Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jesuit Missionaries Bring The Apple To Pantagonia

The generally accepted explanation of the apple in this region is that it was introduced by the early Jesuit missionaries. The oldest record found is that in the diary of D. Basilio Villarino, pilot of the royal armada, who had been ordered to lead an expedition up the Rio Negro from the sea for the purpose of reaching Valdivia on the Pacific coast by an overland route. His voyage lasted 8 months, from the twenty-eighth day of September 1782 to the twentyfifth day of May, 1783, only three weeks of which were needed for the
return. Hardly a month out, October 26, and not yet far from the Atlantic coast, he speaks of the  tierra de las Manzanas (apple land), about which he had heard through the Indians that were accustomed to descend to the Pampas in search of cattle and horses. By January 23 he had reached the juncture of the rivers Ncuquen and Limay, and ascending the latter, about three weeks later, his advance party brought in branches from apple trees found on the banks of a small stream flowing into the Limay from the west. Unfortunately, for the purpose of his expedition, Villarino did not continue to follow the Limay to its source, but went up the Colloncura which was more easy of navigation; he then probably proceeded up the Chimehuin, a river flowing into the Colloncura from the west just a little north of the 40th parallel, to the neighborhood of lake Hucchulaufquen. Almost daily. while navigating up these two rivers, his scouting parties brought in apples that they had got by barter from the Indians. He mentions apples weighing as high as 17 ounces and remarks about what good apple gatherers the Indians were as they never left "even one" on the trees found by his men. The Indians made chicha from them, evidently a kind of cider, and orejones, dried apples. The following is a literal translation of the entry in Villarino's diary for the twenty-ninth of April, 1783, probably written not very far from the present town of Junin de los Andes:

Read Villarino's diary entry (here) contained in the book, The Journal of Heredity
Photo of a wild apple tree in Argentina is from the same book, the essay is called, APPLES OF THE CORDILLERAS: A Notable Case of Plant Migration—Fruit Now Grows Wild in Profusion Introduced by Spaniards and Immediately Took Possession of the Country—Account of Early Explorer  by Walter Fischer of Washington, D. C.

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