We made it to Mendoza fine, but this time the bus wasn't quite as nice. Mendoza is like a breath of fresh air. Of course it's the wine capital of Argentina, but it's also the most charming of all its cities. Wide, uncrowded streets lined with trees, and the residents make a point of cleaning and polishing their sidewalks every day. Between the sidewalk and the pavement, most streets have a little irrigation ditch, called an acequia, which is usually lined with river rock and looks quite charming. This keeps all the trees in good shape. There is a huge park just a few blocks from the city. The whole city lies right up against the foothills of the Andes, which can be seen soaring 14,000 feet above the flatlands as you approach from the east.
Our friends tell us that a year ago the city was doing very well, thanks to hugely expanding exports of wine. Our local Costco store (in Dana Point, CA) now has a whole section devoted just to Argentine Malbec, which is a close cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon. Most of the Malbec in Argentina is grown around Mendoza. Lately exports have fallen off sharply, and the locals, one of whom we talked to today over lunch, blame it on the Kirschner administration for sharply increasing tariffs on just about all exports. Governments never learn, it seems, especially not here in Argentina. I've followed the economic history of the country since 1980, and I've seen them make the same mistakes countless times: devaluations to boost exports, taxes on exports to boost government revenues, capital controls to keep money from fleeing overseas, wage controls to keep inflation under control, etc. These things never work, they just exacerbate the underlying problems.