The Catamarqueño settlement of BELÉN is squeezed between the Sierra de Belén and the river of the same name. Olive groves and plantations of capsicum – paprika-producing peppers (pimentones) – stretch across the fertile valley to the south. Belén offers the area’s best accommodation and a couple of very decent restaurants, a handsome church and an interesting archeological museum, and it’s also a base for adventure tourism, including trekking and horseriding. Since Belén promotes itself as the Capital del Poncho you might like to visit the many excellent teleras, or textile workshops, dotted around the town; they also turn out beautiful blankets and sweaters made of llama, vicuña and sheep’s wool, mostly in natural colours. The wool is sometimes blended with walnut bark, to give the local cloth, known as belichas or belenistos, its typical rough texture.
As for festivals, every January 6 a pilgrimage procession clambers to a huge statue of the Virgen de Belén, overlooking the town from its high vantage point to the west, the Cerro de la Virgen.Read More
Rhodochrosite is a semiprecious stone, similar to onyx but unique to Argentina. It is mined only from a generous seam in the Capillitas mine, to the north of Andalgalá in Catamarca Province. Known popularly as the Rosa del Inca – and believed by the indigenous people to be the solidified blood of their ancestors – rhodochrosite is reminiscent of Florentine paper, with its slightly blurred, marble-like veins of ruby red and deep salmon-pink, layered and rippled with paler shades of rose-pink and white. Its rarity has made it Argentina’s unofficial national stone. Much of it is sold in Buenos Aires, in luscious blocks suitable as paperweights or book ends, or worked into fine, expensive jewellery, or into animal and bird figures, many of them kitsch.