Its hundred-year-old streets, the history of a town that has known how to grow to speak about a town that has known how to grow with deep roots amidst bountiful nature.
The Chimehuin River and several hills frame the territory of Junín de los Andes, which, in spite of having been declared to be a city, continues to boast its pace of quiet town, with solitary streets at nap time. Besides, it stores a history worth knowing and buildings that have witnessed to the growth of these confines in Neuquén. Holding a map of the city, we started our tour at San Martín Square. In the days of the Desert Campaign, the urban grid was laid out starting at this square with ample streets, green spaces and farms. During the traditional festival season, the city gets ready to celebrate and is the axis of all civic, musical and cultural activities in Junín. Today, monkey-puzzle trees planted by priest Ginés Ponte surround the block. These conifers are directly related to the diet of the Mapuche communities. The city was founded in 1883 and one decade later, the first parish church was built right opposite the square. The members of the 26th Mountain Infantry Regiment used cane, mud and straw to raise this construction, which collapsed in 1925.
Then we approached the building known today as Don Moisés Museum. Members of the Roca Jalil family, the first merchants in town, turned the original general store called “La flor del día” into a private museum. It has a huge historical and cultural value, as it displays ancient rural and urban tools as well as documents from the days of the conquest. Across the street, we visited a restaurant that is a classic of local and regional gastronomy: Ruca Hueney, in a venue formerly occupied by the old Hotel Lanín. Our tour led us to Colegio María Auxiliadora, founded in the early twentieth century by a community of Chilean nuns that had the aim of creating a school for native girls. In addition to the pedagogic and social aim of the institution, the school became known for one of its students: Laura Vicuña. Having arrived from Chile in the company of her mother, she lived in the proximity of Junín de los Andes until she settled down in the town. Thirteen-year-old Laura passed away after a long illness. As a result of her exemplary life, she was worshiped and even claimed to do miracles. Today, worship is paid to her at the sanctuary Our Lady of the Snow, where she appears next to the Virgin Mary. Traditional religious beliefs co-exist with those of the Mapuche people at that sanctuary and every element in this venue has a common meaning in both faiths. Visiting meant understanding the similarity between creeds. Right opposite the temple, on Centenario Square, tribute is paid to major sergeant Miguel Vidal, who was in front of the post that gave origin to the town. The first accommodation venue in the town was Hotel Argentino, built entirely in wood and demolished in the 1980s. A few blocks away, Chimehuin Inn, raised in 1947, lies on the river banks and is famous among anglers who come along lured by good fishing. We left the waterfront on the Chimehuin River for the end of the tour. The murmur of the waters, the vegetation and a green space accessed through a metallic bridge turn this place in to a recreation area and swim hole very popular in the summertime. We made ourselves comfortable near the river shore in order to have a rest and feel nature around at the best time: sunset. The aroma of willows and poplar groves accompanied us with its special perfume.