History of Formosa

Formosa, of Indian Roots
The Province of Formosa was dwelled, particularly, by three large native groups that lived in various regions. They were the Tobas, the Matacos and the Pilagás.
These groups arrived in these territories after being forced to emigrate from the Bolivian-Paraguayan rainforest. They were fleeing from the tribes whose fierceness was an attempt against their lives.
The Chaco tribes that inhabited these lands had a different linguistic origin. They were hunter gatherers, different from the Abipones and the canoeros payaguás, who dwelled the shores of the large rivers. The Mataco warriors were settled inland and the Chiriguanos in the western territories.
Furthermore, Mocoví communities would dwell near the abipones and the chulupíes along with the chiriguanos. The Tobas and Pilagás were given the guaraní name of guaicurú, and the tribes occupying the western area were called mataco-mataguayos.
The guaycurúes and the mataco-mataguayos had cultural similarities. Therefore, they were called "chaquenses típicos" (typical dwellers of Chaco). They were organized in groups and they still live in a primary work environment. They devote their lives to woodworks, carving, mates, ashtrays, items made of bulrush, straw-bales and palm, chair building, baskets, hats and rafts. The baskets they make -decorated with patterns- are useful to keep grain. They also make vases and earthen jars. Each group has its own customs, tongue and garments.
The presence of the brave Mataco Indians was quite important in the area of the first stable settlements, especially in the central region in the province.
They were basically anglers and gatherers, but they also practiced hunting and agriculture as secondary activities. They dwelled the areas surrounding the Pilcomayo, Bermejo and Teuco Rivers. They would use four-meter-long harpoons to fish. They lived in huts made with branches and straw-bales, without any doors or furniture, and they covered their bodies with deer fur.
In the second half of the XIX century, the various native groups settled on the banks of the river made contact with the first white man that setled down in the area: the owner of the first steam company of the Bermejo, Natalio Roldán. Initial mistrust was soon defeated by good treatment and almost two thousand of them began to help in the works the newcomers began to build.
The City of Formosa was founded in April 8, 1879 by Commander Luis Jorge Fontana.
In October 1, 1884, it was given the character of national district through Law 1532. Its first governor was Coronel Ignacio Fotheringham.
Formosa was not declared province of the Republic of Argentina until June 30, 1955 and its first constitutional governor was Dr. Luis Gutnisky.
The national policy towards the Indians was completed with the religious missions. After performing a vast reconnaissance process in various areas of the Northwest and after long formalities, in 1899, the Mission of San Francisco Solano de Tacaaglé was created on the Pilcomayo River. Father Terencio Marcucci, who received 20,000 hectares of crop lands for the Toba Indians, was its founder.
Broadly speaking, the mission would follow the model of the Jesuit missions settled up to the XVIII century. The mission would buy everything the families produced at a standarized price and they offered those products for sale at the Formosa square.
During the conquest, however, the contact between the missionaries and the natives had to endure hard difficulties, when the exploration of the Bermejo implied the death of Jesuit missionaries, such as Gaspar Osorio and father Ripari, who were slaughtered in 1639. Years later, father Salinas and Pedro Ortiz de Zárate had the same luck. The torture of some martyrs paved the way for the self-sacrificing job done by others, who subsequently arrived in these lands and had better or worse luck.
Priest Franciscano Roque Chielli devoted the best years of his life to helping the chiriguanos and he spent the early years of his mission in La Loma de El Tabacal, until an unforeseen event shattered its peaceful existence in 1970: they received a warrant to clear the facilities immediately.
The catechism taught by the Franciscans among the natives stood out for the great respect paid to their tongue and customs.


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