A journey through the wind kingdom of the Andes

There exists a place, in Argentina, on the eastern side of the mighty cordillera of the Andes, where a dry wind blows, a strong, warm, tumultuous wind that the natives called the Zonda. When the time came for Horacio Pagani to baptise the car he had dedicated to his friend Juan Manuel Fangio, the manufacturer chose the name ‘Zonda’. Seduced by its sound and the beauty of the land the wind sweeps over, he decided it was perfect, while the C12 part takes its letter from Cristina, Pagani’s wife, and the 12 from the number of cylinders in the Mercedes Benz-AMG engine. After the car’s presentation at the Geneva International Motor Show in March 1999, the meaning of the name aroused considerable interest. The explanation given was that the “Zonda is a powerful, warm wind that blows over the Argentinean Andes”.

The wind

The Zonda belongs to the group of winds that blow downstream from the mountains, like the Foehn in the Alps, the Chinook in the Rockies, South-Africa’s Berg wind and New Zealand’s Norwesterly. It blows from the province of Neuquén, in Argentinean Patagonia, to the town of Cochabamba, in near-by Bolivia, and it forms as a result of humid air rising off the Pacific Ocean at the Andean cordillera. When it descends, this cold air (which has by then lost all its dampness) gradually warms up. As it travels over the plains, it gathers up large clouds of dust, especially at the end of the summer. The Zonda is a scourge for its region, keeping the rain away, sending birds flying, and scattering livestock, while it knocks down trees and burns the buds on the plants. It is also known as Huayrapuca, or the “Witch’s Wind”, because of the negative effect it has on people’s moods: it produces sleepiness, anxiety, a suffocating feeling, depression, allergies and high blood pressure.

The legend of the Zonda wind

Long ago, an Indian named Huampi ruled over a number of tribes in the valleys of the Calcaquí region (northern Argentina). Esteemed and feared, he was distinguished by his valour and his skilful handling of weapons. A tireless hunter, Huampi would not spare even the tiniest of creatures and his actions were gradually decimating the region’s fauna. Such an unjust situation could not continue.

One day, on his return from hunting, Pachamama, the goddess of Mother Earth, appeared to him, shrouded in light, and said: “Huampi, villainous child of the earth! Do you intend to kill all the animals? Even the wood birds fear you and fall silent when you pass”. Pachamama continued: “Do you think, proud Indio, that we have created them so you can kill them? Go on killing them and you shall lack meat, milk and skins. If you do not leave either the vicuna or the guanaco in peace, where shall you find the soft and gentle wool with which to weave your cloak? If you do not spare the llamas, which animal shall bear you to far-off places? If you continue to kill the birds, you shall no longer have feathers with which to adorn you! You have been ambitious, selfish and ungrateful. You do not appreciate, nor respect that which Mother Earth gives you. You have no heart. You do not deserve to be forgiven. Instead, you shall bepunished for your wickedness. Your time shall come... Shrouded in light, Pachamama disappeared,...Paralysed by fear, Huampi believed he had awakened from a nightmare. He tried to calm himself, but Pachamama’s reprimands and threat continued to plague him.

Leaning against a tree, lost in thought, he heard a whistling sound. “What could it be? A presage of Pachamama’s punishment?" He felt his face lashed and burnt by the wind. Trees were tossed; leaves, flowers and fruits whirled around him and the whistling grew shriller. It was indeed the promised punishment, the fury of Mother Earth was upon him and his domains, in the form of a terrifying hurricane... They say that, since that day, as the Zonda wind screeches over the Andean valleys, it has an almost-human voice.