Punta Arenas is a city near the tip of Chile’s southernmost Patagonia region. Located on the Strait of Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it’s often used as base for excursions to the surrounding wilderness and Antarctica. The Plaza Muñoz Gamero has a memorial to explorer Ferdinand Magellan, and the Museo Nao Victoria features a replica of one of his galleons.
Located on the Brunswick Peninsula north of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas was originally established by the Chilean government in 1848 as a tiny penal colony to assert sovereignty over the Strait. During the remainder of the 1800s, Punta Arenas grew in size and importance due to the increasing maritime traffic and trade traveling to the west coasts of South and North America. This period of growth also resulted from the waves of European immigrants, mainly from Croatia and Russia attracted to the gold rush and sheep farming boom in the 1880s and early 1900s. The largest sheep company, controlling 10,000 square kilometres in Chile and Argentina, was based in Punta Arenas, and its owners lived there.
Since its founding Chile has used Punta Arenas as a base to defend its sovereignty claims in the southernmost part of South America. This led, among other things, to the Strait of Magellan being recognized as Chilean territory in the Boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina. The geopolitical importance of Punta Arenas has remained high in the 20th and 21st centuries because of its logistic importance in accessing the Antarctic Peninsula.
Cemetery of Punta Arenas is the public cemetery of the city of Punta Arenas, Chile. It has four hectares and is located in the northern area of the city, in Bulnes Avenue, and between the streets Francisco Bilbao and Angamos. There are three entrances: the main entrance is in Bulnes Avenue, and two other entrances are in Francisco Bilbao and Angamos streets. Since the cemetery had long ago reached its capacity, it has been supplemented and largely replaced by a controversial newer cemetery further to the north of the city, though the earlier site retains its status as a “monument cemetery.” The cemetery has been ranked by CNN as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It was designated a National Monument of Chile in 2012.
Between about 1890 and 1940, the Magallanes region became one of the world’s most important sheep-raising regions, with one company (Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego) controlling over 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi) in southern Chile and Argentina. The headquarters of this company and the residences of the owners were in Punta Arenas. The Sarah Braun Museum is now established at the former Braun-Menéndez mansion, in the center of Punta Arenas.
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