Don Pablo Edronkin

Patagonia (VI).

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Patagonia is a region which has rich natural resources such as gold, coal, iron and oil, but its main problem is the lack of water and therefore life conditions are - for the most part - not quite easy here.

However, such peculiarities turned to be a bonus for palaeonthologists, since patagonia has proved to be on of the best digging places around the world: both in the plateaus as well as the mountains huge quantities of plant and animal fossils have been recovered.

Curiously enough - as Theroux and Pigafetta tell us - the region has a deep mythological significance: the members of Magellan's expedition rapidly associated the region with Dante's description of the gates of Hell, and from then on, popular imagination has done the rest.

Take, for example, the River Santa Cruz, or 'River of the Holy Cross', which was considered to be the Greek Leteo; the river of lost memories and from where there is no return, and undoubtedly, those sailors saw in Tierra del Fuego a myriad of souls burning for their sins, and hence the name.

The legend of the fearsome sect with an unknown name that owns the Challanco or almighty crystal which is the eye of the Devil; the flying witches of the night who vomit their entrails on a silver plate prior to their excursions; the white ship or 'Caleuche', which takes possession of the souls of the drowned sailors; the deformed gnome cave keepers, underwater crystal palaces, glowing cities made of silver, a Heaven for dead Gauchos and their beloved horses, and the singing mermaids who charm the fish are now a part of the local folklore as poignantly as the old, ghostly pictures of indians.

The name 'Patagonia' is not quite clear in its origins: it is widely accepted that Magellan gave the region such a name after the big footsteps of the Indians, which were much taller than the Spaniards and whose feet were covered with animal skins to protect them from the snow and cold.

A cave entrance.
Be careful whenever you enter a cave in Patagonia: tales
say that an Invuche gnome or keeper of the Devil's eye
may be hiding inside. You may laugh, but who knows?

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