History of Ultima Esperanza

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This area was inhabited by hunters-gatherers, sloths, etc. around 12,000 years ago. There is a cave on the way to the park where the remains of a sloth were found. (The remains have since been removed to England!) The hunters-gatherers had crossed the Bering Strait and moved south. Then, approximately 9,000 years ago, “catastrophic natural events” caused everything to leave or die out. Most fauna disappeared.

New nomadic hunters appeared around 4,000 to 8,000 years ago. There is cave art from this period. The Aonikenk tribe are descendents, and they were here when the Spanish arrived in 1557, naming the area “Last Hope.” The 16th century Spanish were approximately 1.55 meters in height on average, and the Aonikenks were approximately 1.8 meters in height. From this, the area gets its modern name; the colonists wrote home news of the “Patagones,” the giants of Patagonia.

In 1892, Captain Eberhard started ranching with sheep near Puerto Natales, and by 1902 the border was established with Argentina. The town of Puerto Natales was founded in 1911. By then, the decline of the Aonikenk tribe was evident, having had their traditional ways of living disrupted.

Ah … but the way I know all this is because there is an excellent little museum in the town of Puerto Natales which is well worth the $2 admission fee.