Santa Cruz is a province of Argentina, located in the southern part of the country, in
Patagonia. It borders Chubut province to the north, and Chile to the west
and south. To the east is the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second largest province of the
country (after Buenos Aires province), and the least densely populated in mainland
Desert Lake and, in the background,
the emblematic Mt.
Ochre-ink art in Rio
, Santa Cruz.
Made by the long-vanished Toldense people, they are perhaps
9,000 years old.
inhabited these lands
before the arrivals of the Spanish colonisation
In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan
arrived to what is currently known as San Julián Bay
years later Martín de Alcazaba explored the area near the Chico
River, which he named Gallegos River
the attacks of British privateers, and after the visit of Francis Drake in 1578, the Spaniards sent Pedro
Sarmiento de Gamboa to fortify and map the Strait of
Magellan and prevent access to Spanish posts in the Pacific.
In the middle of the 18th century, the Jesuits
settled in the area, establishing a few
. When the Viceroyalty of the Río
de la Plata was created in 1776, the region was set under the
rule of Buenos
Aires. Antonio de Biedma founded Nueva
Colonia near present Puerto
Deseado and Floridablanca not far from Puerto
San Julian, both of them shut down later by Viceroy
Between 1825 and 1836 there were a series of explorations of the
regions, including that of Charles
in 1834. In 1860 commander Luis Piedrabuena established
a base at the Pavón Island on the estuary of Puerto Deseado.
the Government of Patagonia was created,
with capital in Viedma, 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
beginning of 20th century, a large European
immigration began to arrive to the almost uninhabited zone;
Spanish, Germans, British and
Slavs were the most numerous among
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
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
Patagonia"), the execution of dozens of strikers.
In 1944 the Military zone of Comodoro Rivadavia
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
to make La
('"Rebellion in Patagonia"), a
documentary drama on the ill-fated 1922 sheep ranch laborers'
strike. For this, Gov. Cepernic was imprisoned following the March,
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
, elected that
year to the Río Gallegos
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
from a runoff which Kirchner was projected to win
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
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 glaciers.
centre to the Atlantic 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
Carbón 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
arid steppe is crossed by rivers that produce
fertile valleys; Deseado River,
Santa Cruz River,
Gallegos River, Coyle River, Chico
River and Pinturas
of Buenos Aires Lake (2,240 km², 881 km² in Argentina), Cardiel Lake (460 km²), Viedma Lake (1082 km²), Argentino Lake (1560 km²), Pueyrredón
Lake, Belgrano Lake and
Martín Lake (1.013 km²) are all in the west of the
These lakes are fed by glacieal melt-water, but
due to the cold climate their shores are not used for
Oceanographic craft ARA Puerto
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
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
and 3 million m3
, mainly in the Pico Truncado
and Cerro Redondo
production at Río Turbio
Argentina's only active coal mine, is of around one million
per year. Mining includes gold
The second most important productive activity is that associated
. 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
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
the most exploited.
Cruz's most visited destination is the Los
Glaciares National Park and a number of glaciers of which the Perito
Moreno Glacier is the most famous. Nearby El Calafate has an airport that connects the
area with Buenos
Aires and Trelew.
kilometres north of El Calafate is the village of El
Chaltén at the feet of the Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy.
Still not very developed, El Chaltén serves
as a hub for various trekking routes including walks on the
kilometres further north of El Chaltén, by the dirt road Route
40, the Cueva de
las Manos near the town of Perito
Moreno allows the few tourists who venture to this point
to see the prehistoric wall paintings in the caves near the
Moreno National Park and its lakes, north of Los Glaciares, are rarely
Besides trekking, other sports practiced on the
west side of the province are sport fishing, rafting and
Route 3 follows the Atlantic coastline, by which several buses connect the
coastal cities, and take passengers both south to Tierra del
Fuego and north to Chubut
Province and Buenos
Aires. The most visited places are the cities of
Río Gallegos, the Bosques Petrificados
National Monument petrified forest, and the depression of
Carbón near Puerto
The Santa Cruz River.
The province is divided into the following 7 departments
- Corpen Aike (Puerto Santa Cruz)
- Deseado Department (Puerto Deseado)
- Güer Aike (Río Gallegos)
- Lago Argentino
Buenos Aires (Perito Moreno)
- Magallanes (Puerto San Julián)
- Río Chico (Gobernador Gregores)
- Statistical Abstract of Latin America. UCLA Press, 1990.