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Introducing Carmen De Patagones

Steep cobblestone streets and colonial stylings breathe a little romance into this languid river town, a jaunt across the Río Negro from Viedma. The eager tourist officeoffers maps and brochures.

Plaza 7 de Marzo commemorates an 1827 victory over invading Brazilians. Salesians built the Templo Parroquial Nuestra Señora del Carmen here in 1883. Its image of the Virgin, dating from 1780, is southern Argentina’s oldest. Two of the original seven Brazilian flags captured in battle sit on the altar. Just west of the church, Torre del Fuerte is the last vestige of the 1780 fort that once occupied the entire block.

Below the tower, twin cannons that once guarded the Patagonian frontier flank the 1960s Pasaje San José de Mayo staircase leading to the riverside. At the base of the steps, Rancho de Rial is an 1820 adobe that belonged to the town’s first elected mayor. Three blocks west, the Cuevas Maragatas, excavated in the riverbank, sheltered the first Spanish families who arrived in 1779.

Two blocks east, the early-19th-century Casa de la Culturawas formerly a tahona (flour mill). Across the street, preserved frontier home (c 1800) La Carlota is decorated with typical 19th-century furnishings; ask about guided tours at the museum.

At Parque Piedra Buena a bust honors this naval officer responsible for saving countless shipwrecked sailors. A block west, Museo Histórico Emma Nozzi houses an impressive collection of artifacts from Argentina’s southern frontier, including details on the town’s former black slave population.