When I’m not planning for travel or working, one of my hobbies is to read up about history and geography of the world. Knowledge is power, but I just like expanding my frames of reference by learning as much as I can about our splendid world. Lately this desire has honed in on South America, especially Chile and Argentina. Obviously as an American, we’re very egocentric and pretty much neglect this fascinating region of the world. It is a shame because the world deserves to be told about the vibrant histories that each of the twelve countries possess. I mean, did you know about the wars Chile, Peru, Argentina, and even Bolivia fought against each other? Or did you know that Bolivia used to have access to the Pacific Ocean until they lost their territory in the War of the Pacific in 1884? (They still operate a navy, albeit a river-based one.) It’s absolutely riveting stuff! That’s not quite the gist of my post however, because, as anybody who has spent any time on Wikipedia knows, you find some interesting stuff. So, I’ve inevitably landed on topic of the southernmost areas of Chile and Argentina, and boy has it sparked my wanderlust.
A lot of people know of Patagonia/Torres del Paine National Park, but what piqued my interest were the settlements in this region. Like Russia’s Siberia, it’s a massive area with a minuscule population, and uniquely enough, it winds around some islands; apparently Chile and Argentina had to sign a treaty defining which islands belong to whom, since things got a bit messy. For me, this is incredibly fascinating, because I’ve long been enamored with these types of places. How remote is remote for them? How can people mind that kind of solidarity? What is the weather like down there? One can only imagine how much things change as you head further and further south from their respective capitals! And, despite the cost of flying halfway around the world being a solid deterrent, it’d be a dream of mine to witness the rugged beauty and relatively minimal human presence the region offers!
In particular, I’ve been curious to know more about Puerto Williams and Punta Arenas in Chile, and Río Grande and Ushuaia in neighboring Argentina. With Puerto Williams, it was founded as a naval base, but it has since expanded to serve as a hub for Antarctica-related scientific activity as well as fishing. Interestingly enough, I’ve read that there’s a spat over it being the southernmost city in the world with the more famous Ushuaia. As for me, I’d like to visit both, as the former is a bit more isolated, rural, and honestly looks a bit forlorn whereas the latter enjoys a more developed and larger populace. Río Grande and Punta Arenas seemed to have the hallmarks of any city around the world, which begs the question of the differences their residents face compared with those living Santiago or Buenos Aires? (One interesting tidbit about Punta Arenas is that there’s a sizeable Croatian community. Guess there’s something down there that attracted that scale of immigration in the past.) For sure, everybody wakes up, goes to work, spends time with family and friends, then sleeps, but what makes living so far from the main population centers so unique (or challenging)? Talking to friends who are originally from other cities in Russia who’ve moved to Moscow, they mention that jobs and boredom are primary factors in migration patterns, and I’d be earnest to know if this is a challenge that people face there. As a city boy, I know that these contrasts seemingly make the world seem far more exciting, but I know the real truth lies somewhere outside of my imaginative dreams.
(All pictures were taken from Wikipedia and other sites. Wikipedia played a large factor in my surface-deep research, so if I’ve goofed about anything, let me know!)