History of Esquel

Nestled on the northwest of the Province of Chubut, Esquel is the head city in the District of Futaleufú. The first expeditions that explored the area were mostly carried out by the Jesuits as from 1670. Ever since 1778, when viceroy Vértiz commanded Juan de la Piedra and Francisco Biedma the foundation of forts and colonies in the area, the present colonization began.

But it was not until 1891, that the first colonist families arrived and settled down in the valley called 16 de Octubre/i>, in the mountain range area. These Welsh colonists arrived after the Immigration British Society ordered the exploration of the southern lands on board the Mimosa in 1865. The official foundation date of Esquel was February 25, 1906, with the inauguration of the telegraph.

Today, it is the most outstanding services center in the Andes of Chubut, with important activites such as silviculture, cattle raising and a booming tourist attraction (essentially highlighted by the presence of Los Alerces National Park and La Hoya Ski Resort). However, these lands used to be owned by three native groups: aonik kenk, gununa kune and araucanos. Some of its present denizens are descendants of the Tehuelches, chulilakens and Mapuches.

A curious fact about the area is that in 1951, while a peasant was digging a hole to make a water tank, he found a 755-kilogram meteorite, which the scientific community named Esquel. Formed by a yellowish crystal, it has been acknowledged by scientists and collectors from all over the world.

On the other hand, when going through Esquel, seeing La Trochita, a narrow-gauge train, is a must-visit. Its rails are separated by only 75 centimeters and it has become the only railway with these features which is still operating. Today, its steam oil fired locomotives keep running like in the old days in 1922 and it is the employees of El Maitén Railway Yards who do maintenance work of all the original machinery using old blueprints and reconstructing the pieces that are damaged. Even though originally, this train ran from Ingeniero Jacobacci (in Río Negro), connected with the branch to Viedma and then to Buenos Aires (as part as Roca Railway), today La Trochita is only used with tourist aims, covering the distance to Nahuel Pan and only on certain ocassions to El Maitén.