Underwater dreams and Mennonites speaking Spanish!

December 2022

The end of the calendar year is closing in on us, and we found ourselves in nearly the center of Argentina!  I suspect that not many travelers go this way, as there are few support services.  But using iOverlander app and some navigational logic we were able to find two very interesting spots to share with you.

First stop was Lago Epecuen which is was planned to be an incredible, recreational community.  This is a story similar to the Salton Sea, California which we explored many years ago.  Villa Epecuan was a planned community.  The streets were laid out and the infrastructure was built for a tourist village to serve visitors who would come to enjoy the warm air and the salty, mineral water with reportedly therapeutic benefits.


The forces of Mother Nature intervened one spring day, and everything was changed.  During a powerful spring storm the heavy rains and high winds overburdened the earthen dam which created the lake, and the salty, briny waters began to slowly overtake the village.  At a rate of 1/2 inch per hour, people could watch their lives change.  Everyone was able to safely escape.  But the loss was severe, and the water had no where to go.  Lake Epecuen was now larger, less salty and more encompassing than ever.  Two weeks later the dam broke completely and the flood peaked with the small city under 25 feet of water.  This was 1985, and while the water has receded and dried up, several city blocks are still underwater.



The entire area is now a tourist site and memorial.  We were able to walk around the streets that are exposed.  The salty water has done irreparable damage to concrete, wood and the dreams of these people.  The loss feels palpable as you wander the streets and the museum and look at the photos of what once was.

It was a strange and haunting feeling to walk along these blocks of soggy, crushed hopes.  Due to dehydration and evaporation, the water level is receding again.  The final area to hold standing water is the lakeside, public pool zone.  The concrete steps to the slide remain, holding the dreams of a therapeutic elixir washed away by the forces of weather.


Continuing inland, we traversed dry, dusty roads to find a different sort of dream fulfilled.  The maps told us that an extensive Mennonite community existed in the middle of vast fields of nothingness.  As we got closer to the center, we began to notice signs of a very different lifestyle.

Boxy, orderly farms and homes.  Each one plain and free of decoration or bright colors.  And the distinctive  half-curtain, pinned across each window.  Then we saw a few people.  They looked at us curiously, as we looked at them curiously.  But each encounter ended with a smile and a wave.  We were closing in on the pinned point mysteriously named “Mennonite Comedor”.

We approached the long, tree-lined driveway hesitantly.  There were no signs to indicate that we had located the dining hall.  We were greeted first by a friendly working dog, and then two cautious but friendly gentlemen.

We confirmed that we had indeed located the Mennonite Comedor and we could certainly purchase lunch inside.  The showed us to the dining area, where we were seated by a young woman.  We were the only ones there at that moment, but clearly the space can receive large crowds.  Beautiful handmade tables and chairs, a gas light above the doorway and the characteristic half-curtain were the only decor.

Lunch came out hot and fresh from the kitchen.  It included home made cheese stuffed empanada, sweet fresh cream, shredded beef in a mild red sauce, yeasty hand made rolls with cubes of fresh butter and home canned jam.  It was free of salt or excessive seasoning, yet perfectly delicious and rich tasting.  Magical!

As we were eating we were able to engage the woman in conversation.  Keep in mind that these fair-skinned, blue-eyed mennonites have lived their lives in a Spanish-speaking country.  They can read and speak some old German, but their primary language is a dialect of Mennonite Spanish.  It was very linguistically interesting to talk with them!

She shared that she had two children sleeping in the next room.  Said that she has many friends in the area and they all get together on Sundays for church and meals.  She said there are two schools for children to attend.  She explained that the group has no electricity, but solar power and battery storage for the workshops of the men. And that a few people have cell phones, but no land lines.  They produce nearly everything they need within the community, with a few shopping trips annually to the nearby city.  Propane, gasoline and diesel are picked up by specific men and shared with the community.  She showed us the hand crafts that she was selling for herself and some friends.  This included rag-rugs, aprons, curtains and handkerchiefs.

Then we were invited to see the wood shop that the men work in.  They create every type of furniture from raw, beautiful cedar wood.  They were selling dressers, bed frames, cribs, chairs and tables.   They had high quality, well-maintained older power tools for their work.  Impressive.  But they were very curious about our house.  So before we ended the visit, we invited them to take a tour around the outside and inside of our camper.  (and yes, all the men dressed alike and all the women dressed alike).  They asked a few questions, and we could see them designing the perfect horse-drawn, overland camper of the future in their minds!


We had muddled through enough Mennonite-Spanish language that our brains were exhausted.  And we had a LONG, dusty road ahead to leave this area and return to the highway.  It was exciting to see that a group of people was able to live their dreams and beliefs and work hard to make it possible.  We feel very fortunate to have been greeted warmly and introduced to their lifestyle.

Thanks for this sharing this unique experience with us.  See you soon for the next stories from South America!

6 thoughts on “Underwater dreams and Mennonites speaking Spanish!

  1. Another blog post and another potential pin in my map. I can’t wait to visit for myself, some of the wonderful places you show us. Thanks as always.

  2. Reading of the underwater town was a bit chilling. But the Mennonite community! What a surprise! And I’m sure you were a big surprise to them also. The idea of a horse drawn “RV” is pretty entertaining. All though in a way, that’s what the old gypsies did as did sheepherders.

  3. Those spots may have been some of the most interesting places you’ve been

  4. Thank you for sharing your adventures. I look forward to each episode as you make your way towards Ushuaia, even though I know you’ve already been there and are now heading north.

  5. Thank you, thank you, for your unique perspectives and travel to special places like these, and share your experiences with us who can’t do it ourselves. It makes my still-snowy days much brighter. Kristin in Alaska

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