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George Stimpson

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What do Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego mean?

part of South America extending south of the Rio Negro to Magellan Strait was originally called Patagonia by the Spanish, and the archipelago and islands south of the strait were called Tierra del p. While on his historic voyage around the world in 15>o Ferdinand Magellan explored that entire region in search of a southwestern passage to the East Indies. Some of the Spaniards noticed very large footprints on the beach. One morning a native of huge stature came down to meet the explorers, who were impressed by his exceptionally big feet. From this circumstance they named the region Patagonia, from Spanish patagon, "clumsy big foot." Although the Tehuelche Indians of Patagonia. are considered one of the tallest races in the world, their stature was greatly exaggerated by the early Spaniards. Antonio┬╗gafetta, who went with Magellan as a volunteer and who wrote an account of the expedition, referred to the native who came own to greet them as so large "that we reached only to his waist-belt." The Patagonian area was divided between Argentina and Chile in 1881 and its permanent boundaries were determined in 1902. Patagonia in Argentina is nearly as large as Texas, having an area of some 259,000 square miles—about a fourth of the area of the republic. During their winter's stay in the vicinity of Magellan Strait the Spaniards never caught sight of a single native on the islands, but in the daytime they could see smoke arising, apparently from campfires, and in the night they saw flickering fires in the distance. Accordingly they called the region Tierra del Fuego, "Land of Fire." The natives there are among the most primitive people in the New World and some authorities believe that in the time of Magellan they kept their fires burning continuously because they had not learned how to rekindle them. The Yahgans, a dwindling tribe of Fuegians, are the southernmost people in the world. Part of the original Tierra del Fuego is now in Argentina and part of it in Chile.