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Estancia (livestock ranch), the most important socioeconomic institution on the pampa. Gauchos considered the pampa's resources to be in the public domain, available to all. But estancias developed during the eighteenth century, when large ranchers began to extend their control over land, water, and cattle. Larger ranches traditionally had a central ranch house, usually topped by a tower (mirador) from which to spot Indian raiders. A modest bunkhouse and kitchen served the workers. Ranchers divided their ranges into many units, each under the charge of a manager.

By the nineteenth century, large, extensive estancias dominated the countryside. Wealthy ranchers built veritable castles that dominated their rural estates. Small ranchers often had to rent their land. Because of the vast distances between towns on the plains, many ranches included a Pulpería, a combination general store and tavern.

The estancia and pulpería were the most important institutions in the rural Río de la Plata. In economic terms, the ranches provided employment for gauchos and generated great wealth from livestock and agriculture. The estancia had political importance because ranch owners and managers often served as justices of the peace and dominated local politics. In cultural terms, ranches served as important settings for movies, novels, and poetry in the gauchesque genre.

See alsoFinca; Fundo; Hacienda; Latifundia.


Jonathan C. Brown, A Socioeconomic History of Argentina (1979), pp. 123-145.

Richard W. Slatta, Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier (1983), pp. 69-72.

Additional Bibliography

Amaral, Samuel. The Rise of Capitalism on the Pampas: The Estancias of Buenos Aires, 1785–1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Mayo, Carlos A. Estancia y sociedad en la pampa, 1740–1820. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2004.

                                      Richard W. Slatta

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