History of Mendoza

Mendoza, land of the good wine.

With the arrival of the Spaniards, the territory of Mendoza was occupied by the Huarpe Indians, in the Uco Valley, North and Northwest, the Incas at Uspallata and the Mendoza River Valley and the Puelches to the South of the Mendoza River. Later on, between the XVIII and XIX centuries, the Pehuenches entered these territories, especially at the Malargüe district. The Huarpes stand out because they had developed a net of irrigation channels in the Huentota Valley (city of Mendoza today), which enabled them to grow potatoes and corn. The Spaniards found this clever system, which they later called "Dique de la Toma de los españoles" (Spanish Capture Dam).

The Huarpes were a peaceable, sedentary and agricultural people. Their clothes consisted of two calicos: one, from the waist to the knees and another one on the shoulders, fastened over the chest with a cactus thorn. Some women would ornament their clothes with guanaco furs tied over their shoulders or fastened around their waists. They also wore long necklaces.

On March 2, 1561, Pedro del Castillo founded the city and named it Mendoza after the governor of Chile, Don García Hurtado de Mendoza. A new expedition in charge of Captain Juan Jufré, attempted to eliminate what Del Castillo had done and, as he had found a more competent site, moved the city to the left margin at "two harquebus shots" to the Southwest on March 28, 1562, and renamed it "Resurrección - Provincia de Huarpes". However, time and facts were overcome and the name of Mendoza was respected.

The establishment of the Spaniards in the place, who generally resided in Chile, was so difficult that 4 years after Mendoza was founded only 12 Spaniards remained. The governor of Chile took drastic measures, such as withdrawing economical support given to the grocers that would not get established. Therefore, the settlement started to increase and in the year 1600, the population reached some 80 Spanish settlers. The willingness and gentleness of the indians enabled the grocers to become established, but some Spaniards moved the indians into Chile. For such reason, indian manpower was affected and finally replaced by slaves.

Two years after the foundation, the Cabildo received the powers to distribute the lands. Thus, the first farms and vegetable gardens located around the built-up area started to appear. From that moment on and during the XVII century, the evangelizing and cultural labor of the Jesuits started, and the following century, a whole series of political-administrative changes that would affect the region's development would take place. Agricultural production recorded by chroniclers and travelers during the XVI century continued its development during the XVII and XVIII centuries.

We have pointed out the origins of agriculture in the primitive farms and vegetable gardens watered by indian irrigation channels. As cultivation spread, new irrigation courses were outlined, to such extent that by the XVIII century there were eighty three channels, with waters from the Mendoza and Tunuyán Rivers. In 1776, with the creation of the Río de la Plata Viceroyalty, the political structure was modified, and in 1783 Cuyo became part of the Gobernación de Córdoba del Tucumán, being the Marquis of Sobremonte appointed provincial governor. Not until 1788 could an irrigation work over the river be performed. The agricultural and cattle-raising population gave origin to a significant industrial activity. Wines, brandy, dry fruit, flour and oil constituted the main lines derived from agriculture.

In the early XVIII century, Mendoza's trade with other provinces was making progress. Wine, brandy and olive oils were taken to Buenos Aires. On those days, commercial transportation was done in wooden carts, covered with leather awnings with walls of reeds or straw. In 1813, the state of Cuyo was created and General José de San Martín became Governor. In Mendoza, in the XIX century, preparations for the epic liberating achievement were made by the General José de San Martín, which would eventually manage independence from Spain, providing major autonomy. In January 1817, San Martín left Mendoza and led its army across the Andes to liberate Chile and Perú. Destroyed by an earthquake on March 20, 1861, Mendoza was re-built and, during the following century, became the regional metropolis of Cuyo, with an important commercial, industrial, financial and cultural development.

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