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date: 31 March 2023

Settling Bariloche: Explorations, Violence, and Tourism in the Argentine Frontierlocked

Settling Bariloche: Explorations, Violence, and Tourism in the Argentine Frontierlocked

  • María de los Ángeles PiconeMaría de los Ángeles PiconeBoston College


The early history of the city of San Carlos de Bariloche (Argentina) in the northern Patagonian Andes serves as a window into national endeavors to settle a frontier space. Initial colonial attempts to establish a colony on the shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi (Argentina) can be traced to Jesuit missionary efforts from the Island of Chiloé (Chile). After their independences, Chile and Argentina sought to claim Patagonia as their own. Embedded in this nationalizing mission was the negotiation of the international borderline as well as the violent removal of Mapuche and Tehuelche from territories in the south. In Argentina, the government launched a genocidal campaign (1879–1884) in northern Patagonia. Behind the soldiers followed explorers gathering data about the Andes, in the hopes that nature would reveal the boundary.

As border negotiations unfolded in the 1890s, non-Indigenous settlers came to Nahuel Huapi. One of them, Chilean Carlos Wiederhold, established a store in 1895 on the southeastern shore of the lake and sold imported goods from Chile and exported cattle on the hoof across a trans-Andean pass. Business grew, as did the village around it. In 1902, a presidential decree officially founded the colony of Nahuel Huapi and the town of San Carlos, pinpointing the reach of the national government on the frontier. While authorities imagined the cordillera as a space devoid of social tension (presumably because land was available), violence in the form of feuds and crime sprinkled frontier life. Local elites soon depicted Nahuel Huapi as a dangerous space and blamed Chileans and Indigenous people for such violence. In the 1930s, the creation of a national park in Nahuel Huapi sought to resolve this by portraying Bariloche as a tourist site by transforming the Bariloche space through a specific aesthetic that would evoke an idyllic Argentine landscape.


  • History of Southern Spanish America
  • 1889–1910
  • 1910–1945

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