Once a boom town with some of the biggest wineries in the World, Maipu has anopulentpast. Gabriela Raimondo looks into the past through a camera lense.
The mid 1800s and beginning of 1900s marked a time of immigrants and their dreams coming true in Maipú, Mendoza. Multitudes from Europe embarked on a journey to the American dream. We know the story well enough from Hollywood movies. But what happened to the people who didn’t go through Ellis Island and instead came to Buenos Aires?
Many came to Mendoza and settled in Maipú to start out in the wine industry. They were the forefathers of the huge industry that we still enjoy today. Some returned to their home countries as soon as they made enough money and some remained. The opulence and splendour these men and women created and lived in are still present in Maipú. The decadence of the many abandoned wineries make for a photographers paradise.
One of the most famous examples (open for visitors every day) is The National Museum of Wine and Harvest. The old mansions that belonged to Juan Giol and Bautista Gargantini are magni cent and represent a time of pomp and grandeur.
Juan Giol was born in Vigonovo in Udine, Italy in 1867. He worked in jobs not related to viticulture. In 1887, he decided to immigrate to Argentina (legend says he was a stowaway) and established himself in Mendoza. The rst few years he worked at Trapiche which was owned at that time by another very famous immigrant called Tiburcio Benegas. He rented his rst vineyard in 1890 and he met his future wife Margarita Bondino. In 1896 he partnered up with Gerónimo Bautista Gargantini who was his brother-in-law. They founded La Colina de Oro which was one of the most successful and biggest businesses in the history of Maipú. In 1914 after amassing a huge fortune he decided to retire to Italy where he bought an impressive amount of hectares and built a winery. The last time he came to Mendoza was 1934. He died in Udine in 1936.
Gerónimo Bautista Gargantini was born in 1861 in Ticino, Switzerland. In 1883 and because of economic issues he decided to come to Mendoza. He started work as a builder until he had a bit more capital and he put up a station selling cold cuts in the Central Market. In 1890 he partnered with Pascual Toso and married Oliva Bondino in 1896. He then decided to partner with his brother-in- law and start up with La Colina de Oro. In 1911, in the midst of the company’s rise he decided to retire and sell his part of the company to Giol. He reserved a portion of his estates in the east, in Rivadavia, for his son Bautista and returned to Switzerland and built 5 palaces in Lugano Lake where he died in 1937.
How did these men achieve to copy the splendour of European palaces so far away from home? There is only one answer: the train. The San Martin Railway (1886) came from Buenos Aires all the way to Gutierrez in Maipú. In 1902 when the construction of the Gargantini and Giol’s houses began, everything was shipped in from Europe. If you visit the old wineries in Maipú, you will still admire the antique oors and ceiling in the early 1900s European style as well as the old oak casks brought in from staves from France and built in place since they were too large to move. Such huge expenditure was easily afforded by two men who had created the biggest and most successful winery in the World.
The amazing print La Colina de Oro and later on Giol left in Maipú was the urbanization of the area. Most locals worked for the winery at one point or other of their lives. When the production of wine increased vertiginously the current Ozamis street and the area towards the train began to be populated and the development of the neighbourhood was incredible. Commerce began to thrive and the winery was its focal point. The neighbourhoods are lled with houses that tried to evoke the palatial spirit of the old mansions.
A trip to the past through the Metrotranvia
It was a titanic task to build a railway that came from Buenos Aires to Maipú but it was certainly
the biggest reason for the area’s wealth. At the beginning of the 1900s colossal wineries such as La Colina de Oro, Lopez and Trapiche needed to have their wines transported as fast as possible, so the train and the wineries have a long tradition in Gutierrez. The old station there, now home of the Metrotranvía (trolley car), shows evidence of these times of hard labour and immense reward.
As passengers now descend the Metrotranvía at the last station, bits of the past come to life. The old sign indicating the last stop of a very long journey, and the decaying buildings add the feeling of nostalgia. The old water tanks are rusted and the once roaring warehouse is now silent. The marks of the old wine duct tell the story of the times when the wineries would ll the barrels being transported on the trains with the use of a metal pipe that would go from the concrete tanks to the train station.
Maipú is the home to Mendoza’s most traditional and oldest wineries. The splendour is still visible even well after a century. The homes that were erected 120 years ago are still standing strong. The grandeur et decadence make these houses jewels for preservation. They are a pivotal part of the history of the city as well as the train and it is important to maintain them.