SANTIAGO – Timaukel, a municipality on the southern tip of South America in the heart of Chilean Patagonia, is seeking 145 families willing to settle and build a town in one of the most sparsely populated corners of the Earth.
“Just this past weekend, we received 1,600 information requests via e-mail,” Mayor Alfonso Simunovic told Efe. “We didn’t expect to attract so much interest.”
The new town will be in the Pampa Guanaco area, located some 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Porvenir, the capital of Tierra del Fuego province.
Currently, 25 people live in the village, which has a small school, a police station, an airstrip, plenty of guanacos and hundreds of sheep.
In two years, the inhospitable spot, reachable only via a dirt road, will be ready to welcome about 700 settlers, who will be given 450-sq.-meter (4,800-sq.-foot) lots to build houses, Simunovic said.
The conditions for receiving lots have not been determined, but Simunovic said applicants would be required to submit proposals for tourism, business and service ventures that would ensure “a sustainable future for the town.”
Pampa Guanaco, located less than 16 kilometers (10 miles) east of the Argentine border, “is a strategic point for accessing Blanco, Deseado and Despreciado lakes and reaching Maria Sound and Lake Fagnano, from where a road will be built to Puerto Williams, the world’s southernmost town,” the mayor said.
The 145 new houses will be built with design standards that will give the town a consistent look.
People already living in Tierra del Fuego will have priority in obtaining lots, which will also be offered to families from other regions in Chile and even foreigners, if not enough Chileans are interested in the village, Simunovic said.
This is the first project of this type in Chile, but other countries have adopted different strategies to populate areas with a minimal human presence in recent years.
One was the project in Plan, a tiny Spanish village in the Pyrenees, where a “women’s caravan” was organized in 1985 to revitalize the town, where only 40 single men and one woman lived.
A newspaper ad calling for “women 20 to 40 years of age, with marital intentions, willing to go to a Pyrenees village,” resulted in 33 marriages that pumped new life into the bucolic mountain village.