The writer and diplomat Enrique Larreta bought the property of “El Potrerillo”, located near Alta Gracia, in 1918. It was part of a stretch of land that in the past belonged to the “Jesuit Estancia of Alta Gracia”, today UNESCO’s heritage. Larreta liked to spend long periods there with his family. In 1920, he began to build the colonial-style, two-storey main house, which was finished in 1924.

The chapel, which dates back to 1927, was built of limestone, extracted from one of the Estancia’s quarries. Inside, on the altar, there is an image of the Virgen de la Merced (Virgin of Mercy), made in clay by Larreta himself. The clay was obtained from the estancia’s lands. Currently, the Chapel is used for special masses and baptisms.

The main entrance to the house is an important colonial-style portal, with a water fountain right on the centre of the patio, and a huge aguaribay tree next to it.The lobby, which is very long, has a floor of squared stone slabs. Inside, some of the bathrooms still have their big four-legged bathtubs. The house is full of original objects, works of art from Alto Perú or Spain. There are four paintings from Cuzco, dating back to the 18th century, which were part of Larreta’s Latin American and Spanish art collection. There are some oil landscapes painted by Larreta himself. Large local-stone fireplaces decorate the living room, the dining room, and some of the bedrooms. The upstairs bedrooms have balconies, some of them resembling the style of the northern province of Salta, overlooking the hills.

He was born in Buenos Aires in 1875. He married Josefina Anchorena, Aaron Castellanos’ granddaughter. He was Argentina’s ambassador in France during World War I and visited the battlefield many times. He was awarded several medals, among them the “Legion of Honor”. After his death, the Academia de Letras (Academy of the Spanish Language) paid homage to him in Avila, Spain, city in which he envisioned his most outstanding work “La Gloria de Don Ramiro” (The Glory of Don Ramiro). He built the house in Acelain and in El Potrerillo, and modified his house in Belgrano, Bs As, currently, the museum of Enrique Larreta. He had five children: Josefina, Mercedes, Enrique, Agustín and Fernando. He painted many pictures. He was a direct descendant of General Manuel Oribe, who was one of the 33 Orientales, and a famous general of Rosas. He died in Buenos Aires, in July, 1961.

The centre of this old Jesuit estancia is immersed in the city of Alta Gracia which was born from this settlement and dates back to 1643. The church towers over the main square of the city, and the Museo Nacional (National Museum) “Casa del Virrey Liniers”, of the utmost architectural and historical interest, is located immediately next to it. In one of the lateral streets, the old workshop holds a school now. There is still also the reservoir, the usual complement of these buildings, which is nowadays a dominant feature of this beautiful city. Today the Jesuit Estancia of Alta Gracia is UNESCO’s world heritage.