For foreign travelers, southeastern Corrientes Province is primarily a transit route, with several Brazilian border crossings. To Argentines of all political persuasions, though, the sleepy village of Yapeyú occupies a special status as the birthplace of José de San Martín (1778–1850), the country’s most prominent—and romanticized—national hero. Many feel a patriotic obligation to visit his humble house, virtually preserved under glass, though there’s little else to see.
Barely a decade before his birth, Yapeyú had been the southernmost Jesuit mission in the upper Paraná-Uruguay drainage. After Spanish king Carlos III expelled the order from the Americas in 1767, San Martín’s father administered what remained of the mission (founded 1627), which once housed 8,000 Guaraní neophytes with up to 80,000 cattle.
Only the red sandstone foundations remain of the original Jesuit church and school, which burned to the ground in 1800; in 1817, Brazilian troops sacked the town. There is a small but worthwhile Jesuit museum in situ.
Yapeyú is 690 kilometers north of Buenos Aires and 395 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital. It is six kilometers southeast of RN 14 via the Avenida del Libertador turnoff. All sights and services are within easy walking distance of Plaza San Martín, on high ground above the river.
At the east end of Plaza San Martín, its interior adorned with tributary plaques, the Templete Sanmartiniano protecting the excavated remains of San Martín’s birthplace is a textbook example of chauvinistic hero worship. Interestingly, though, the controversial plaque on which Proceso dictator General Jorge Rafael Videla professed his “most profound faith” in San Martín’s ideals of liberty no longer disgraces the Liberator’s memory. The official explanation is that all other such plaques are from institutions rather than individuals, but the aging Videla’s nonperson status (he remains under house arrest in Buenos Aires for kidnapping children during the 1976–1983 “Dirty War”) is evident.
Two blocks west, several small contemporary pavilions sit atop Jesuit foundations at the Museo de Cultura Jesuítica Guillermo Furlong (Sargento Cabral and Obispo Romero), an open-air museum that is always open to the public. Each pavilion has a good photographic display of the missions and their history, while a handful of mission artifacts (most notably a sundial) surround them.
At the south end of Avenida del Libertador, at the army’s Granaderos regimental headquarters, the Museo Sanmartiniano (free) intensifies the hero worship with San Martín family artifacts and documents. Hours vary, so good luck.
Accommodations and Food
Yapeyú has its charms, but accommodations and food are few and ordinary at best. On Plaza San Martín, Hotel San Martín (Sargento Cabral 712, tel. 03772/49-3120, US$37 d) has large rooms surrounding a barren courtyard, but some lack exterior windows. Rooms have decent beds and private baths, plus air-conditioning, but no breakfast is available.
More visually appealing than the San Martín, Complejo El Paraíso (José de San Martín s/n, tel. 03772/42-4102, www.termasdeyapeyu.com.ar, US$42–74 d) has reinvented itself as a hot-springs spa. Each motel-style bungalow has two bedrooms, one with a double bed and the other with four singles, but the rooms are dark. It now has a restaurant.
There are two other places to eat, both utilitarian with limited menus: Hotel San Martín’s own basic restaurant and Comedor El Paraíso (Gregoria Matorras s/n, tel. 03772/49-3053), around the corner.
Getting to Yapeyú
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition