Back in the 1920s, a tourist village named Villa Epecuen was established along the shore of Lake Epecuen, a salt lake some 600 kilometers southwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lago Epecuen is like most other mountain lakes, except for one important difference. It has salt levels second only to the Dead Sea, and ten times higher than any ocean.
Lago Epecuen therapeutic powers have been known for centuries. Legend has it that the lake was formed by the tears of a great leader to mourn the pain of his beloved. It is said that Epecuen – or « eternal spring » – can cure depression, rheumatism, skin diseases, anemia or diabetes.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the first residents and visitors began to arrive at the Villa Epecuen and set up tents on the edges. Villa Epecuen transformed from a quiet mountain village to a bustling tourist resort. The village soon had a line of railway connecting it to Buenos Aires. Before long, tourists from all over South America and the world came together, and in the 1960s, no fewer than 25,000 people come every year to soak in salt water soothing. The city’s population peaked in 1970 with more than 5,000. Nearly 300 companies have flourished, including hotels, inns, spas, shops and museums.
Around the same time, a long-term weather event was delivering far more rain than usual to the surrounding hills for years, and Lago Epecuen began to swell. On 10 November 1985, the huge volume of water has passed the barrier of rocks and soil and flooded much of the city under a meter of water. In 1993, the flood of slow growth consumed the town until it is covered by 10 feet of water.
Nearly 25 years later, in 2009, reversed the wet weather and waters began to recede. Villa Epecuen started to return to the surface.
No one returned to the city, with the exception of 81 years, Pablo Novak is now one resident Villa Epecuen the.
« I am here. I’m just alone. I read the newspaper. And I always think of the golden age of the city in the 1960s and 70s, « Novak said.
In 2011, AFP photographer Juan Mabromata visited the ruins of Villa Epecuen met its sole inhabitant, and returned with these images.