History And Characteristics Of Argentine Estancia
The word estancia is used in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and in the south of Chile to designate a vast agricultural exploitation, quite similar to the notion of ranch in North America.
The first estancias, like the chacras, appeared in Argentina in the 16th century during the Spanish colonization. The conquerors and explorers were rewarded by the king with grants of large amounts of land called lots.
The lots of farms were destined to agriculture, while the lots of estancias specialized in livestock. Originally, the farms raised mainly sheep, for wool, but also cows in order to exploit the meat, fat and tallow. The latter, residual product obtained by melting the animal fat, served in the preparation of soap, which in addition to its function for cleaning, was used to soften and waterproof the leather.
Throughout the colonial period, the farms outnumbered theranches, but after 1820 the trend reversed. In 1850, cattle ranches had acquired the entire Argentine countryside, through modernization: installation of wire, purchase of machinery to shear sheep, construction of pens and stables. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, therancher was in charge of commercialization, while the gaucho was in charge of production and then receive part of the profits; half, third or fourth according to the contracts. This is also the moment in which the production of the estancias begins to be mixed, combining, in the Pampas, the production of grains with the cattle, while at the same time the raising of sheep grows in Patagonia.
Today many stays continue to work throughout Argentina. Some of them, for a few years, open their doors to travelers, offering the possibility, for a day or a short stay, to discover the rich customs and traditions of the Argentine countryside.