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Magallanes, the name given to the territories around the Strait of Magellan and the southernmost province of Chile (1992 population 143,058), has the second smallest population of any of Chile's regions. Punta Arenas (1990 population 120,030) is the capital city. Most of the territory consists of fjords, channels, glaciated mountains, and impenetrable rain forests or peat moss. This makes it an ideal location for viewing local wildlife, including condors, penguins, and guanacos. The cold steppes of Chilean Patagonia, east of the Andes, hold some potential for raising sheep, the major centers of which are in Puerto Natales and Porvenir. Oil discovered in 1940 near Cerro Sobrero (Tierra del Fuego) met the nation's needs until the mid-1960s. In 1978 Chile and Argentina almost went to war over the possession of the Picton, Lennox, and Nueva islands, which are part of the Magallanes region. (The dispute is known as the "Beagle conflict.") Due to fallout from this dispute, the Chileans supported the United Kingdom against Argentina in the Falklands War of 1982. In 1984 the dispute ended when Argentina and Chile signed the Peace and Friendship Treaty, which granted the islands themselves to Chile and the maritime rights to Argentina. Since the early 1990s there has been a resurge in petroleum exploitation in the eastern segment of the Strait of Magellan. Wool and mouton exports also contribute to the region's economy.

See alsoChile, Geography; Punta Arenas.


Alberto M. De Agostini, Magallanes y canales fueguinos (Punta Arenas, 1960); and Instituto Geográfico Millitar, "La región de Magallanes y la Antártica chilena," in Geografía de Chile, vol. 34 (Santiago, 1987).

Additional Bibliography

Brebbia, C. A. Patagonia, A Forgotten Land: From Magellan to Perón. Boston; Southampton, U.K.: WIT Press, 2007.

Collier, Simon, and William F. Sater. A History of Chile, 1808–1994. New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Gallez, Paul. Cristóbal de Haro: Banqueros y pimenteros en busca del Estrecho Magallánico. Bahía Blanco, Argentina: Instituto Patagónico, 1991.

Martinic Beros, Mateo. Archipélago patagónico: La última frontera. Puntas Arenas, Chile: Ediciones de la Universidad de Magallanes, 2004.

Martinic Beros, Mateo, and Julio Fernández Mallo. Faros del estrecho de Magallanes: Un patrimonio histórico y arquitectónico. 2nd ed. Punta Arenas, Chile: La Prensa Austral, 2002.

Massone, Mauricio. Los cazadores despúes del hielo. Concepción, Chile: Museo de Historia Natural; Santiago: Centro de Investigaciones Diego Barros Arana, 2004.

                                        CÉsar N. Caviedes

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