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Santa Cruz is a province of Argentinamarker, located in the southern part of the country, in Patagonia. It borders Chubut province to the north, and Chilemarker to the west and south. To the east is the Atlantic Oceanmarker. It is the second largest province of the country (after Buenos Aires provincemarker), and the least densely populated in mainland Argentina.
Desert Lake and, in the background, the emblematic Mt.
Fitz Roy.

History

Ochre-ink art in Rio Pinturas, Santa Cruz.
Made by the long-vanished Toldense people, they are perhaps 9,000 years old.
The Tehuelches inhabited these lands before the arrivals of the Spanish colonisation. In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan arrived to what is currently known as San Julián Bay.15 years later Martín de Alcazaba explored the area near the Chico River, which he named Gallegos River. Because of the attacks of Britishmarker privateers, and after the visit of Francis Drake in 1578, the Spaniardsmarker sent Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa to fortify and map the Strait of Magellanmarker and prevent access to Spanish posts in the Pacificmarker.

In the middle of the 18th century, the Jesuits settled in the area, establishing a few missions. When the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata was created in 1776, the region was set under the rule of Buenos Airesmarker. Antonio de Biedma founded Nueva Colonia near present Puerto Deseado and Floridablancamarker not far from Puerto San Julian, both of them shut down later by Viceroy Vertíz.

Between 1825 and 1836 there were a series of explorations of the regions, including that of Charles Darwin in 1834. In 1860 commander Luis Piedrabuena established a base at the Pavón Island on the estuary of Puerto Deseado.

In 1878 the Government of Patagonia was created, with capital in Viedmamarker, but six years later it was split into smaller entities, with the territory declared National Government of Santa Cruz, whose capital was the city of Santa Cruz. In 1901 the capital was moved to its current location at the city of Río Gallegos.

At the beginning of 20th century, a large European immigration began to arrive to the almost uninhabited zone; Spanish, Germansmarker, British and Slavs were the most numerous among them. They came mainly to escape the growing conflicts of World War I, and were attracted by the wool industry of the area. The end of the war meant a sharp reduction in the amount of exports, bringing a serious economic crisis to Santa Cruz.


The ideals of progressivism, brought by the Spanish immigrants, grew among the workers who, working in Santa Cruz's harsh environment under often sub-human conditions, decided to strike in 1922. The strike was severely and harshly repressed by the government, culminating in the events of the Patagonia Trágica ("Tragic Patagonia"), the execution of dozens of strikers.

In 1944 the Military zone of Comodoro Rivadavia was created, which encompassed the northern part of the National Government of Santa Cruz and the southern part of Chubut Province. This jurisdiction lasted until the abolition of the measures in 1955. The Territory of Santa Cruz acquired province status in 1957.

In 1973, voters in Santa Cruz elected Jorge Cepernic, a Peronist. An advocate of labor rights, Gov. Cepernic worked with film maker Osvaldo Bayer to make La Patagonia Rebelde ('"Rebellion in Patagonia"), a documentary drama on the ill-fated 1922 sheep ranch laborers' strike. For this, Gov. Cepernic was imprisoned following the March, 1976, coup.
The return to democracy in Argentina in 1983 brought new, mostly young leadership to Santa Cruz's elected posts, among them a well-known local country lawyer named Néstor Kirchner, elected that year to the Río Gallegos City Council. Elected mayor in 1987 and governor in 1991, Kirchner helped negotiate a US$535 million payout for his province following the 1993 privatization of the state-owned oil concern YPF. Earning plaudits for his careful administration of the funds, Kirchner was elected president of Argentina in April 2003, following the withdrawal of Carlos Menem from a runoff which Kirchner was projected to win handily.

Presiding over four years of expansion totalling 42% (the best performance for the Argentine economy since the 1880s), Pres. Kirchner steered record spending into public works (particularly those in his province, as is customary for Argentine presidents).

Geography and climate

To the west, the Andes at these latitudes are lower than in the centre and north of Argentina, but still have year-round snow. An immense ice sheet feeds the numerous glaciersmarker.

From the centre to the Atlanticmarker coast in the east, plateaux of descending height dominate the landscape. The Atlantic coastline is a mixture of beaches and cliffs. In Gran Bajo de San Julián, the Laguna del Carbónmarker is 105 meters below sea level, and is the lowest point in the Western and Southern Hemispheres.

