walkscape Buenos Aires
The forgotten island: martín garcía
Posted on April 22, 2019

If someone goes to Tigre, a small town overlooking the delta of the River Paranà, the port is crowded with lots of boats ready to furrow a thousand branches of the delta to reach the islets located in the huge Rio de La PlataThe navigation gives us a landscape that appears almost tropical, thanks to the vegetation of rushes and shrubs that runs along the water.


On the shores, you see old shipyards, wrecks and houses that look like proper pile-dwellings reachable only by sea. As the view begins to appear wider, the watercourse becomes larger, becoming Rio de La Plata.

A river, enormous, unlimited, enigmatic. The origins of Argentina can be met in its murky water, which more than a river may perhaps look like a real sea since its banks become invisible. The horizon gets farther and farther away and the skyline of Buenos Aires appears nuanced on the brown water. 

After a few hours of sailing, in the middle of the sea a green islet appears, is the Martín García island. The history of this island is actually a collection of a thousand stories that over the centuries have made it the protagonist, only to be gradually forgotten. In 1516, the explorer Juan Díaz de Solís was the first to navigate in the Rio de La Plata. The storekeeper of this expedition died during the journey, so the commander decided to give him a proper burial on dry land. The name of that storekeeper was Martín García. From that day on, the island took on the most varied functions: a quarry and a prison were just some of these. For a time it was also a place of quarantine for immigrants arriving in Argentina, as well as becoming a refuge for Masons and Nazis. In more recent times it has been the headquarters of the Navy, although today only about 150 people live on the island. The small pier from which we disembark projects visitors towards a road which leads to the island's main square and all those buildings that recall a brighter past. In the small village, there is a church, a bakery and a grocery store, as well as a series of houses. On the other side of the road, you can enter old ruins, now overwhelmed by nature, which housed the prisoners held on the island. 

In any case, one of the buildings that stands out most is old Urquiza Theather. Its facade, formed by two large circular shapes, bright colours and a clearly Art Nouveau style, appears very special if we consider the latitude in which we are. However, the motivation for this style is to be found in the origin of the architects, Catalonia.

The island is not only known for its small village, but it is imperative to follow the dirt roads and paths that lead us to the heart of this place. In fact, moving towards the north you come into contact with the most pristine nature. The feeling you breathe in this place is one of absolute tranquillity, in which the sound of birds resounds, the damp smell of nature enters the lungs, and the light is almost suffocated by the density of the shrubs. When entering the small forest, a series of old buildings testify the presence of man. They are munitions dumps, wrapped in the vegetation that is about to swallow them definitively. Continuing to walk, old chimneys and rusty cannons that look towards the sea appear among the trees.

Lastly, the island even has a small airport without a control tower, where small planes of some wealthy Argentineans, who choose to spend a day of tranquillity, take off and land.

The island also has an old town that can be reached on foot, where there are the ancient pier and the so-called "barrio chino", which fell into disuse after the foundation of the new port. On this side of the island, the buildings are completely in ruins and nestled among the tall reeds. At the end of the main street, you reach the ancient pier, on which a viewpoint rises. From this small tower, it is possible to admire the island Timoteo Domínguez, which today belongs to Uruguay. 

After crossing the island far and wide, you can return to the harbor to admire an incredible spectacle, the sunset over the Rio de La Plata. From this moment the horizon and the clouds begin to be tinged with all the shades of red, while some children enjoy fishing. With the sun's plunge into the sweet sea, night falls on the forgotten island where at 3 am the electricity comes off and the mystery of this island hovers.