70 Year Anniversary of Ana Beker’s Journey from Argentina to Canada
Ana Beker is presented with the flag of Argentina as she prepares to depart on her historic ride from Buenos Aires to Ottawa
On October 1,
1950, Ana Beker, born in Lobería, began a real feat: she left Buenos Aires, on
horseback, for Ottawa, Canada. She arrived in Ottawa on July 6, 1954, three
years, nine months, and five days after making a promise to herself. "The Amazon
of the Americas", as she was called, fought against the prejudices of the time,
vindicating the role of women and showing their capacity.
She was born on November 16, 1916 in Lobería (Province of Buenos Aires), her parents being peasant immigrants from Latvia; Later the family moved to the town of Algarroba, where they owned a small farm. As a child, she would sneak out at night to sleep in the stables and make sure the horses were not missing anything. She grew up and became an incredible Amazon.
"Why do you do what you do?" She was asked on many occasions and she always gave the same answer: "Because a woman can do anything she sets out to do."
It was then that
the idea of her most ambitious adventure began to germinate: traveling with two
horses from Argentina to Canada, linking the capital cities of Buenos Aires and
Ottawa. The closest thing that had been achieved until then was to go from the
Argentine capital to New York. It was done by Swiss Long Rider Aimé Félix
Tschiffely, between 1925 and 1927.
In love with horses and travelling distances, in 1940, when she was 24 years old, she carried out her first “mischief”, carrying out a 1,400-kilometer march from La Pampa to Luján, riding a doradillo called Clavel. Then in 1942 Ana travelled for ten months through fourteen provinces. On that journey she rode two Creole horses, Zorzal and Ranchero, which had been given to her by President Roberto M. Ortiz.
"On a certain occasion," says Ana Beker, "I went to listen to a lecture by the Swiss Long Rider Aimé Félix Tschiffely. A former teacher from Quilmes, he was known for having performed the feat of riding from Buenos Aires to New York with his two Criollo horses, Mancha and Gato, who became famous after completing that march."
|The British first edition of the 20th century’s most famous equestrian travel book, Tschiffely’s Ride.
Tschiffely gave an illustrated account with photos of his journey across twenty-one thousand kilometers through the swamps, rivers, mountains, mudflats, jungles and deserts. At the end of his presentation, I approached Tschiffely, and told him that I planned to travel with a saddle horse and a pack horse to the capital of Canada. He looked at me for a stunned moment, and then with the kind smile that was characteristic of him, he said that if I managed to do that, a very difficult feat, I would surpass his; which would be all the more significant since it is done by a woman. “
Tschiffely advised Ana not to make her journey through Bolivia, given the amount of swamps and deserts in her geography, to which Beker replied: "If you could pass it, I can too."
It took Ana Beker ten years to prepare to start her journey on horseback through the Americas. A whole decade was spent overcoming obstacles, misunderstandings and official opposition
She spared no effort in seeking financial support for a trip that cost her just over 50 thousand pesos. That is how word of the proposed journey reached Eva Perón, the First Lady of Argentina. According to Ms. Peron, the journey could be carried out thanks to the fact that many governments of the countries through which Ana planned to pass would help by providing accommodation and facilitating her management of the horses.
The Long Rider’s calling card declaring her intention to ride from Argentina to Canada.
Ana Beker's journey began
on October 1, 1950 in Buenos Aires, with the malacara sorrel Príncipe, which was
given to her by polo player Manuel Estrada and the sorrel Churrito, donated by
the breeder Pedro Mack. After her departure from the zero landmark of the Plaza
del Congreso, Ana was accompanied by an large group of horsemen as she rode
towards the edge of the busy city. Yet shortly after the journey began, an
accident occurred that resulted in Ana hitting the ground so hard that she was
severely injured. She was admitted to the San Fernando hospital, but recovered
in a short time. Armed with renewed courage and enthusiasm, she resumed the
march towards her distant destination.
Among her adventures that she encountered, Ana recounted the marriage request of a chief, how she travelled through the civil war in Colombia and her encounter with a treasure hunter on Lake Titicaca. She waded tumultuous rivers and gambled her life crossing swamps, cliffs and precipices. She slept in the open, in caves and in rat-infested huts. She suffered heat stroke, hunger and hardship. She experienced earthquakes and felt the glacial gaze of the jaguars.
In Bolivia she was lost and unable to find a way out of the Andes Mountains. Between Costa Rica and Guatemala, bandits assaulted her. In Mexico she was attacked again.
Yet no mishap was able to stop this brave woman during the years that her extraordinary adventure lasted.
Ana was provided with a mounted honour guard when she rode into Mexico City.
During the long journey of 25,000 kilometers, Ana Becker crossed Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States and Canada.
After riding 3 years, 9 months and 5 days, Ana’s journey ended on July 6, 1954 when she dismounted in front of the Argentine embassy in Ottawa.
In her book she states: “In all the countries I was treated very well and there were many people, politicians and journalists who knew how to receive and help me. School children in countless localities were waiting for me and as I passed they threw flowers at me, a reception as simple as it was eloquent. In Mexico many bands were waiting for me with their happy songs. In New Orleans they gave me the key to the city and made me an honorary citizen. In Washington D.C. I was received by Mrs. Eisenhower, the president’s wife, and visited the White House in her company.”
Ana received a warm welcome when she arrived in Texas.
On November 27, 1954 Ana returned to Argentina aboard the steamer Río Tercero. Over the years, her health deteriorated and she had to be admitted to the Hospital Español de Lomas de Zamora, where she remained for a time, until her family, resident in Bahía Blanca, decided to transfer her to that city where she died in a nursing home on November 14, 1985.
|Ana’s remains were transferred to Algarrobo and rest in the cemetery of that town, where she is remembered with great affection. The public square was named after Ana Beker on December 13, 1994.
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