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Rainbows frequently paint the sky above the Cord贸n de Boquer贸n hills in western Tierra del Fuego. The mythical gold at the end of the rainbow drew many, especially Croats and Chilotes (Chilo茅 Island natives) to come to this cold, rainy land. In 1879, Chilean Navy Lieutenant Ram贸n Serrano Montaner, while exploring the coast and land of Tierra del Fuego, discovered gold in the rivers. The news spread. By 1887 over 200 prospectors were panning the waters, gathering dust and nuggets.


During this gold rush, the city of Porvenir was founded to handle the shipping of supplies and provide services to the miners. Porvenir, which means future, reflected the bright hopes of all those involved in those feverish times. But by the end of the 19th century the rivers seemed played out. Folks either decided to settle down in Porvenir or move on to more golden pastures. That is until 1903 when some Californians arrived. They thought perhaps the special dredging equipment used by the 49ers in their state could help extract more of the precious metal out of the Cord贸n de Boquer贸n. The fever reached a peak again between 1906 and 1908. But the high cost of transporting the machinery to and across the wind-swept, cold Land of Fires could not be paid off by the meager finds.


Porvenir continues to survive, however, on these eastern shores of the Straits of Magellan. Some hardy souls yet battle the elements out in those lone hills, searching for a fist-full of gold dust, a nugget to make their futures brighter. The town鈥檚 economic base, though, has now turned to fish processing and tourism. Some journeyers come to traverse the Ruta de Oro, seeing the abandoned dredges and talking with modern-day prospectors. Others visit the many estancias, some of which are still working and others left to be battered by the elements. Fishing in the R铆o Cord贸n is the call for some, for others it鈥檚 trekking in the Cordillera Darwin, Parque Nacional Alberto de Agostini or other reserves. Bird watching at Laguna Nacional Laguna de los Cines is the pot at the end of the arco iris for yet others. It isn鈥檛 easy getting out into the wilds here 鈥 only on tour, or if you have your own car or bike. In the warmer summer months adventuresome, well-equipped visitors could walk the island鈥檚 dirt roads.


Porvenir is a popular trip escape for Puntarenses, for the simple pleasures and treasures beneath the rainbows. A walk along the costanera allows a reprieve from modern civilization, to view flamingos, black-necked swans and other birds that rest in the bay and to climb Cerro Mirador for sweeping vistas of the Straits and Cordillera. Boat tours into Bah铆a de Porvenir offers the chance to watch dolphins playing in the frigid waters. The town鈥檚 Croatian and Chilote founders left their unique imprints on the town鈥檚 architecture, and their culinary artistry is also to be appreciated. For a lesson on the indigenous, mining and colonization history of Tierra del Fuego, spend an hour in the Museo Provincial Fernando Cordero Rusque. If for an extended visit into the wilds, or just to soak the small-town atmosphere, Porvenir is a destination worth hopping on the ferry for.


(Altitude:45 meters / 146 feet, Population:6400, Phone Code: 061)

By Lorraine Caputo

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

22 May 2009

Things to do in Porvenir

Museo Provincial Fernando Cordero Rusque

132065Museo Provincial Fernando Cordero Rusque is an impressive village museum. Its half-dozen galleries cover the natural and human history of Tierra del Fuego. Well-displayed stuffed fauna, especially of ...
Porvenir, Chile

Costanera Walk

132066A walk along the costanera (coastal road) opens a window onto the natural and human history of Porvenir. The old wharf at the entrance to town is a favorite hangout for gulls, cormorants and other ...
City Walk
Porvenir, Chile

Porvenir's Historical Architecture

132067Porvenir is a good example of Fuegian architecture. Here, the style was made distinctive by the Croatians and Chilotes who came to colonize this bay. A few of the buildings date from 1900-1905, ...
Historical Building
Porvenir, Chile

Monumento Nacional de los Cisnes

Just five kilometers (3 miles) north of Porvenir is Monumento Nacional de los Cisnes, a 25-hectare reserve. This lagoon is an important spot for diverse aquatic and shore birds, such as the Flamenco ...
Porvenir, Chile
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