The Pampas region

"In the middle of nowhere." In German that means: in nowhere.

But there is the region - in southeastern South America, and it is neither barren nor deserted everywhere.

Their name comes from the indigenous Quechua language and means level or field.


Its extent is a matter of definition, there is also an Argentine province called La Pampa.

The 500,000 square kilometer region, also known as the


, is a subtropical grass steppe.

It extends from the Andes over large areas of Argentina, all of Uruguay and a piece of Brazil to the Atlantic coast, the metropolises of Buenos Aires and Montevideo are also part of the pampas.

After the Spanish conquerors brought the first grazing animals, the fertile soil and mild climate attracted more and more European settlers.

Nature was sacrificed to agriculture: pastures with cattle and sheep, fields stretching to the horizon.

Source: WORLD infographic


Even 90 percent of Brazilian wine comes from the pampas.

In refuges like the Argentine National Park El Palmar you can discover the original grass steppe and with eco-tourism a more beautiful version of the old days in the pampas.

Like the Amish, Mennonites reject modernity

“Ons Voda em Himmel!” This is how the Lord's Prayer begins in Plautdietsch, the antiquated East Low German of the Mennonites.

It originated in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Vistula Delta.

It lives on in the pampas, because many churches of the evangelical movement were drawn here.

They fled religious persecution or simply the world, as they call the rest of society.

Like the Amish in the USA, they reject electricity and modern technology, use horse-drawn carriages and wear old-fashioned clothing.

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The documentary “Without this world” shows the everyday life of 700 Mennonites of German origin in the Argentine pampas.

But Standard German also has a long tradition: The German School Montevideo has existed for 160 years.

Where tango came into the world

It has been 104 years since the tango of all tangos was invented in the pampas: “La Cumparsita”.

According to legend, the Uruguayan Gerardo Matos Rodríguez scribbled an original form of the piece of music on the napkin of a restaurant in Montevideo in 1916, and the Argentine Roberto Firpo then performed it in its revised version.

The fact that some sources mention 1917 is still the smallest controversy in the dispute over the Tango Argentino: Did it really arise in Argentina?

Or is it in Uruguay?


There it is called Tango Rioplatense, since both countries on the Rio de la Plata were involved in its invention.

When and how exactly will remain a myth, but what is certain is that tango came out of the pampas into the world.

Guinea pigs love pampas grass

Its large clusters of flowers made it popular all over the world as an ornamental plant: American pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) also brings a touch of South America to German parks and gardens.

There are now cultivated forms in red, pink, yellow, even purple.

The American pampas grass is also popular in German gardens because of its flowers

Source: Getty Images

The evergreen sweet grass is often nibbled by other pampa inhabitants - by guinea pigs, for example, but also by the Viscacha, cute gray rodents with a striped face mask from the chinchilla family.

They live in underground passages and are fearless: they share their burrows with a predator, the pampas fox.

The pampas deer and pampas hare also bear their origins in their names.

The latter, also known as maras, hobble around freely in the Hamburg zoo, while ostrich-like rheas, after some specimens escaped from a farm, migrate through northern Germany in flocks - and are now officially considered a native bird species.

Vacationers can go horseback riding with a gaucho

Courage and a sense of honor are his virtues, on horseback he roams the vastness of the pampas, the sombrero on his head, spurs on his boots, the


knife on the belt of his bloomers.

While he watches over the herd, he brews mate tea by the campfire, chews dried meat and embraces his companion, the guitar.

On horseback, gauchos roam the vastness of the pampas

Source: Getty Images

The cowboy of the pampas is surrounded by daring romance to this day, although its heyday faded in the 19th century when the landowners

fenced in

the pastures of their


(ranches) and the once free riders became wage laborers.

Where the name gaucho comes from remains a


, derivations range from the Brazilian


(bum) to the Araucanian



Today there is gaucho eco-tourism in the pampas to experience their arts or to be able to ride with them (bookable via Diamir, Hurtigruten, for example).

The quote


"Solidarity is the tenderness of the peoples"

This is one of the most famous quotes from Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928–1967).

What is less well known is that the Marxist revolutionary and companion Fidel Castro came from the pampas.

The son of wealthy Argentine parents who were on their way to their mate plantation, he was born on a stopover in Rosario.

During his medical studies he traveled through South America, then to Guatemala and Mexico, where he met Castro, who later appointed him "Commandante" in Cuba.

Che is celebrated there as a folk hero to this day, and a monument and museum is dedicated to him in Santa Clara.

The dictatorial regime in Havana continues to celebrate him as a hero.

But not his birthplace Rosario - although the city is considered a stronghold of socialism.

Quirky, record-breaking, typical: you can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

This article was first published in July 2020.

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