baigorri, the rain maker
The Argentinian Juan Pedro Baigorri Velar, who had basque ancestors got thousands of his fellow Argentinians looking at the sky in the 1930's. Lots of newspapers interviewed him. In fact, his polemical "rain device" split Argentina in two: rainfans and anti-rainfans; drys and wets, Baigorrists and anti-Baigorrists... But how on earth did the device work? What became of it? It's all a mystery and many questions remain unanswered.
In the same way that some American Indian tribes are famous for their rain dances, we Basques too have our "rain device": The Basque Argentinian Juan Pedro Baigorri Velar was famous in the 1930's because of his invention for "making rain". Iñaki Galdos has retold this fine story on his Amentzerauta blog after coming across Diego Huberman's book Baigorri hacía llover ("Baigorri Made it Rain") in Argentina two years ago.
Baigorri was a polemical engineer who became quite famous because of a machine for finding water underground which he apparently invented. So they called him to work in the newly-founded Argentinian petrol company YPF in 1929. But by then Baigorri had realised that it started raining when he turned his device on thanks to its electromagnetic emissions. Baigorri got finance for his device with the help of Mr Mac Rae, his English manager of Ferrocarril Central Argentino. But, just in case, Mac Rae told the engineer Hugo Miatello to look out for the "mysterious character". And so he did: Miatello went with Baigorri to the Pinto area in order to carry out his objective: when he turned the device on, the direction of the wind would change, clouds would appear and, twelve hours later, there would be light rain. From there they went on to Santiago de Estero where they also had some success.
To such an extent that when they went back to Argentina he was dubbed the "Modern Jupiter" and the "Rain Wizard". It was an enormous success: people flocked to his house to wish him well; the news was published in many international newspapers; experts in meteorology (doctor Martín Gil, amongst others) gave the device some credibility and an engineer from the States also showed interest in buying the patent. But the "rain maker" stuck to his guns: he turned the buyer down with the explanation that "as an Argentinian, he wanted the invention to stay in his country."
he came out in strength against his critics
Seeing that he had caused a fuss all over Argentina, the national Meteorological Service criticised Baigorri in no uncertain terms. And his answer in the press was: ¨On 3rd January, 1939, I will give Buenos Aires rain¨. And the city was split in half by the engineer's claim: rainfans and anti-rainfans; drys and wets, Baigorrists and anti-Baigorrists... And, of course, Baigorri kept his word once more: he brought rain. He became even more famous, appearing on the cover of the two most important Argentinian newspapers, Crítica and Noticias gráficas.
But Baigorri wasn't content with that and wanted to go further. He went to the city of Carhué, which was suffering a terrible drought, and made it rain hard there too. To such an extent that Epecuén Lake overflowed. After that feat he was given a lot of commercial propositions, he became more and more famous, even having a children's song written about him:
Que llueva, que llueva,
Baigorri está en la cueva.
Enciende el aparato
y llueve a cada rato
But the Basque Argentinian turned all the offers down. There was a new government in Argentina and even they asked the "rain maker" to explain the secret behind his device. He turned them down too. What's more, Baigorri made it clear time and again that he, and only he, could use the machine. As if his mysterious invention weren't enough, there were many unanswered questions about his life, which seemed to be full of contradictory facts; everything that surrounded him was mysterious and dark. And as result of that, finally, Baigorri was to die ostracised and in complete poverty in 1972. And until now nothing has been cleared up: they demolished his house; nobody knows what happened to the machine, or even whether he took the machine's secret to the grave with him or not. Be that as it may, it may be thanks to Baigorri that there's a new word in the Basque dictionary: eurigile ("rain maker").