Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world

I departed from Ezeiza Airport on December 26, 2017 at 8:30 towards Ushuaia. I had with me the firm intention to close a stage and the certainty that every ending announces a new beginning. I arrived at the “Malvinas Argentinas” Airport in Ushuaia at 13:20, after a half-hour stop in Trelew. From the plane I could appreciate the beauty and immensity of the last stretch of the Andes mountains, imposing and majestic.

Ushuaia received me with a cloudy sky and a fine drizzle that, at first, I found uncomfortable. “Summer is like that. It rains and the sun rises. The climate changes every 20 minutes “, they would have to tell me more than once. I left the airport and took a taxi, which I shared with an Argentine girl. While the car was moving, I could not help but be surprised by the size of the city, which I had imagined smaller. In my mind, Ushuaia was a small town in the “End of the world”.

Ciudad de Ushuaia.

Once installed, I decided that I would not camp in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, as was my original plan, because I was not enthusiastic about staying alone when I was a little sick. I checked with the hostel where I had booked the first night if they had availability for the next two days and they said no. Then, I went to Cruz del Sur, the hostel where I had reservations starting on December 29th. There I was greeted by Alejandro, Marcelo and Kren, the husky I had seen in photos on the Internet. While caressing the third, I asked the first two if they had availability and, luckily, they had beds. I agreed that I would go the next morning.

That afternoon I toured the city. My first stop was the tourist information office of the Tourist Dock to find out if they had any excursions or means of transport (other than renting a car) to go to see the Desdemona in Cabo San Pablo. Faced with the refusal, I began to visit the museums. I started in the garden of the Old Government House, located on Avenida Maipú 465, in front of the site where Colonel Augusto Lasserre raised the Argentine flag for the first time in Tierra del Fuego on October 12, 1884.

Declared a National Historic Monument in 1983, the Old Government House is one of the most emblematic buildings of the city. The historic property, built between 1890 and 1893, fulfilled numerous roles within the community. In the first instance it was intended to be the residence of the governor but in 1920 it became the Government House, because the headquarters of that moment had been destroyed on a fire. In 1955, the local delegation “Provincia Patagonia” was installed there, integrated by the territories of Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego. In 1957 the building was once again the Government House of the then National Territory of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands, until in 1976 the Territorial Police Headquarters began to operate there. In 1983 it was conditioned to become the seat of the Territorial Legislature and, under the orbit of the provincial Legislative Power, in 2002 it was restored and ceded to the provincial State, transforming itself into a historical-cultural center.

As of May 18, 2008 the Old Government House was transformed into an annex and complement to the End of the World Museum, which had been inaugurated the same day but 29 years before as a Territorial Museum. The traditional building, located on Maipú Avenue 173, was built in 1903 with the labor of prisoners of the Presidio as a dwelling for private use and later became the headquarters of Banco Nación.

The main hall of the Museum of the End of the World, which received its current name only in 1990, tells the story of the native peoples and navigators who arrived on the shores of the Beagle Channel from the sixteenth century. The tour is complemented by a second room dedicated to biodiversity and a third of temporary exhibitions, to which an audiovisual space is added. Through its rooms I relived the history of Ushuaia, whose identity is marked by the passage of the original peoples, the Anglican pastors, the gold prospectors and the prison inmates.

I left the visit to the Maritime Museum and the Prison Museum for another day, because it was close to closing time. On the coast of the Beagle Channel I observed the colossal cruises that leave for Antarctica to take those who seek to explore the white continent. Only a few meters away there was the place where the ARA General Belgrano Cruise touched land for the last time, on April 24, 1982, before it was sunk by the English in the Malvinas War, on May 2 of that year. The attack, which occurred when the Cruise was outside the exclusion area, generated the sinking of the ship and the death of 323 Argentines.

My steps took me back to the tourist dock, where I took out the typical photo with the “End of the world” sign. I continued to the Monument to the Ancient and Pioneering Settlers of Ushuaia, left behind the bus stop and went down to the Prefectura Naval Argentina Avenue to see the old tugboat “Saint Christopher”, whose figure was reflected in the waters of the Beagle Channel. I continued along the coast until arriving at the Islas Malvinas square and the memorial in honor of the fallen.

From penguins that walk along the path, to cartoons of famous prisoners, the murals of San Martin Avenue, which brings together a good part of the city’s commercial life, rescue the history and identity of Ushuaia. See the portrait of the journalist, writer and militant Rodolfo Walsh, disappeared by the last military dictatorship on March 25, 1977, on the facade of the National Radio building was a good sign.

Text and photos by Gabriela Naso.

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