One cold July morning of 1902, something strange happened at the
door of the La Platt Museum, the most important Argentine center
for Anthropology. An old man slowly descends the stone stairway
of the entrance. He is completely nude, thin, and his skin is old
but tanned by the sun. He kneels down on the entrance, stretches
out his arms, and begins chanting in a strange language. Finally,
he extends his body along the floor and the astonished witnesses
verify he is dead. Its the Chieftain Shaihueque, the last indian
to lay down his arms before the army of General Roca in 1880. Now,
naked, free of all connection to the influence of the white man,
he lies dead on the entrance of the famous institute that Perito
Even though twenty years ago they had been mortal enemies, Shaihueque
had been taken to the museum by Moreno. From there on, Shaihueque
counted many times on Moreno when he could no longer stand the abject
humiliations to which this proud chief and his people were subject
to as prisoners in Bahia Blanca. Moreno, on Shaihueque´s request,
took him to the museum to live with him in La Plata.
Although many times both men had been adversaries, they had for
each other a profound respect. With time, Moreno, the advocate of
civilization, came to understand the customs and ways of the indians.
Also, he regretted the suffering inflicted upon these people on
the grounds that they were being civilized.
The reason for the high regard that Moreno has in history has to
do with the tireless and unremitting work that he carried out all
To his understanding, the Patagonia was a true promised land of
wealth and resources that could be exploited and used for enhancing
its population with a high quality of life.
In the pursuit of developing these opportunities, Moreno directed
all his efforts as an explorer, geographer, and anthropologist.
And like Piedra Buena, he did not doubt in sacrificing his life
for his lifelong aspirations and ideals. Moreno understood his scientific
activity as a practical discipline to develop further the resources
In 1879, in one of his expeditions, Moreno was captured by Shaihueque
and managed to escape in a spectacular breakout. First he had to
convince his foes that his death would bring them bad luck. Then,
he waited three days, saw his chance when most of the indians were
drunk, and, finally, stole a horse for the getaway. A few days later,
he constructed a small raft and his pursuers lost his trail on the
wild and dangerous rapids of the area. His escape ended safely at
an army post.
Moreno´s devotion to investigation and science was such that
even as he was being pursued and with his life at risk, he still