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Jesús María and Colonia Caroya are two towns divided by RN9. Colonia Caroya, whose restaurants betray the fact that the population is descended from immigrants from Friuli in northeast Italy, stretches out along a long tree-lined avenue to one side; Jesús María is a compact grid of streets on the other. Once an indigenous settlement, the area changed radically in 1616, when the Jesuits bought over 100 square km (38 square mi) of land here to build Estancia Caroya. Two years later came the Estancia Jesús María, and in 1622 the biggest of the lot, Estancia Santa Catalina, 20 km (12 mi) to the northwest. They also planted more than 48,000 vines from which came Lagrimilla, the first New World wine to be presented at the Spanish court (it's still produced). In the first fortnight of January the town comes to life with the Festival Nacional de La Doma y el Folklore (National Rodeo and Folklore Festival), which is more about heavy drinking than cowboy activities.
These estancias were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000, but it's another type of estancia that's the biggest draw of these parts: the exclusive estates that offer lodgings to a privileged few. Also in the area is Ascochinga, whose bracing air and idyllic rolling hills and woods made the town a logical choice for a high-class tuberculosis sanatorium. These days it's a sleepy vacation spot, known for its 18-hole golf course that has incredible views of the Sierras Chicas.
Jesús María at a Glance
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