The La Plata Basin: Rivers, Plains, and Societies in the Southern Cone


The social history of the La Plata River Basin has been intrinsically tied to its landscapes and their transformation. This article divides the history of this region into three overarching periods in a process of intensifying natural resource use. European conquest introduced free-ranging cattle ranching and the gaucho, who has become a symbol of national identities. In the late-nineteenth century a flood of immigrants arrived and transformed the grasslands for sheep and grain production. The industrialisation of the mid-twentieth century has taken a huge toll on the environment, in the form of deforestation, erosion, and pollution.