History of Neuquén



Basilio Vilarino arrived at the confluence in 1783. He had set out from Fort Nuestra Señora del Carmen and sailed upstream along the Negro and Limay Rivers. Later on, he ventured into several scientific expeditions led by Martín Guerrico, Erasmo Obligado, Francisco Moreno and Eduardo O’Connor, to name a few.

The relations with the natives had become more complicated by 1830 and Juan Manuel de Rosas -who worked as governor- ordered a military expedition in charge of General Ángel Pacheco which led numerous troops to the confluence.

Towards 1862, the nationalization of the territories that were beyond the boundaries of the existing provinces was commanded. Five years later, law 215 was passed which set forth that the southern border should be located on the northern bank of the Neuquén and Negro Rivers, from the mountain range to the ocean. However, this could not be done until 1878 (when the Government of Patagonia was created and present Viedma was appointed capital) as a result of the Desert Campaign.

One year later, General Roca was given the task to subdue the natives once again in order to definitely add these territories to the central government. Thus, Roca founded the fort called Primera División on the southern margin of the Neuquén River and gave origin to a settlement that was suitable for new denizens. The arrival of the railway in 1899 caused the area to finally boom.

In 1904, Governor Carlos Bouquet Roldán resolved to move the capital of the territory -then located in the City of Chos Malal to the confluence. This way, Neuquén began to prosper. The irrigation system did not take long to be settled and the growth of the area became more and more notorious.

Despite having been already organized into 16 districts since 1915, Neuquén was declared a province in 1955. Nevertheless, administrative activities had been almost completely concentrated at this location and other colonies and essentially rural villages began to settle around it.

Nowadays, the population of Neuquén represents 18% of the total population of Patagonia and it has become the province to produce the highest amount of hydroelectricity in the country.


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