History and Characteristics of Estancias in Argentina
The word “estancia” is very much used in Argentina, but also in Uruguay, Paraguay and part of Chile to make reference to a vast agricultural area similar to an American ranch. The first estancias in Argentina date back to the 16th century, during the Spanish colonization, when the conquerors were rewarded for their effort with large lands.
Originally, the estancias in the Pampas region were used to breed sheep and cows. Those territories remained within the same families from generation to generation, thus making Argentina a big land of great aristocratic landowners.
From late 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the phenomenon was reversed. Over time, through the sale of plots and successions, those lands were divided, and estancias reduced their size. Big landowners started to hire gauchos, giving them the opportunity to gradually settled down by allowing them to use their land in return for a share of the crops they produced.
Since then, gauchos were in charge of working the land in exchange for part of the profits. In addition, the production of estancias became mixed, combining cereal production with cattle breeding in the Pampas, while at the same time sheep farming was developing in Patagonia.
Nowadays, many estancias in Argentina are still in operation. Some of them are open to tourists, allowing them to discover the Argentinian traditions through an authentic cultural experience.