(Altitude: 37 meters / 120 feet, Population: 36,077, Phone Code: 0297)
Caleta Olivia is another young southern Argentine town. On the shores of Golfo San Jorge in northern Santa Cruz Province, Caleta (as the town is commonly called), meaning cove, was founded in 1901 when a National Guard ship arrived to lay telegraph lines across Patagonia. The town's name may have originated from a woman who was aboard. With the arrival of the telegraph came Chilean and European immigrants; many established sheep ranches.
Caleta Olivia remained just a small caserÃo (settlement) until oil was discovered in 1944 at CaÃ±adÃ³n Seco, 16 kilometers (9.6 mi) away. YPF, the national oil company, established two enclaves in Caleta, Barrio Parque and Barrio 26 de Julio, with a hospital, residential area, sporting clubs and other amenities. With the oil boom came many migrants from the northern part of the country. The privatization of state industries during the 1990s forced Caleta to diversify its economy. In 1998, Puerto Caleta Paula was opened as a fishing port, 4.5 kilometers (2.7 mi) south of town. This drew workers from Argentinaâ€™s coastal regions and Bolivia. Each province and nationality has its own social center and neighborhood.
Caleta Oliviaâ€™s petroleum history remains highly visible. A 13-meter (42-ft) tall statue, El Gorosito, stands in the center of town (Avenida San MartÃn and GÃ¼emes). This monumental sculpture, erected in 1969 by artist Pablo Daniel SÃ¡nchez, portrays a shirtless oil worker opening a pipeline valve. He faces north, to symbolize all the wealth Patagonia sends to the rest of the country. The two YPF neighborhoods west of the old port are open to the general public, who can stroll through the streets checking out the Finnish-styled houses (the more luxurious ones were for executives), a theme park and the Capilla de Cristo Obrero. Another YPF petroleum worker town can be visited at CaÃ±adÃ³n Seco, which is more modern than the barrios within Caleta Olivia. There are non-functioning oil derricks along the costanera, a seafront promenade, a great spot to watch the marine and shore birds feeding in the pools left in the crevices and depressions of the ancient lava flow slabs exposed at low tide. To the north and south are over a dozen beaches and a loberÃa (sea lion colony).
Another way Caleta Olivia shows its tight ties to the oil industry is in the prices. Hotels and restaurants are definitely geared towards executives and their deeper pockets. Still, even budget travelers might have to spend a night here between buses, especially in the regionâ€™s low season.
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