History of Las Grutas / San Antonio Oeste

A long time ago, the area known today as Las Grutas, which did not have any kind of infrastructure, used to be visited by a group of neighbors from San Antonio Oeste who resolved to build a bungalow there in 1939. That would be the only construction in the area until the mayor of San Antonio Oeste traveled to Viedma in 1959 to arrange the creation of a seaside resort with the then governor Eduardo Castello. This project was supported by the governor's office and fulfilled in 1960, with the opening of the first access and the division of the land plots. By the late 1970s, there were 400 summer houses, most of them owned by denizens of San Antonio. Likewise, the first twelve houses located in Barrio Parque -which still remains- were raised in those days. In 1976, there were already three accesses but it was in the 1980s that the growth of the area was definitely consolidated as a result of planning and the provision of essential services: water, sewerage, electricity and telephone lines. Delegación Municipal del Balneario Las Grutas (The Municipal Delegation of Las Grutas Seaside Resort) was officially created in 1984. The bridge over Río Negro Avenue, the information office and the telephone switch -which started off with 100 telephone numbers- were inaugurated in the same year. One year later, the Golfo Azul Provincial Festival began to be celebrated. On the other hand, San Antonio Oeste lies on the shores of Gulf San Matías. This gulf was discovered by a Spanish expedition on February 18, 1520, Saint Matthew's Day (therefore, its name in Spanish). The name of San Antonio, however, was given by another expedition, which landed on January 17, 1779, Saint Anthony of Egypt's Day. The official foundation day of San Antonio Oeste was recorded as July 10, 1905, when the port supposed to receive the rural production that would be shipped to Buenos Aires by sea was created. At any rate, the first years of life of the population were experienced amidst primitive constructions with zinc roofs. It was not until the 1920s that some public buildings similar to those in the area began to be raised. The incipient appearance of the railway attracted more families in 1910. Later on, the wool industry gained importance and San Antonio was acknowledged as the second most important wool market in the country, until the railway that joined Buenos Aires and Bariloche (being San Antonio an intermediate station) caused this industry to decay. After Port Punta Verde ceased its activities in 1944, the population resisted thanks to the railway, which represented a highly important labor source, especially in moments of crisis. Today, San Antonio Oeste has 18.000 inhabitants and its economy is based on the port activities in San Antonio Este (major Patagonian exporter of fruit, vegetable and their by-products) and on the strong tourist attraction produced by Las Grutas seaside resort.

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