Patagonia Feature


A Bloody Hero

Look at the street signs in any Patagonian city and you're sure to spot the name General Julio Argentino Roca. (To see what he looks like, whip out your wallet: he's riding along the 100-peso note, too). But look a little closer, and you may well find stickers or stencils changing the street's name to "Pueblos Originarios" (First Peoples).

The history books celebrate Roca as the man who "civilized" Patagonia and extended Argentinean territory south, but the real story is much darker. In the late 1870s the bottom half of Argentina was still largely controlled by various indigenous peoples who resisted the European colonization of their territory. Funded by rich landowners from Buenos Aires anxious to extend their estates, war minister Roca led a series of brutal military attacks—euphemistically known as the Desert Campaigns—which led to the massacre of over a thousand Mapuche, Teheulche, and Ranquel warriors and the enslavement of countless indigenous women and children.

Despite countless attempts by indigenous rights groups to rename the streets and reprint the banknotes, for the time being, these continue to honor the man behind the massacre.

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