Punta Arenas is the southernmost city in Chile, being separated
from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. It has an important
location that, on the one hand keeps the city disconnected from
the rest of the world, but on the other it is the only route for
those ships that need to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific
A man with a great vision and strength noticed the strategic importance
of the place. Don José Menendez had arrived to Punta Arenas
as a poor immigrant, with only a few coins in his pockets. Thanks
to his amazing wit, and a series of smart marriages - that allowed
him to link family, finances and land resources - he ended up controlling
the destiny of Patagonia.
In 1867, the Chilean president Mr. J.J.Perez, by decree, gave facilities
to those foreigners who wanted to colonize this land and declared
Punta Arenas a free port. The city grew and started living on commerce
of supplies for the increasing number of steamboats, and the great
amounts of whalers and sea wolf hunters that sailed
the islands. Foreigners settled in Punta Arenas establishing trades,
import businesses, hotels, bars, etc.
In 1877 the government bought 300 sheep from the Falkland
Islands and sold them in Punta Arenas. During the following years
many businessmen start breeding sheep.
The pier, land, commerce, slaughterhouse, insurance, customs, shipyard,
transportation and largest ranches belonged to José Menendez
and his group of companies. These, established together with the
Braun and Nogeira clans bound to Menedez by family ties
would become a true empire.
The land registry of Patagonia showed that, during
the first decades of the 19th century, an extremely large amount
of land belonged to Menedez. Some of these ranches were among the
largest in the world.
Menedez didnt flinch at having to pull strings