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    The Camino Real was the route that linked the cities of Buenos Aires and Potosí in colonial times. This route was preexistent; it was used as a way of communication between the indigenous peoples. As it passes through Santiago del Estero, it crosses the territory from south to northwest for approximately 400 km. The path is close to the banks of the Dulce River and approaches the current layout of National Route Nº 9.

    Although it did not have a static trace but admitted some modifications according to the circumstances, it was the main route through which evangelization, commerce and troops passed, as well as those important personalities that forged our national history.

    Along the way, population settlements were formed reaching great levels of development. Many of them later became centres of civic, political, social and commercial life in the region.

    The passage of time has left indelible traces in the territory and in the memory. The testimonies today recreate the importance of Santiaguenian history. Chapels, cemeteries, monuments, and archaeological remains together with customs, traditions and beliefs were bequeathed from the original settlers.

    Paths make up the meaning of History.

    Paths represent stories that go back and forth in time.

    The coming and going of men’s footsteps have woven plots that remain in their traces.

    From south to north, from east to west. Crossroads, shortcuts, cut-offs. Dusty roads. Roads leading to and from, which have left people’s lives and whole communities by the side-lines, like the beads of a necklace that were once threaded together.

    Today, they are scars left by the woundson a skin hardened by the sun and the passing of time. From there they have come from, and from there they have departed; through there they have passed, and there they have remained. Snippets of stories, of lives, which are mysteriously hidden in the dust. Remnants of memories. Indelible marks in space; gates that lead to tunnels through time, connecting us to the origins which are reflected in people’s deep gazes, in their silence, in the dark skin of the men of the Earth.

    A feeling of old times settles in the soul, stirring up the mystery that these paths conceal; threads from a dense warp upon which people’s destinies were woven, as well as those of the settlements on whose shores they were born.

    Written by Luis Garay.

    The Royal Path

    The running from north to south of our rivers determined the top-down nature of our social geography. First came the Aboriginal villages which, in their long nomadic migration, were established in a series of settlements along the watercourses, which were their source of livelihood. Then came the Spanish conquerors, who sought access to these territories along the same axis, and established around them, and not far from the old settlements, the new structures that gave shape to our region. A new stream developed in parallel, linking this new construction of sites, villages, towns, and cities. From north to south, from south to north, the way out was pursued. Between Peru and the port of Buenos Aires, Santiago del Estero weaved its destiny around this great path that served as the backbone of the new empire.

    The paths follow the course of history, paving the way for new places, shutting down others, sketching out a new geography in which names, peoples and lives appear and disappear. Maps and their variants, echoes of a groping walk, shape new sceneries in the vast plain and manifest the intensity of colonial life.

    From the sketch of the wagon road leading from Potosí to Buenos Aires in 1617, Cipriano Herrera y Loaizaga’s itinerary in 1717, the route along the post roads, the paths and roads from Buenos Aires to Potosí in 1755, the muleteers’ road, the Palomar road, and the old Inca road, to the sketch of the so-called post roads that prevailed until 1821, everything bears testimony to this dynamic.

    The north-south verticality was challenged by the horizontal roads, which from east to west enabled the forbidden routes of contact across borders. Smuggling, trading, and raiding routes, penetrating where the power of verticality was thinned out in relationships that contradicted the established order. Paths still hidden,which give life to stories still untold.

    Roads and Indigenous Villages

    In Santiago del Estero, between the Dulce and Salado rivers, at the beginning of the XVII century, the indigenous villages were already in existence, which represent the highest expression of the colonisation policies outlined in the ordinances issued by Viceroy Toledo. Their aim was to establish a specific territory around which the Aboriginal communities would be organised and which, once subdued, would be integrated as part of the new colonial state in their capacity as the Indigenous population. The roads were the backbone of this new geography that would initiate the colonisation process. They were the nerve and blood of the colony. Through them came the wheat, the corn, the grain, the honey, the ponchos, and the jergas (a rustic fabric used to saddle the horses), with which the natives paid their tribute.

    Royal Itinerary of Posts -1802

    This topographical map by Araujo, also known as the “Guía de Forasteros” (Guide for Outsiders), describes the post route, which, in addition to providing information regarding the movement of the armies during the military campaign in the Alto Perú, sheds light on the trading activity which took place along this route. According to O. Di Lullo, “this was already busy, as compared to the roads established later by the National Post Office, a post road that began to sow strategic points for the activity of our rural economy”.

    “From Chañar to Cachi or Pozo del Tigre, 3 leagues.

    From Pozo del Tigre to Santiago del Estero’s border, 6 leagues

    From Santiago del Estero’s border to Remanso or Ambargasta, 8 leagues

    From Remanso to Ayuncha, 30 leagues

    From Ayuncha to Simbolar, 4 leagues

    From Simbolar to Silípica, 7 leagues

    From Silípica to Manugasta, 4 leagues

    From Manugasta to Santiago, 7 leagues

    From Santiago to Jiménez, 9 leagues

    From Jiménez toLos Miranda, 11 leagues

    From Los Miranda to Las Palmas, 6 leagues.”

