Ushuaia (/uːˈʃwaɪ.ə/; Spanish pronunciation: [uˈswaʝa]) is the capital ofTierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur Province,Argentina. It is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia is located in a wide bay on the southern coast ofIsla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, bounded on the north by the Martial mountain range and on the south by the Beagle Channel. It is the onlymunicipality in the Department of Ushuaia, which has an area of 9,390 km2 (3,625 sq mi).
(From top to bottom; from left to right) View of Ushuaia from the harbor; Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse; Malvinas War Memorial; Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atántico Sur government building and the port.
|Motto: "Ushuaia, fin del mundo, principio de todo" (Spanish)
"Ushuaia, end of the world, beginning of everything"
The Selk’nam Indians, also called the Ona, first arrived in Tierra del Fuego about 10,000 years ago. The southern group of the Selk’nam, the Yaghan (also known as Yámana), occupied what is now Ushuaia, living in continual conflict with the northern inhabitants of the island.
For much of the latter half of the 19th century, the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego was populated by a substantial majority of nationals who were not Argentine citizens, including a number of British subjects. Ushuaia was founded, informally, by British missionaries, following previous British surveys, long before Argentine nationals or government representatives arrived there on a permanent basis. The British ship HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy, first reached the channel on January 29, 1833, during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego. The city was originally named by early British missionaries using the native Yámana name for the area. Much of the early history of the city and its hinterland is described in Lucas Bridges’s book Uttermost Part of the Earth (1948). The name Ushuaia first appears in letters and reports of the South American Mission Society in England. The British missionary Waite Hockin Stirling became the first European to live in Ushuaia when he stayed with the Yámana people between 18 January and mid-September 1869. In 1870 more British missionaries arrived to establish a small settlement. The following year the first marriage was performed. During 1872, 36 baptisms and 7 marriages and the first European birth (Thomas Despard Bridges) in Tierra del Fuego were registered. The first house constructed in Ushuaia was a pre-assembled 3 room home prepared in the Falkland Islands in 1870 for Reverend Thomas Bridges. One room was for the Bridges family, a second was for a Yámana married couple, while the third served as the chapel.
During 1873 Juan and Clara Lawrence, the first Argentine citizens to visit Ushuaia, arrived to teach school. That same year the Argentine President Julio Argentino Roca promoted the establishment of a penal colony for re-offenders, modeled after one in Tasmania, Australia, in an effort to secure permanent residents fromArgentina and to help establish Argentine sovereignty over all of Tierra del Fuego. But only after the Boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina did formal efforts get under way to establish the township and its prison.
During the 1880s, many gold prospectors came to Ushuaia following rumors of large gold fields, which proved to be false. On the 12th of October 1884, as part of the South Atlantic Expedition, Commodore Augusto Lasserre established the sub-division of Ushuaia, with the missionaries and naval officers signing the Act of Ceremony. Don Feliz M Paz was named Governor of Tierra del Fuego and in 1885 named Ushuaia as its capital. In 1885 the territory police was organized under Antonio A. Romero with headquarters also in Ushuaia. But it was not until 1904 that the Federal Government of Argentina recognized Ushuaia as the capital of Tierra del Fuego.
Ushuaia suffered several epidemics, including typhus, pertussis, and measles, that decimated the native population. But because the Yámana were not included in census data the exact numbers lost are not known. The first census was held in 1893 with 113 men and 36 women living in Ushuaia. The prison was formally announced in an Executive order by Roca in 1896. By 1911 the Yámana had all practically disappeared, so the mission was closed. The population grew to 1,558 by the 1914 census.
In 1896 the prison received its first inmates, mainly re-offenders and dangerous prisoners transferred from Buenos Aires but also some political prisoners. A separate military prison opened in 1903 at the nearby Puerto Golondrina. The two prisons merged in 1910, and that combined complex still stands today. It operated until 1947, when President Juan Perónclosed it by executive order in response to the many reports of abuse and unsafe practices.Most of the guards stayed in Ushuaia, while the prisoners were relocated to other jails farther north. After the prison closed, it became a part of the Base Naval Ushuaia (Spanish), functioning as a storage and office facility until the early 1990s. Later it was converted into the current Museo Maritimo de Ushuaia.
During the first half of the 20th century, the city centered around a prison built by the Argentine government to increase the Argentine population here and to ensure Argentine sovereignty over Tierra del Fuego.The prison was intended for repeat offenders and serious criminals, following the example of the British in Tasmania and the French in Devil's Island.Escape from Tierra del Fuego was similarly difficult, although two prisoners managed to escape into the surrounding area for a few weeks. The prison population thus became forced colonists and spent much of their time building the town with timber from the forest around the prison. They also built a railway to the settlement,now a tourist attraction known as the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo), the southernmost railway in the world.
Tourist attractions include the Tierra del Fuego National Park and Lapataia Bay. The park can be reached by highway, or via the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo) from Ushuaia. The city has a museum of Yámana, English, and Argentine settlement, including its years as a prison colony. Wildlife attractions include local birds, penguins, seals, and orcas, many of these species colonizing islands in the Beagle Channel. There are daily bus and boat tours to Harberton, the Bridges family compound. Tours also visit the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. Les Eclaireurs is sometimes confused with the "Lighthouse at the End of the World" (Faro del fin del mundo) made famous by Jules Verne in the novel of the same name; but the latter lies some 200 mi (320 km) east of Ushuaia on Isla de los Estados (Staten Island).
Ushuaia has twelve secondary schools, four of which also provide adult education. The Colegio Nacional de Ushuaia is one of the youngest schools in the city and it was modeled after the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires. Another important secondary school is Colegio Diocesano Monseñor Miguel Ángel Alemán, which takes its name after the Monsignor of the same name.
The National University of Patagonia San Juan Boscooperates a campus in Ushuaia, with Faculties of Engineering,Economics and Humanities, and Social Sciences.
The National University of Tierra del Fuego, inaugurated in 2010, has its headquarters in Ushuaia.