page 15  
Chapter 6
The Prison of the End of the World
Ushuaia’s Prison

The sole mention of Ushuaia’s prison made people uneasy, as a result its location and solitude as much as for the type of criminals that were sent there. To society as a whole, it meant a one way ticket. During a long time it was considered the Argentine "Siberia". Fortunately, the prison no longer exists as such. It now houses a collection of pictures and documents that, along with the chronicles of the first settlers, allow us to know the habits, work, escapes, punishments and personalities of the most infamous characters during the Argentine turn of the century.

The “petiso orejudo” preparing a ring, to kill someone.





There were already two examples of successful prison colonies in the world: in France, in its Algerian colonies and in England, in the Australian colonies. In 1883, the Argentine president Julio A. Roca sends a bill to the Senate to build a prison colony in the south. Although the law was never passed, the first ten convicts reach Tierra del Fuego during 1884. They were meant to build the lighthouse in the Isla de los Estados, "… the light that marked the end of the world…" as described by Jules Verne in his novel "The Lighthouse at the End of the World".

On September 15th, 1902, the foundation for the Nation Prison is laid, but it was in 1882 that the idea of a prison colony was first mentioned. It was the year after the boundary treaties with Chile were signed.

By 1902 there had been many discussions regarding the most appropriate location, and whether it should be a prison colony or just a regular one. The prison would have a series of sheds, and a wooden railway system – later to be replaced by iron – that would cut across town joining the prison to the woods where the trees were being cut down. By 1907 the prison housed many activities, such as: shoe making, carpenter’s shop, tailor’s shop, sawmill, pasta manufacture, laundry, photography shop, firefighters’ quarters, print, band, large library, school, drugstore, first aid assistance and its own energy supply. All these services were also extended to Ushuaia.
The idea behind allowing the convicts to interact with the free world was to prepare them for the moment of reinsertion to society, as well as allowing them to save a little pocket money for their needs or to help their families. Ushuaia was favored by the work the convicts performed on the small town. Streets, buildings and bridges were being built. The sight of convicts on the street was a common scene to the residents of the town, and a sort of curious attraction to the first tourists. Even commerce had its dealings with them. To evaluate their relevance to this


      page 15  
1-2-3-4-5-6     INTRODUCTION  
7-8     CHAPTER 1 - From Far West to Patagonia - BUTCH CASSIDY  
9-10     CHAPTER 2 - Tragedy of the Cervantes - THE “MONTE CERVANTES” SHIPWRECK  
11     CHAPTER 3 - The First Flight over Tierra del Fuego - GUNTHER PLÜSCHOW  
12     CHAPTER 4 - The Promised Land - THE ROAD OF THE WELSH PEOPLE  
13-14     Chapter 5 - The Watchman of the South - LUIS PIEDRA BUENA  
15-16     Chapter 6 - The Prison of the End of the World - Ushuaia’s Prison  
17     Chapter 7 - The Perito Moreno Glacier - FRANCISCO PANCRACIO MORENO  
18     Chapter 8 - THE FATHER DE AGOSTINI  
19-20     Chapter 9 - Long Live the King! - ORLLIE ANTOINE  
21     Chapter 10 - No Place for Women - ELLA HOFFMAN de BRUNSWICK  
22     Chapter 11 - The Boundless Empire - JOSE MENENDEZ  
23-24-25     Chapter 12 - Dreams of Gold - JULIUS POPPER  
27-28-29-30     PRESS ISSUE