Catamarca 1For most people, holidays are a time to "escape from reality", to rest, to do what one likes. Some even seek to get away from people so they can rest. But some people are different ... and these people decided, therefore, to live "different holidays".

January 5 through 15 in San José, a small town located in the heart of the Calchaquíes Valleys of the Province of Catamarca, in the Northwest of Argentina, 60 young people and adults from Paraguay, Uruguay, Guatemala, and Argentina gathered to challenge the ordinary logic and organize a rest without being governed by "what one wants" but based on "building it with the other."

Housed in the local parish premises and in the village school and without many fabricated plans, they started organizing according to some ideas proposed by Norma and Claudia, the local villagers, along with a group of young people from the neighbouring Province of Tucumán.

The challenge, from an external perspective, would be to find an agreement among so many people, all of them from very different backgrounds (different ages, tastes, professional activities, and cultures). On the contrary, they quickly made it clear that they shared the desire to work together, to build genuine relationships, to dialogue, to listen, and to take advantage of each dish to wash or food for cooking, as an opportunity for service and reciprocity.

The activities they carried out were of any sort - games for all, walks, natural spa afternoons, garden work, meetings to share the experiences they lived during the day... In addition to planned visits, such as the visit to Aurora School, in Santa Maria de Catamarca, where they were taught classes of Religiosity, Andean culture, and medicinal plants. And then workshops of folklore, handicrafts in cardon wood, and loom, as well as cooking classes of home-made bread and cakes with typical fruits. They also visited the ruins of Quilmes (the area where the original Quilme people lived more than two thousand years ago) and the Tinku Kamayu ("Gathered for work") spinning mill, which employs women work who learn this job in order to overcome the hardship they are facing and make fabrics that they personally sell.catamarca 2

Some moments were carefully prepared, others were not; like when they spontaneously helped to clean the houses of dozens of people who had suffered floods caused by heavy rains. Virginia Porta, one of the young women, told us that this was one of the best experiences, not only because they had the opportunity to help out, but because they had been deeply touched by the fact that the owners of some houses, leaving aside the pain for what they lost, offered food to those who had come to help them.

Among the many things everyone stressed at the end of the holiday, the beauty of two “landscapes” that repeatedly surprised everyone was highlighted: the natural and the human landscapes. The constant and immediate contact with the beauty, harmony, and incommensurable uniqueness of those valleys and hills, always beautiful from wherever you looked at them... But even more valuable was the experience of cultural exchange with the community. "The behaviour of people, their beliefs, and above all, their simplicity and solidarity. The way they welcomed us was indescribable, their joy and generosity overwhelmed us," they commented.

Finally, Caridad Bonavida, another young woman who took part in these holidays, concludes: "For me it was an experience of returning to the bolts and nuts of love. Among so many things and the bustle of daily life, I had forgotten that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is more important than loving the other, with joy, immediately, always, being the first to love, and as I love myself.

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