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History of the Carretera Austral and Northern Patagonia

For centuries the region was occupied by indigenous nations. The Kaweskar lived along the channels of the coast, navigating the channels and fiords in canoes, living off the rich bounty of the sea. The Aónikenk were hunter-gatherers following the migration of guanaco and ñandú around Lago General Carrera. With Argentine General Roca’s Conquista del Desierto in 1879, many Tehuelche fled into the region Tehuelche, seeking refuge. Shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, many of these cultures disappeared.


At that time, white settlers began to arrive. First were the powerful Patagonian cattle and sheep companies, like Sociedad Nacional de Ganadería y Colonización. They created great ranches that spread from Aysén into modern-day Argentina and down to Chile’s Magallanes region. In the later part of the 1910s, the Chilean government opened up the region to colonization, offering tracts to pioneers. Many Europeans, especially Germans, arrived to these virgins lands to carve out villages. Migrants from Chiloé Island also were key in the settling of the Northern Patagonia. Little has been recorded of these unsung heroes who brought skills and knowledge necessary for the success of such colonies. For generations the link to the rest of Chile was tremulous. The inhabitants had stronger connections with Argentina, importing basic foodstuffs from that nation, as well as customs like drinking mate, folk songs, certain cuisines and the card game truco. The arrival of the Carretera Austral in the late 1970s and into the 1990s marked the end of that era, and the beginning of the integration of Chile’s Northern Patagonia villages into the country’s mainstream.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Carretera Austral and Northern Patagonia: Padre Antonio Ronchi,

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

10 Jul 2009

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