The “different” holidays in El Espinal
From 8th to 16th January, during the austral summer, a group of 25 people went back on holiday to El Espinal, a town located between Salta and San Miguel de Tucumán, in the north-west of Argentina. Let’s hear the story of the third edition of these “different” holidays by Sol Wamba, a student of Social Communications in La Rioja, who has participated in this initiative since its first edition.
What are the factors that help you make a choice when it comes to holidays? According to some tourist websites: the weather and then, of course, money. After that, food and things to be done or seen at destination are also taken into consideration. If, however, you decide not to rely on general statistics, you would discover original travel experiences, such as the one that, for some years, some young people have been making by choosing El Espinal for their summer holidays, a town located between Salta and San Miguel de Tucumán, in the north-west of Argentina.
In addition to rest, the main goal of their “Different Holidays” is to share the daily life of the local people, to discover their culture, and contribute to enhancing their tourism potential, participating in the work promoted by the Sustainable and Solidarity Tourism Programme of North-West Argentina (NOA).
Sol Wamba, a student of Social Communications in La Rioja, has participated in this experience since its first edition.
First of all, what does ‘Different Holidays’ mean? “Different” in what sense?
Sol: the idea is to be tourists but in a different way, with the locals. For example, a ride with a family that owns horses or a tractor trip organized by a young man living there. You go to the river, take walks, etc. However, the main activity is to share the daily life with the locals. When we arrive, the first thing we do is to visit all the families. Among them, there are many elderly people who are alone: for them it is special for a group of young people to knock on their doors to visit them!
Let me understand … Why is it so special to visit the locals?
Sol: Their generosity is the “special” thing that drives us to come back! Every time we go to see them, despite the fact that they live in very modest houses, with earthen floors, they immediately give us all they have to offer, as if we were their family: chairs, sodas, water… It is this generosity that drives us to come back. Not so much for the natural beauties, like the river, but for the sharing.
What daily activities do you usually do?
Sol: The local people work in the tobacco plantation, all of them: mother, father, and children. So, the idea is that they can also take a break with us. Playing, dancing, singing, very simple things to just have fun together. In addition, this year we brought the Dice of Peace to another village, El Jardín. We also went to a summer camp, which the NOA Programme organizes to prevent younger children from working – to counter child labour. It was nice because there were 200 children, young ones and boys and girls of 17, who spent the whole day there. We brought the Dice of Peace and staged a theatrical show. Later we played with them, sharing snacks and distributing other dice of peace so that they could experience them themselves.
How do you think local people are exploiting their potential?
Sol: Very well. This year, for example, they organized a fair to offer their products to visitors. They produce honey, tomatoes, onions, eggs, jams, and looms. It was very positive because the market helps the community grow.
Sol, why do you choose to spend your holidays in such a different way?
Sol: I choose to spend the holidays in El Espinal, especially to meet again the families and the children who live there and with whom I’ve kept in touch throughout the year. Also, the relationship with my holiday companions is great. We are very different, and every time it is difficult to familiarize oneself again with them, because during our “different” holidays we must clean, cook, wash … and it is tiring, but in the end, apart from these obstacles, it is nice to “meet again”.
What was so special this year?
Sol: this year the different thing was that, since we already knew each other well, families spent almost every minute with us. The families even let a group of younger kids not go to work so they could stay with us. It wasn’t us going to visit them, because they were part of the group. They also accompanied us to visit other families, something that never happened before.
Here, this was the “different holiday” of Sol and her brave fellow travellers. An adventure that kindles an invitation – addressed not only to tourists – that is, to become part of a community, offering the opportunity for the locals to grow, progress, and open up, as a group and as a society, while maintaining their traditions and activities.