A US ex-pats experience living in NW Argentina
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Kent and Jane have lived in northern Argentina for more than 10 years.
The following is an interview with Kent and Jane, pioneers of La Estancia de Cafayate, having two of the first homes constructed there in 2010. They have advanced from 1/2 year residents to full-time residents, joined now with their daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters. The family is united now in Cafayate, enjoying the sun, nature and the family-oriented lifestyle revered in Cafayate.
How did you hear about Cafayate originally?
We discovered Cafayate after a long and deliberate search for a place to live that closely matched our needs and desires. We had been travelling the world for several years looking for the ideal place when Kent read about plans for building La Estancia de Cafayate just outside the town of Cafayate. We immediately signed up for a visit and subsequently entered the lottery for the initial lots.
What were the factors that led you to move here?
The answer to this question needs to begin with a few basic beliefs we have. First, we believe that because success carries the seeds of its own destruction, all empires, and the societies they create, cyclically rise and fall with time. This means that you can’t avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time if you cannot change your location relatively easily. Secondly, we believe that the most significant obstacle to obtaining what one desire is a fear of the unknown and an overemphasis on avoiding risks. To quote Tacitus: “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise”.
We think the best way to deal with the many unavoidable risks that life presents is to diversify geographically, financially, politically and professionally. Therefore, we considered it essential to find a location outside of our home country (the United States) where we could spend at least part of each year. After looking into several attractive locations throughout the world, Cafayate came out on top because of a few key attributes: excellent climate, a relatively autonomous local government with a non-authoritarian bent, pristine mountain scenery, a smorgasbord of outdoor recreational activities, and a local culture that is open and friendly to foreigners.
How do you spend your days?
Like everyone, we spend as much time as possible doing the things we enjoy. Cafayate and the surrounding area have served us well in achieving this objective. Now that our family is with us, we enjoy time spent with our two granddaughters, 5-year-old Autumn and 2-month-old Lila. Like her grandfather, Autumn is becoming a lover of the outdoors at a young age, and the area around Cafayate provides a rich environment for such pursuits. Kent especially enjoys bike rides and hiking in the mountains with her.
We also have an engineering service consulting business which allows us to serve clients anywhere in the world, provided we have internet access. In the ten years that we have lived here, the internet service has gradually become faster and more reliable. Although not yet up to the standard that we had become accustomed to in the US, service has served our clients adequately.
What do you notice as you travel back and forth for visits to the US after having roots here in Cafayate for 10 years?
Until this year, we spent about half the year in Cafayate and the other half at our home in North Carolina.
We had to adjust when travelling in either direction when we were travelling back and forth each year. First, seemingly minor adjustments in our daily routine sometimes became more complicated than anticipated. After being away for half the year, we found it nearly impossible to pick back up on the daily routines from six months past. Things as simple as locating kitchen gadgets or remembering how to set up the coffee maker had to be relearned at the beginning of each trip.
There was also some cultural shock when moving in either direction. We spent much less social time in the US with friends and neighbours. The daily routine of the typical American professional working person with a family just doesn’t leave much time for the socializing that we have become accustomed to in Argentina. In Cafayate, hardly a day goes by that we don’t have someone drop by the house for a chat or meet someone at a café in the town plaza to have a coffee or glass of wine.
The one exception we have found in Argentina is in medically related services. Although the equipment and facilities in northern Argentina are not as new or high-tech as that found in the US, this minor shortcoming is more than made up for by the dedication and personal attention offered by medical service providers.
Another huge plus is the cost difference for comparable services between the US and Argentina. US medical services can be 10 to 100 times more than those in Argentina. One recent example is that Kent had a chest x-ray at the local hospital following a serious bout with influenza. The cost of the x-ray, services of the radiologist, and a follow-up consultation with the attending physician was the equivalent of $5.50 in US dollars. This was the full price with no insurance coverage.
What do you miss from the US?
Now that we have a daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters here in Cafayate with us, there is almost nothing in the US that we really miss. Although the food choices and quality here in Argentina are good, one of the top priorities upon returning to the US is to visit some local restaurants that feature meal choices that are not available in Argentina. The next order of business is to make purchases of items to take with us on our return trip. On a typical trip from Argentina to the US our luggage is nested. On the trip back to Argentina, each bag is packed to the weight limit with things we need, but can only get in the US.
What factors caused you to invite your daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter(s) to come to Cafayate to live?
This is a hard question to answer objectively because our efforts to get them here in Cafayate were largely driven by the purely selfish objective of having our granddaughters close by. Nevertheless, the positive things we see in Argentina for us we see even more relevant for them because of their age. While we are semi-retired, they will have the opportunity to build successful lives and careers here.
Another major factor in convincing them to come to Cafayate is that we did not see a bright future for them in the US. We came of age in the US in the ’50s and 60’s. It was a gentler time that bears little resemblance to America today. At that time, the culture and the concept of America were distinct and separate from that of the US Government.
Today the idea of what it is to be an American is rapidly merging into an entity, making it indistinguishable from what it is to be a subject of the US Government. That entity is becoming less friendly to those who value individual liberty. We are fortunate to have children who value work and independence. When we compare the trajectory of life in Argentina to that in the US, Argentina wins hands down. We, therefore, think our children and grandchildren will be much happier here in Argentina.
How do you see your future here?
For the short term, the future looks stable, and we see nothing that would cause us to change our plans for staying in Argentina. Longer-term, there are just too many variables to get a reasonably clear picture of the future. This is why we place a high value on being adaptable. An important element of that adaptability is mobility. If we find that we are unable to maintain a stable existence here, we are prepared to move to a more desirable location.
How is the relationship and interaction with the local community?
Our relationship with the local community has been better than we imagined. When we moved to Cafayate 10 years ago, we were the only residents in the 550-hectare La Estancia de Cafayate (LEC) estate. There were very few non-Argentinians living in the area. Because there were very few facilities and services within LEC, we spent a lot of time in the town. We apparently stood out among the locals. Instead of that being to our disadvantage, we found it to be beneficial.
The locals would go out of their way to help us with everything, from showing us how and where to pay the electrical bill to helping us find something we needed for the house. It was not uncommon for us to walk into a store to look for an item only to find that the store didn’t carry what we needed. But instead of simply sending us on our way, the merchant would often walk us to a nearby by a store that had the item we needed. Even though there are now more expatriates living in the area, we still find most locals to be friendly and accommodating.
Source: Terri Casey (local broker for Estancias de Cafayate)
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