Porvenir History and Legends


The history of this city starts with some 4000 Ona aborigines who lived in the island grouped in nomad tribes. Strong, and skillfull with bows and arrows, they hunted guanacos and birds, and were specially hostile to conquerors.
First Serrano and then Jorge Porter in 1880 discovered Bahía Porvenir. Porter found gold in Sierra Boquerón, and during the following 20 years, the neighbouring areas were occupied by estancias and mining exploitations.
Since 1882, miners from America and Europe invaded Sierra Boquerón with the gold work. Then it was industrialized with dragline excavators who kept working until 1909.
Meanwhile the government rented pasturelands on the island during 20 years, and the Sociedad Ganadera Gente Grande exploited the pampas north of Cordón Baqueano in 1883.
A police station was built during the gold fever, and Puerto Porvenir was founded as a city in 1984 to serve the new estancias.
José Nogueira, resident in Punta Arenas, was granted the concession of 310.000 has. in Bahía San Felipe, incremented in 1890 by one million has., thus originating the Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego.
In the following occupation process, Ona aborigines became inocent victims, since hunting sheep was easier than hunting guanacos, and they were cruelly persecuted by professional killers paid with sheep for that purpose.
In order to make up for this situation, Salesian father José Fagnano was granted a concession in Isla Dawson and founded a reduction with almost 1.000 Ona people, and then installed a second one in 1893 in the proximities of Río Grande, in Argentina. But freedom is a highly appreciated value for nomad tribes, who cannot bear to live in a reduction, and die of disease and lack of adaptation.The mission came to an end in 1912.
In 1920, the anthropologist M. Gusinde counted 276 Ona survivors, most of them protected in Estancia Viamonte. Today they are extinguished, and the only remembrance is a gravestone to the Unknown Ona in the cementery of Punta Arenas.
Today, the old estancias have turned into little villages like Onaisin or Cameron. The main production keeps being wool and meat, most of which is exported.
In 1945 the oil exploitation started on the island, and in 1976 on the strait, with a perforation plant and submarine extraction that keeps in activity up to now.

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