    This would be the road to Tucumán which Juan José Castelliwould take, as well as Balcarce, Rondeau, Ocampo, and Dorrego, and also the one taken by Belgrano and San Martín on their passage through Santiago, to which Vinará would be added as soon as the Dulce River was crossed.


    Roads are the way of history

    Roads represent stories that remains on time.

    The comings and goings create paths and roads whose traces remain.

    From South to North. From East to West. Crossroads and shortcuts. Dusty roads. The coming and goings over these roads stared to create lives and towns in line as if they were beads in a necklace threaded in another era.

    Today, these are like skin wounds, skin hardened by the sun and the passing of time. They came from here, they went there, they stayed here, they went through there. Fragments of stories and lives that are hidden between the dust. Traces of memory. Indelible marks on space. Doors that open the time tunnels and connect us with the beginning of our history, which we can find in the deep eyes, in the silence and in the dark skin of our people.

    The feeling of old times settles into our soul and we can sense the mystery of these roads. The destiny of people and the towns that were created along the road were knitted as a wrap.


    The Camino Real

    The North-South course of our rivers determined the social verticality in our geographical space. At the beginning, the indigenous people long migrated creating settlements along the rivers, source of life. Then, the Spanish conquer looked for these settlements following this same axis’ direction and established the new structures that formed our region. A new history began connecting the towns, villages and cities through the roads. From North to South, from South to North people looked the way out. Santiago del Estero was shaping its destiny in the middle of the road from Peru to the Buenos Aires, the path that was like a spine in the new Spanish empire.

    Roads follow the path of history. They create new places, close others, and draw a new geography where names, lives and towns appear and disappear. Maps and plans created new places in the plain land and showed the colonial life movement.

    There were many sketches in 1821: the Wooden Carts’ road from Potosí to Buenos Aires from 1617; Cipiano Herrera and Loaizaga’s route from 1755; the relays, roads and leagues’ directions from Potosí to Buenos Aires from 1755; the mule driver road or Palomar road; the old Inca road and the relay’s direction race sketch. Different maps, different routes.

    The social hierarchy was represented in the North-South verticality. People from the high society lived in the North-South roads. The indigenous people, known as “pueblos de indios”, lived in the East-West horizontal roads. The path of people from high and low classes should not cross, but there were “secret roads” beyond the boundaries for them to meet. The contraband, exchange and intrusion roads. These roads reached the point where verticality vanished to leave place for these prohibited relationships. Hidden roads, hidden stories on time.

    Image 1. Old carts’ road from Potosí to Buenos Aires. (1687)


    The road and the indigenous towns

    The indigenous people, known as “pueblo de indios”, lived in Santiago del Estero between the Salado and Dulce rivers in early 17th century. This people represented the highest politics of conquer Spanish Viceroy Toledo had in charged. Toledo wanted to set a fixed place around which the indigenous people would settle; once they were subdued, the viceroy called them “indios” and introduced them in the colony. The new geography was connected with these roads, roads that began to open their way with the colonization process. These roads were the colony veins. Over these roads, corn, wheat and honey were produced.  Over these roads ponchos and jergas, this is a thick fabric made with cotton or wool, were also created. The indigenous people used for paying taxes to the viceroy.

    “… Pasao is too far from Salavina, 4 leagues away and people there is loyal to the Spanish crown…”. Then, they talk about “… Mamblachi town, city of Mrs. Baleriana Bravo. 3 leagues wawy from Salavina…” and the road finished in the Dulce river. “…Asingasta, town dependent on Salavina, 10 leagues away from here…”  Image 2. Pueblo de Indios Map


    Relay’s itinerary -1802

    This is a topographic map, also known as “The Foreign’s guide” by Araujo, its author. This map describes the relay’s itinerary. It also guided the armies on the road to the military campaign in Alto Peru. It showed the trading activity taking place on the way.  According to O. Di Lullo: “It was a complete guide, following National Post Service roads later established. The relay’s roads had some strategical points for the rural economy”.

    From Chañar to Cachi or Pozo del Tigre 3 leagues (14.49 km)

    From Pozo del Tigre to Santiago del Estero border. 6 leagues (29 km)

    From Santiago del Estero border to Remanso or Ambargasta 8 leagues (39.6 km)

    From Remanso to Ayuncha. 30 leagues (154 km)

    From Ayuncha to Simbolar. 7 leagues (39.6 km)

    From Simbolar to Silípica. 7 leagues (33.8 km)

    From Silípica to Manugasta. 4 leagues (19 km)

    From Maugasta to Santiago. 7 leagues (33.8 km)

    From Santiago to Jiménez. 9 leagues (39.6 km)

    From Jiménez to Los Miranda. 11 leagues (53 km)

    From Los Miranda to Las Palmas. 6 leagues (29 km)

    This is the road Juan José Castelli, Balcarce, Rodeau, Ocampo, Dorrego used in their way to Tucumán, as well as Belgrano and San Martin, passing through Santiago.  Later, the city of Vinará would join the Camino Real, a city very close to the Dulce River.

    Image 3- Map of the Foreigns’ guide- 1802

               Sr. Luis Garay

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