Las Grutas / San Antonio Oeste History and Legends


The history of Las Grutas started around 1939 when a group of neighbours from San Antonio Oeste joined to build a bungalow, which was the only building in the area during a long time. These neighbours used to visit the area, and enjoyed it without any infraestructure.

In 1959, the major of San Antonio Oeste, Celso Rubén Breciano with José Kanje, Fidencio Leal, and others equally enthusiastic, did not hesitate to travel to Viedma, interview governor Eduardo Castello, and conscious that those were private lands, negotiate the creation of a public beach resort. The governor supported the initiative, and on 30th January 1960 the first commission of Balneario Las Grutas was formed and a document was signed to start planning the beach resort.
The first path down to the beach was built, and lots were divided.
The honorary commission to form the beach resort Las Grutas was formed by:
President: José Kanje
Secretary: Miguel Santoliquido
Treasurer: Fidencio Leal
Delegate from Town Hall: Celso Ruben Bresciano
Writing Secretary: Juan Carlos Ballor
Técnical Counselor: Enrique Cesar Ortiqueira
Members: Leopoldo Cavaleiro Méndez, Juan José Leal, Julio Guidi, Orlando Vega, Egberto S. Vichich.
In 1964 there was a division into lots to start the construction of summer houses, specially for the neighbours of San Antonio Oeste. By the end of the 70s there were 400 houses.
On 27th October 1966 a new commitee was formed by Orlando Anibal Vega, Juan Carlos Irizar, José Sánchez, Eloy Fernández, Celso Rubén Bresciano, who made the second road down in 1967.
Meanwhile, Héctor Izco and Bencho Leal built the first twelve houses in the park.
In 1976 the provisional major of the military government, Mr. Luis Donato Oscar Frey, the secretary of Public Work and Services, Mr. Jorge Stigliano, both from San Antonio Oeste town hall, decided to build the third road down to the beach. It was started on 7th December 1976 and finished on Saturday 24th at midday.
The real boom was in the 80s, when water nets, sewers, electricity and telephone service were planned and carried out for the development of the population.
Today the village offers from a strong hotel structure to a casino, shops and the necessary touristic support for the annual 140.000 visitors.
On 1st June 1984, the town hall delegation of Balneario Las Grutas was created, and by the end of the same year the bridge over avenue Río Negro, the information office, and the telephone central with 100 private lines were inaugurated.
In February 1985 they celebrated the first Provincial Festival of the Blue Gulf.

San Antonio Oeste is situated in Golfo San Matías. Acording to history, a Spanish expedition arrived at the gulf on 18th February 1520, on the day of St. Mathew, and that is the reason why the gulf was baptized as San Matías.
The name San Antonio was given by another expedition commanded by the Spanish Lieutenant Pedro García, who arrived at these coasts on 17th January 1779, on the day of San Antonio de Abad.
The first settlements took place at the end of XIX century in the area denominated "Saco Viejo", where the port of San Antonio Oeste is today.
Due to the lack of drinking water, the population had to move to the west sector of the cove, and the 10th July 1905 is considered the foundation date of San Antonio Oeste. Due to the lack of roads, they built a port to receive the production from farms: wool, leather, feathers, etc., and send it to Buenos Aires.
During the initial period, the construction was precarious, made almost exclusively of zinc sheets. But in the 20s brick became a common building material, and some public buildings similar or better than those in Neuquén and Río Negro were raised.
In 1910, they started the construction of the raiway to join Viedma and Bariloche. Complete families in search for work arrived and settled in this new village.
In the 30s this natural port was very important for Patagonia and specially for Río Negro. It became the second wool concentration market in the country. Wool was classified in San Antonio according to uniform criteria, and exported from this port after transshipping in Buenos Aires to bigger units. But this economic activity gradually decayed when the train joined Buenos Aires with Bariloche, and San Antonio became a stopover.
In 1944, the port called Punta Verde ceased its activities and the deep water port was inaugurated on the east margin. At present, there is minimal fishing activity.
The population undoubtedly survived due to the superintendence and the railway workshops, which were once an important labor resource.
There are approximately 18.000 inhabitants in San Antonio Oeste. Its economy is based mainly in the port activities of San Antonio Este and tourism in Balneario Las Grutas.
San Antonio Este's port is an important deep sea water port, and the main exporter of fruit, vegetables and products from Patagonia, as well as minerals and products from other regions of the country.
Situated in the norther margin of Punta Villarino, in Golfo San Matías, it was inaugurated in 1983 and gave a totally new perspective to the province, since it is only 450 km. distant from Alto Valle and 250 km. from Valle Medio, what permitted the exportation of fruit and regional products. It comprises an access viaduct, electrical and mechanical cranes, parking lot for trucks, stores and lots for containers. Ships do not need drags to operate , what makes it one of the most economic operating cost ports in the country.

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