La Rioja - Encyclopedia

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LA RIOJA, an Andine province of Argentina, bounded N. by Catamarca, E. by Catamarca and Cordoba, S. by San Luis and San Juan and W. by San Juan and Chile. Area, 34,546 sq. m. Pop. (1895) 69,502; (1902, estimate) 82,099. The province is traversed from N. to S. by eastern ranges of the Andes and is separated from Chile by the Cordillera itself. The western part of the province is drained by the Bermejo, which flows southward into the closed lacustrine basin of Mendoza. The eastern side of the province is arid, but in the extreme N. some small streams flow northward into Catamarca. The scanty waters of these streams are used for irrigation purposes. The principal industry of the province is that of mining, its mineral resources including gold, silver, copper, nickel, tin, cobalt, coal, alum and salt. Its best known mines are those of the Sierra de Famatina, 16,400 ft. above sea-level, where an aerial wire line is used for transportation to Chilecito in the valley below. The development of mining industries is seriously hindered by lack of water. For the same reason, agriculture is in a very backward condition. The climate is hot and dry, and there is no cultivation of the soil except in the valleys of the Cordillera and a few other places where irrigation is possible. Under these conditions, there are grown wheat (a limited extent), grapes, oranges, olives and tobacco. Alfalfa is grown to a considerable extent and is used for feeding the herds of cattle driven across country to Chile. The capital of the province is La Rioja (pop., 1904, about 6000), on the eastern flank of the Sierra de Velasco, about 1770 ft. above sealevel and near the gorge of Sanagasta, through which a small stream, also called Rioja, flows northward and affords water for the gardens, vineyards and orchards that surround it. The wines of Rioja are highly esteemed and are an important source of income for the district. The town is connected by rail with Cordoba and Catamarca. It was founded in 1591 by Velasco and in 1894 was destroyed by an earthquake from which it has only partially recovered. The most important town in the province is the mining centre of Chileci,Io, or Villa Argentina (pop., 1904, about 4000), about 2950 ft. above sea-level near the Famatina mines.

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