geography, history, climatic conditions and lifestyle
of the Argentine province of Santa Cruz
Where is Santa Cruz is located?
Santa Cruz is a province located in the southern Patagonian region of Argentina, bordering the Chubut province in the north, with Chile (with whom shares the Andean mountain range) in the south and west, and the Atlantic Ocean in the east.
This province has a surface of 293.943 km2 which makes it the second in size province in the country, and due to its very low population density of 0.8 people/km2 it is known as the least populated territory in Argentina after Tierra del Fuego.
The Santa Cruz province is territoriality divided in 7 departments which are also subdivided in municipalities, being its capitol Rio Gallegos located in the austral department of Güer Aike. Among its major cities we can find: Puerto Deseado, Puerto Santa Cruz, El Calafate, Puerto San Julián, Perito Moreno.
A little bit of history
Prior to the arrival of Spaniards and Colonization, the south america austral region of Argentina and Chile was inhabited by various indigenous groups. On the island of Tierra del Fuego lived the Yamana and the Onas or Selknam. In mainland, lived the tribes of Pehuenches, Mapuches and Tehuelches.
Precisely and according to one of many interpretations, the Patagonian region owes its name to the Tehuelches: Apparently they were of great stature and physically well developed, so the first Spaniards who arrived with the expedition of Hernando de Magallanes in 1520 before the discovery of the Strait of All Saints (Strait of Magellean) named them “Patagones”, after a giant which was a very popular character in some novels of that time. Other theory also refers to this aborigines, stating that the name comes from the huge footprint they left (Patagón – Patagonia comes from “pata” which means foot), in part due to their physical but also because their feet were covered with fur to protect them.
The Magellan expedition arrived on august 26, 1520 to the mouth of a river that they called Santa Cruz, being this the origin of the province’s name.
After the South American countries obtained their independence from the Spanish monarchy on the 19th century, in 1881 was signed a treaty on limits between Argentina and Chile after several disputes, which definitely ensures the Argentine possession of the Eastern Patagonia territories. Then in 1884, the Argentine government created the national territory of Santa Cruz, which preceded the province formation in 1956.
Climatic conditions and lifestyle
Most of the province’s area belongs to the semi-desert region of Patagonia, where the weather is cold, dry and winds are constant. Being the average annual temperature 13° C in summer and 3° C in winter, and due to seasons occur in a inverse way with respect to the northern hemisphere, the cooler months are May, June, July and August in which we can find temperatures up to 25° C below zero, while January and February are the hottest months of the year.
On the central plateau, annual precipitations are low, varying between 150 and 200 mm. Its Andean zone is characterized by a snowy weather. The Santa Cruz winds come from different sectors. Those that blow from northwest to southeast, loaded with humidity favor the northern Patagonia. Westerly winds, although they blow throughout the year, predominate in spring and summer.
Residents of Santa Cruz have to adapt to the province’s adverse climatic condition. For example, is not common to see people walking in the cities or countryside in midwinter. Its inhabitants spend most of their free time indoors, sheltered from the low temperatures. This climate also affects the children’s school activities in such a way that class and vacation periods differ from the rest of the country.
During the hardest part of winter, snowfalls make very difficult to get to school, particularly in rural areas. In many countryside schools, teachers and students are allowed to sleep on site. This is because children live far away and can not move daily.
Natural resources and economy
Prior to the arrival of oil, historically the main economic activity in Santa Cruz was sheep exploitation, now moved to second place. This province ranks first in Argentina as producer of this species, with an average of seven million head in about 1,200 agricultural establishments, having in addition to the export of wool, industries of meat and tanneries.
Nowadays, extraction of oil and natural gas are the main economical activity in this region, representing 50% of its total income. With its abundant natural reserves, Santa Cruz has one of the most prosperous and strong economies in the country. Being the main extracting facilities Pico Truncado, Cañadón Seco and Cerro Redondo.
Regarding fishery, Santa Cruz has incalculable resources, largely due to its extensive ocean front, although is not fully exploited. This region has a wide variety of species among which we can find hake, prawns, sardines, squid and shellfish. The most important fishing centers are Puerto Deseado, Puerto San Julian, Port Santa Cruz and Rio Gallegos where mainly prawns, squid and salmon are exported to the world.
There is little agriculture due to the arid nature of the soil, having also a modest timber industry in which the wood from the oak of Tierra del Fuego is the most exploited.
Another major factor in Santa Cruz economy is the eco-tourism (especially in the form of adventure) which has been intensified since the late twentieth century. Among its main attractions we can find:
- Parque nacional Los Glaciares (Glaciers National Park). With its impressive Perito Moreno Glacier.
- Cueva de las manos (Cave of hands).
- Monte Fitz Roy.
- The Blue Lagoon.
- Cape Virgenes.