The Deep South: Isla Navarino
Isla Navarino is a Chilean island and part of Tierra del Fuego. It is part of the ‘commune of Cabo de Hornos’. The capital is Puerto Williams and to the south is Puerto Toro the southernmost inhabited town in the world.
The island was originally the territory of the Yagan, but few of them remain nowadays.
Free trade zone Ushuaia
The mountains above Ushuaia carry hundreds of houses. They are the homes of tens of thousands of immigrants working in this Argentine city, a booming city; anchor place for many cruise ships and a tax free zone. Ushuaia advertises to be the most southern city, which is not true; Puerto Williams and Puerto Toro in Chile are further south.
The makeshift city started six years ago and has since expanded every year, the newcomers have almost doubled the population of Ushuaia. Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Bolivians, Brazilians and Chileans seem to live peacefully together. They build their own roads, water and sewage systems, but had to remove the forest for their houses, which has been creating a dangerous situation because of erosion.
The original population of Ushuaia has mixed feelings, the newcomers have made the city less secure according to some; others say it has enriched the city culturally. In general everyone agrees that the city needs the workforce.
Farming and mining: Tierra del Fuego
The island Navarino or Tierra del Fuego also attracts labor migrants. Its wind-swept grasslands are perfect for sheep and cattle ranching. Nowadays most inhabitants in this region are people from the north. They work as gold diggers or as seasonal laborers in the wool industry, which has become a vital part of the Chilean economy. During the shearing season they travel from one estancia to another to shear sheep.
The arrival of immigrants had dramatic consequences for the native population in this region, like the Yaman, the Ona and the Alacaluts, who inhabited these areas for thousands of years. Most of them were killed by the settlers, starved to death or expelled from land which now belongs to multinational companies like Benetton. Only a few communities survived.
The presence of mainly male laborers led to the existence of brothels. Women come from Colombia and the Dominican Republic, resisting the harsh climate to make some money.
This story is part of Via Panam, Kadir van Lohuizen’s project about migration in the Americas.