1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Catamarca (province)

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CATAMARCA, an Andean province of the Argentine Republic, lying W. of Santiago del Estero and Tucuman and extending to the Chilean frontier, with Los Andes and Salta on the N., Cordoba on the S.E., and Rioja on the S. Pop. (1895) 90,161; (1904, estimate) 103,082; area, 47,531 sq. m. The surface of the province is extremely broken, the Andes forming its western boundary, and the Aconquija, Ancaste, Ambato, Gulampaja and other ranges traversing it from north to south. It is composed very largely of high plateaus with a general slope southward broken by a few fertile valleys. The greater part of the province is arid and barren, being sheltered from the moist, eastern winds by the high mountain barriers of Aconquija and Ancaste. The rivers are small, and some of them are lost in the barren, sandy wastes. Others, especially in the foothills of the high sierras, are utilized to irrigate the fertile valleys. The climate of some of the low, sheltered valleys is extremely hot and unhealthy, but on the open plateaus it is peculiarly dry and bracing and is probably beneficial in the treatment of pulmonary diseases. The mineral resources of the province include gold, silver, copper, lead, nickel, iron, coal and malachite, but of these only copper and silver are mined, and these chiefly in the Andalgalá district. Salt deposits also exist, but are worked only to a limited extent. Cereals, alfalfa and fruit are grown. Large numbers of cattle, fattened in the alfalfa fields of Pucará, Tinogasta and Copacabana, are driven into northern Chile across the San Francisco pass (13,124 ft. above sea level) and mules are bred for the Bolivian market. Wine of an excellent quality is produced and exported. Tanning leather is another industry of the province, some of the trees growing in the Catamarca forests being rich in tannin. Catamarca is traversed by the Northern Central railway between Cordoba and the city of Catamarca, its capital, which passes around the southern extremity of the Sierra de Ancaste and makes a long detour to Chumbicha, near the Rioja frontier. The more important towns, after Catamarca, the capital, are Andalgalá and Tinogasta with populations (estimated, 1904) of 5000 to 6000 each. Belen is the oldest Spanish settlement in the province and was founded in 1550, being called Barco at first. The population is largely mixed with Indian blood.