The average temperatures are 13°C in summer, and 3° in winter, when temperatures can fall to -25°. Even though precipitation on the ice-sheet area in the west is common, rain is scarce in other areas, with an average of 200 mm per year. Strong winds blow all year round.

The cold, arid steppe is crossed by rivers that produce fertile valleys; Deseado River, Santa Cruz River, Gallegos River, Coyle River, Chico River and Pinturas Rivermarker.

The lakes of Buenos Aires Lakemarker (2,240 km², 881 km² in Argentina), Cardiel Lakemarker (460 km²), Viedma Lakemarker (1082 km²), Argentino Lakemarker (1560 km²), Pueyrredón Lakemarker, Belgrano Lake and San Martín Lakemarker (1.013 km²) are all in the west of the province. These lakes are fed by glacieal melt-water, but due to the cold climate their shores are not used for agriculture.

Economy

Oceanographic craft ARA Puerto Deseado
Santa Cruz, with a small population and rich in natural resources, has long had one of Argentina's most prosperous economies. Its 2006 output was estimated at US$3.3 billion, or, US$16,550 per capita (three-fourths above the national average and Argentina's third-highest).

Its economy, with the possible exception of Neuquen's, is the country's least diversified, however. Fully half its output is accounted for by the extractive sector (petroleum, gas and mining), with an annual production of 4.5 million m3 of petroleum and 3 million m3 of gas, mainly in the Pico Truncado, Cañadón seco and Cerro Redondo extracting facilities.

The coal production at Río Turbio, Argentina's only active coal mine, is of around one million m3 per year. Mining includes gold (Cerro Vanguardia), clay, gypsum, salt and others.

The second most important productive activity is that associated with sheep. With 7 million heads, Santa Cruz is the second main producer of wool and meat after the Province of Chubut, most of which is designated for export. Sheep farming revived in 2002 with the devaluation of the peso and firmer global demand for wool (lead by China and the EU). Still there is little investment in new abbatoirs (mainly in Rio Gallegos), and often there are phitosanitary restrictions to the export of sheep meat. Livestock also includes small numbers of cattle, and in lesser numbers pigs and horses.

Sea fishing, and its later industrialization at the fishing ports of Puerto Deseado, Puerto San Julián, Puerto Santa Cruz and Río Gallegos produces prawn, squid, hake and dozens of others. Most of the production is frozen and exported.

There is little agriculture due to the arid nature of the soil. There is a small timber industry fed by both forests and planted trees, of which the wood of the lenga is the most exploited.

Tourism

Santa Cruz's most visited destination is the Los Glaciares National Parkmarker and a number of glaciers of which the Perito Moreno Glaciermarker is the most famous. Nearby El Calafate has an airport that connects the area with Buenos Airesmarker and Trelew.

Some 200 kilometres north of El Calafate is the village of El Chalténmarker at the feet of the Cerro Torremarker and Mount Fitz Roymarker. Still not very developed, El Chaltén serves as a hub for various trekking routes including walks on the Viedma Glacier.
600 kilometres further north of El Chaltén, by the dirt road Route 40, the Cueva de las Manosmarker near the town of Perito Morenomarker allows the few tourists who venture to this point to see the prehistoric wall paintings in the caves near the Pinturas Rivermarker.

The Perito Moreno National Parkmarker and its lakes, north of Los Glaciares, are rarely visited. Besides trekking, other sports practiced on the west side of the province are sport fishing, rafting and climbing.

On east, the National Route 3marker follows the Atlanticmarker coastline, by which several buses connect the coastal cities, and take passengers both south to Tierra del Fuegomarker and north to Chubut Province and Buenos Airesmarker. The most visited places are the cities of Río Gallegos, the Bosques Petrificados National Monument petrified forest, and the depression of Laguna del Carbónmarker near Puerto San Julián.

Political division

The Santa Cruz River.
The province is divided into the following 7 departments:

Department (Capital)

  1. Corpen Aike (Puerto Santa Cruz)
  2. Deseado Department (Puerto Deseado)
  3. Güer Aike (Río Gallegos)
  4. Lago Argentino (El Calafate)
  5. Lago Buenos Aires (Perito Morenomarker)
  6. Magallanes (Puerto San Julián)
  7. Río Chico (Gobernador Gregores)


See also



References

  1. Cepernic
  2. Statistical Abstract of Latin America. UCLA Press, 1990.
  3. [1]


External links




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