Traveling South to Patagonia

From Buenos Aires, I took a short flight south to the coastal town of Puerto Madryn.  There, while I waited for the Darwin 200 initiative to arrive, I linked up with local non-governmental organization Fundación Patagonia Natural.  Through the foundation, I had arranged to visit La Esperanza, a nature reserve located just a few hours drive from Puerto Madryn.  However, a massive blaze broke out near the refuge just prior to my arrival, which prevented me from traveling to the countryside.  With a few days to spare, I took in the town.

In Darwin’s day, there was no such “nation-state” of Argentina, and the region was rife with fractious politics.  Needless to say, Argentina is still plagued by volatile politics.  As I wandered through the central square, I came across a labor protest against recently inaugurated Javier Milei, a right-wing president who favors libertarian economics.

During his travels in Argentina, Darwin met with Juan Manuel de Rosas, and witnessed the caudillo’s cultural genocide of the indigenous population.  Darwin was appalled, though the naturalist was not sentimental about cultural diversity, let alone cultural extinction, and in this sense he was typical of the Victorian age.  Writing in his diary, Darwin believed it was necessary to open up new land and make it more productive.  Though Tehuelche Indians were defeated and culturally assimilated by European settlers, efforts are now afoot to revive the culture in Patagonia and overcome a legacy of racism.

A display illustrating obsolete and racist hierarchies — earlier, at the Juan B. Ambrosetti Ethnographic Museum in Buenos Aires
Tehuelche monument in Puerto Madryn
Closeup of the Tehuelche monument

Waiting for conditions to improve at La Esperanza, I headed to Punta Lomo, a seal refuge outside Puerto Madryn.

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