Patagonia <<PAT uh GOH nee uh>> is a region in southern South America. A large part of the region has a semidesert climate. Indigenous (native) peoples lived in Patagonia long before Europeans arrived. The name Patagonia comes from the Spanish word patagon, which means big foot or paw. The native Tehuelche people were tall and wore large boots stuffed with grass.
In 1520, the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan became the first European to explore the region. In 1865, Welsh settlers arrived in northern Patagonia. The area was divided between Chile and Argentina in 1907 under the terms of an 1881 treaty.
The term Patagonia usually refers to the Argentine section of the region. Farmers in Patagonia raise sheep and grow fruits and vegetables.Hydroelectric projects on the Limay River in northern Patagonia provide electric power. Oil fields in Patagonia yield much of Argentina’s petroleum. The region also has coal, iron ore, and natural gas deposits.
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