate of gin apparently fell off the cart very nearby a few years later, thus leading to the two spots being differentiated as Cajón de Ginebra Chico (“small crate of gin”) and Cajón de Ginebra Grande (“big crate of gin"), unique in the world. This later became known throughout the province with the Welsh naming this spot Bocs Gin, which means “sad gin.”

In San Juan Province in midwestern Argentina we have a similar case to Salsipuedes: the locality of Matagusanos (“kill worms”) in the department of Ullúm near the Río de la Travesía river. Famous in the region, the place is so arid that three members of the Díaz family represent the entire population. According to them, the name originates from those arid and complicated living conditions which are so discouraging that not even worms can survive.

In vast Buenos Aires Province, in the district of Tordillo to be exact, we find Esquina de Crotto (“Crotto's corner”), named after José Camilo Crotto, a politician very close to the farming sector who governed the province between 1918 and 1921 and was a co-founder of the Unión Cívica Radical along with Hipolito Yrigoyen, who was president in those years.

After falling out with the latter in 1921, he decided to settle in that zone where he had family. Near his estancia was a pulpería (a grocery store cum bar) known as “La Esquina de Crotto” because esquina ("corner"), was the term used for bars and grocery stores in rural areas. The place is currently uninhabited but there are plans to reopen the pulpería as a historic museum, as well as building a hotel where the only school in the area functioned long ago.

Esquina de Crotto finds its way into this article because in somewhat outdated Argentine slang “croto” is a homeless person or scavenger – the word stemming from tramps hitching train rides being a common sight in the years when Crotto was governor.

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Dante Gabriel Bogani Sandez

Dante Gabriel Bogani Sandez

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