Tours and Activities:
Cerro de Oro, a Town in Pure StateMónica PonsEduardo Epifanio
Going for a ride around Cerro de Oro means wandering around a rural area where nature is still respected. Its silence is chosen both as a residence and a tourist destination.
Cerro de Oro -whose name stands for 'Gold Hill'- lies a few minutes away from Villa de Merlo by car. There we went and, as we left all tourist resorts behind, the natural vegetation and quietness of the countryside gradually appeared.
Upon reaching Cerro de Oro, we had a chat with a neighbor that recommended us to visit the monastery and some craftsmen's workshops while a flock of noisy parrots seemed to announce our arrival. Large nests built with sticks and feathers could be seen on the canopies.
We took a narrow dirt road that leads to Belén Monastery, an isolated place for meditation inhabited by French closed-order nuns. As we faced the huge access gate, we perceived a special kind of magnetism in that place. Right there, at the foot of the mountain, a soft breeze was stroking the grass and we followed the stone path that led to the sanctuary.
Accompanied by the perfume of the plants, we reached the temple whose simple silhouette interrupted the skyline of the valley and Mount Comechingones. Inside, the primitive wooden pews and altar made up a moving set only touched by natural light and that of some lit candles next to the image of the Virgin, whose help the community implores everyday.
This is a site for prayer where mass is celebrated on special dates, when the nuns accompany the priest in chorus. They stand by the altar, sheltered by the chair screens so as to remain hidden.
Afterwards, we headed for the gift shop, where handicrafts featuring religious motifs and made of excellent quality and finish stone by the nuns themselves are offered for sale.
We returned to the center of Cerro de Oro to find a well-known potter who opened up the door to his house in order to show us his skill with clay. Salvador Bratosevich and Moira Valdebenito are a couple. They have lived in Cerro de Oro for several years and they are part of the so-called Circuito Artesanal de los Comechingones (Comechingones Craftsmen Circuit).
The scent of aromatic herbs led us to the workshop where Moira revealed the process of finding clay in the area, sieving it and drying it until it acquires the right consistency to be shaped.
Hands are essential to shape each of the pottery tools. They are dried out in the air and then handles are applied to them. Then, they are polished and put inside the wood-fired oven.
Besides, we learned something else. A potter is someone who takes soil from the area, prepares it and bakes it on fire to manage local color. A ceramist, instead, receives the clay, shapes it and bakes it in an electric oven, thus managing other kinds of color.
Amidst pots, bowls and pans, Moira took a piece she uses to play percussion and dedicated a unique moment with African rhythms to us. The palm of her hand and her knuckles on the clay bowl took us down to the ceremonies held to manage a connection with the soil, especially as a means of healing and paying respect.
And when the night fell, we started our way back to the center of Merlo, leaving behind the 'Holy Mountain', like the surroundings of Cerro de Oro are usually referred to. One thing was true: its simplicity and magical environment managed to impress our senses.