views updated


Catamarca, capital city of the province of the same name in northwestern Argentina, with 141,000 inhabitants (2001 census). It was founded in 1558 with the unusual name of London, to commemorate the marriage of Philip II of Spain to Mary Tudor of England, and was destroyed by Diaguita Indians in 1563, 1607, and 1683. Its location today in a well-sheltered valley between Sierra de Ancasti and Sierra de Ambato was chosen by Fernando Mendoza, who was attracted, as were other settlers from Santiago del Estero, by the good soils and by the numerous Indian farming communities that flourished in the valley. On the basis of the region's famed Indian textiles in colonial times, cotton fields and textile mills were established around Catamarca during republican times. However, fruit orchards in the well-irrigated valley dominated the agrarian economy until the late twentieth century.

The hinterland of Catamarca was formerly part of the Diaguita cultural realm extending from Argentina across the Andes into the Norte Chico region of Chile and famous for its fine ceramics. East of the Sierra de Famatina, the interior valley of the Colorado River is still the seat of the traditional Indian-Mestizo agrarian populations, Fiambalá and Tinogasta counting among their centers.

See alsoArgentina, Geography .


Carlos Villafuerte, Catamarca: Camino y tiempo (Buenos Aires, 1968).

                                     CÉsar N. Caviedes