Punta del Este to San Pedro de Timote
8 April 2013
To make the trip from Punta del Este to San Pedro de Timote is to cross a bridge between worlds. Punta del Este is a chic and sophisticated beach resort known to the world, with sandy beaches stretching for as far as the eye can see. San Pedro de Timote is a remote, rural estancia, a world unto itself, with rolling countryside and livestock for as far as the eye can see.
With its monumental ranch buildings, elegant interior spaces with high ceilings, and its isolated situation, San Pedro de Timote naturally dominates its surroundings, and one can readily see it as the economic focus of the area, if not the region, with its own institutions, its own power structures, its own client-patron networks. A community unto itself, an enclosed world unto itself, that functions all the more efficiently for being dependent exclusively upon its own resources and requiring nothing from the outside world, such a place exudes a feeling of completeness not to be found elsewhere. There is both an aesthetic and an intellectual satisfaction to be found in this.
We see here a perfect exemplification of a civilized countryside, and of the distinctive civilization that it produced — much more like the manorial system of feudal Europe than the commercial civilization that followed later and displaced the manorial system. The manorial system lived on in rural South America long after it disappeared from the European continent where it achieved its most distinctive expression.
From the air, upon arrival, Uruguay presents the aspect of regular quadrangles of orderly agricultural land dominating the countryside — no less regular than urban regularity, but realized in a different medium, and to a different purpose. The aerial view reveals the large scale structure of a civilization in its greatest generality, as I attempted to show in Epistemic Orders of Magnitude (and, a little differently, in relation to constructivism, in P or not-P) in relation to industrialized cities, but which is equally as truly revealed in the landscape of rural agriculture, whether the regular quadrangles of Uruguay, or the terraces of the Andes or of the terraced rice farming in southeast Asia.
While the cities have taken over the role as the economic centers of industrial-technological civilization, as this civilization relentlessly expands its scope, here in San Pedro de Timote it is still possible to believe that the estate itself remains the center of life. And indeed, if the industrial-technological civilization that overlaid itself upon the landscape were to suddenly vanish tomorrow, life would go on here as always, essentially unchanged and undisturbed by the coming and going of an alien form of civilization with which is shares little and coincides on only a few points of contact.
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