This Destroyed Village Has Only 1 Resident Left and He’s Not Leaving

Rebellion against the system does not always come from the youngest, sometimes it comes from the oldest.

Pablo Novak is such a rebel. The 84-year-old Argentine is the only inhabitant of Epecuen, a once-popular holiday village that was destroyed by a flood on Nov. 10, 1985. From the 1920’s until the flood, thousands of people would take the six-hour train ride from Buenos Aires to the town on the eastern side of Lake Epecuen to vacation and soak in the therapeutic salty waters.

However, the unusual weather patterns that had once formed the lake also caused its ruin.

There had been sufficient warning. Beginning around 1980, the area was getting more rain than usual, and people worried that one day the dam and canals that had been built to protect the village wouldn’t hold against the swelling salt lake waters. Then one day, they didn’t. The dams broke and the town was flooded. People gathered up their most valuable belongings and moved inland to higher ground as the water rose and rose – until 1993, actually, when it reached its highest level of 33 feet.

Twenty-five years after the flooding, the water finally receded. By then, people had moved on. Most residents built new lives in a new village with modern comforts and little reason to try and return. Pablo Novak bought a home for his family there. But he didn’t stay. He went back to Epecuen to keep alive the story of his hometown. Thousands and thousands of former residents see him as a living memory of something brutal which they wanted to forget. Many prefer the memory of what once was, but Novak appreciates Epecuen in its present.

Novak proclaims, “I was born here, and I always lived very well here. And if I die here, well, that would best.”


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