The pulperias in Argentina have a huge reputation in gaucho folklore. They existed often before the towns were built and served the local community; they were a vital part of the gaucho, estancia world. A place where families met up and shared a chat, where gauchos settled disputes (sometimes with knives!) or shared a whisky with fellow gauchos who worked long hours on the huge estancia nearby.
Pulperias were a place where they could buy all the necessary things of life – some food, a broom! some dusters, a whisky or beer etc. They were all in all a general store/bar come everything. Course once the supermarkets stated to appear in the towns so the number of pulperias stared to close down. Gradually a style of life or at least of meeting up started to disappear in Argentina.
Luckily a few still survive today, not many but some and fortunately near La Margarita we have Pulperia San Gervasio built in 1855 (pre dating La Margarita by some 18 years) and it’s still going strong. I say fortunately because as I mentioned there are few working pulperias left here in Argentina and Pulperia San Gervasio is just a few kilometers from La Margarita and it is importantly a working pulperia.
I say a working pulperia because there are some, which are just open for tourist but this pulperia is for real. Here you can still see gauchos meet up and you can even buy that broom you needed and you can certainly have a whisky. It still has the iron bars dividing the bar from the public area just in case a couple of gauchos need to settle a score or two and the bar tender can keep serving without coming to any harm! It is run by the two Toso brothers who have run it for the past 60+ years, before them their father run it for 30 years so you could say it has some tradition! Once the brothers retire (they are in their 60s) now I am pretty sure it will shut and that will be the end of a long historic era. I remember talking once to one of the brothers while we were looking at the view from the bar over a beer and remarking how peaceful it was as we gazed at the glorious pampas and cows grazing in the fields beyond! (the view must have been the same when their father run the pulperia all those years ago) and he replied “yes takes a bit of getting used to all this peace”
With a reputation so big it’s no wonder that sometimes when we have guests on La Margarita who inform us they are off to visit the pulperia arrive back to inform us they couldn’t find it. Sometimes I have to say it doesn’t surprise me the pulperia is huge in reputation but the building is tiny – with its reputation it should be the size of a hypermarket but the reality is it’s small so some of our guest go sailing by it but those that do find it come back full of wonder. As tiny as it is when you step into the small bar you step back into a gaucho time gone by and you will wish that walls could talk and you can almost smell the tradition
If you come to La Margarita I highly recommend a visit to this historic landmark but please remember although it has a huge reputation it is a small building so keep a look out for it but for sure it’s stuffed full with gaucho tradition and well worth seeking out
If you want to test your Spanish here are a couple of links about La Pulperia San Gervasio, Tapalque
This is David Cummings alias The English Gaucho hasta promto