The Guazú is one of the eldest sons of the Paraná. His Guarani name indicates this: it means “elder”, or “greater”. It is important because of the flow and the extension that covers more than one hundred tortuous kilometers, between sandbanks, mud, islets and countless arms that separate from it and rejoin it. The Paraná does not want to leave the mainland; it does not look for the smooth and flat estuary of its brother the Uruguay, it enters the soft earth and increases its size and greenery with tons of sediments. It is also an appointment for all fishermen, because it houses inexhaustible schools. For this reason, a dreamer and adventurer, a member of the Buenos Aires Fishermen’s Club, managed to establish protection on one of its banks, the Entre Ríos, near the Brazo Largo decades ago. This is how the current refuge of that dean entity was born; and gave rise to the immovable presence of Rafael, our man in Guazú.
He is not the first of those responsible, but he is, and will always be, the most important, the “Guazú manager”, to continue with the Guaraní philology.
As in everything, in the vast island system, from time to time natural excesses occur, which require efforts, foresight and energy at all waste to avoid or repair the damage. The case of the “Guazú annex” is a typical example. The anecdotes are multiple, but among them, the last flood, untimely and excessive, which is due to a true mass exile of the settlers, stands out. In this case, the waters covered the island for several months, and everyone had to leave, as in a sad exodus.
Rafael boarded the rescue boat for his family and loaded the most valuable belongings; but he stayed. He occupied his elevated house, and dedicated himself to rescuing everything that the river could not carry away. The hardwood pier was displaced and partly destroyed; he, alone, sometimes with the fleeting help of a neighbor, proceeded to save most of the braces and boards, to later rebuild it carefully.
When some time later, he received the more than deserved distinction, from the club, in a meeting of yore, he reminded us of one of his memorable phrases as a veteran islander:
-“We must not let the river win us always, it does not get used to it”.
We know that Rafael is a prime example of those long-suffering people, the ones who were the only ones capable of “humanizing the islands”, according to Lobodón Garra, in his unforgettable work “El río oscuro”.
With our friend it sometimes happens to us, to imagine the presence of some valuable species, such as dorado, pejerrey or vogue, to organize, without much thought, a getaway to the annex. There he receives us, with his friendly handshake and the promise of a good catch. The fact itself is having a friendly chat with this man from the river. He, there, feels in his element; he accepts the onslaught of technology, but he always trusts those who dare to ride the current, with a simple paddle, in an even simpler island canoe.
The club recently received an invaluable gift: several hectares on the Barca Grande, near the outer edge of the Delta. A remote area that preserves the wild physiognomy of the islands, with one or two certainties, solitude and birdsong. The difficult thing was conditioning the place and supervising the works; but Rafael took care of everything, and everything was done according to plan, in order to conquer a second refuge. Later, all this work accomplished, simply and in silence, he returned to his little house in Guazú.
Sometimes it occurs to me that he is entering the path of legend. So much so that, in the face of any storm or southeast, flood or any eventuality on the islands, when the fact is discussed, someone invariably closes the conversation with a prolonged:
“But rest easy, and don’t worry. Rafael is in the Guazú”.
Text by Rodolfo Perri