The economy of Mendoza is based in tourism, agribusiness, oil and commerce, and to a lesser extent mining, cattle farming and forestry.
Of economic importance traditionally are vine, fruit, and vegetable growing and products derived from this (grape and other juices, wine, preserves, etc.) along with the production of other goods and development of the metallurgic industry. The growth of tourism is directly linked to the increasing importance of Mendoza as a location for conferences and conventions.
The province has the necessary infrastructure for manufacture, (with eight industrial parks), finance, commerce, services and tourism.
Mendoza us the main wine producing center of Latin America and Argentina, having 70% of the country’s vineyards and producing 70% of its wines. In the region’s 1.200 wineries, some of which use traditional methods, the majority using advanced technology, the finest wines are produced –national and internationality recognized champagne, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and the highly acclaimed Mendoza Malbec, amongst others. Year after year, the quality of these wines is proven in all the main fairs and competitions of the world.
However, there is also an important market for crafts made using traditional methods (leather braiding, weaving of alpaca, llama, vicuna, and sheep wool and basket weaving), and regional products such as sweets, preserves, spirits and pickles.
The freshest and most delicious fruits produced in the region are displayed and sold in Gran Mendoza, in the Guaymallén and Godoy Cruz Ferias de Concentración. Equally, the historic Mercado Central (central market), in the heart of the provincial capital, offers an excellent variety of food, from the exotic to the local.
History and Culture
Before the arrival of the Spanish, several different indigenous groups occupied the modern day province of Mendoza, including the Huarpes and the Incas. They called the region ‘Cuyum Mapu’, which means ‘land of sand’ in reference to the dryness of the soil. They were persistent in their work with nature and had great ingenuity for dominating the rugged geography of the region. By channeling the water from the snow melt in the mountains into irrigation channels, they were able to cultivate the dry earth and so began the creation of the oasis which exists today.
On the 2nd March 1561, Pedro del Castillo arrived in the region, sent by his friend and leader, the Spanish governor García Hurtado de Mendoza, and on his command founded the city of Mendoza, Nuevo Valle de la Rioja.
Mendoza was to be founded for a third time, the result of a tragic earthquake which rocked the city of the 20th March 1861, ironically almost exactly 300 years after its first formation. The city was completely destroyed so a new site was found. The engineer Julio Balloffet designed the basic outline for the city’s current location, with the center as the present Plaza Independencia, and the main civic centers and homes of the most distinguished families were relocated there.
A short distance from here, the old quarter around the Plaza Pedro del Castillo remains today, transformed into de Área Fundacional, where part of the archaeological heritage of the city has been preserved.
It is thanks to the combination of Huarpe, Inca, and Spanish cultures, as well as those of the European immigrants who began to come to the region from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, that villages and later cities began to be established in the surrounding desert. And so a beautiful city was shaped, following the traditional colonial chess board pattern, but with its typical irrigation channels, fountains, numerous parks and beautiful squares.
Mendoza’s position on the corridor between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in the center-west of the Argentina has led to its particular network of roads. The region has more than 18.000 km of roads, 4.000 km of which are paved.
The primary road network links the most important national and provincial roads and is fundamental for tourism, allowing access to the region, movement within the region and along tourist routes.
Ruta Nacional Nº 40 is the north-south axis which crosses the whole province through the foothills of the mountains, linking the main cities of the region, from the province of Jujuy in the northwest to Santa Cruz province in Patagonia.
The east-west axis is the Ruta Nacional Nº 7 which links Mendoza with Chile in the west, (by the Túnel Internacional Cristo Redentor in the Andes), Buenos Aires in the east, the northeast of Argentina and the other countries in the Mercosur economic community.
Other national roads n the province are of importance for tourism too, such as the 142 which links Gran Mendoza with the tourist area of Huanacache (Lavalle), and with the provinces of San Juan and Córdoba via the Altas Cumbres, or the 143 which leads to the south of the province (Pareditas, San Rafael, Alvear) and then, by route 188, to the provinces of La Pampa and Buenos Aires.
Mendoza city is located in the foothills of the Andes, where the highest and most attractive peak of America, Aconcagua, is situated. The capital has a population of 131.927 and covers an area of 57.57 Km², and, together with the other departments of the metropolitan area, Las Heras, Godoy Cruz, Guaymallén, Luján and Maipú, is the fourth city of Argentina. This urban area, known as Gran Mendoza, has one million inhabitants and is the most important in the region of Cuyo (consisting of the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and San Luis).
Situated in the north of the province, the metropolitan area of Mendoza owes its survival to the artificial irrigation which makes it an oasis. This system was first developed by the area’s native Huarpe Indians, and is fed by the Río Mendoza, which itself is fed by the snow melt from the mountains above. This water is then distributed through hundreds of kilometers of canals and irrigation channels which run parallel of the tree-lined streets.
There are hundreds of thousands of trees in the urban area, their purpose being to prevent evaporation of the water in the irrigation channels. But in addition to this, the trees help clean the air and look beautiful too, and have become an important feature of the city’s streets and squares. One amazed visitor praised the ‘brilliant idea of building a city in the middle of a forest.’ The city is greatly enhanced by its trees, water channels and wide pavements.
A wonderful example is the Parque General San Martín, and it is impossible to give a description of Mendoza without it. The park was begun in 1896 as a purifying ling for the environment, during the flight against the desert and it gives the city a particular character. Its 419 hectares, with more than 50.000 trees of 700 species brought from all over the world are the fruit of the vision, creativity and effort of several generations.
There are over 15 km of paths and walkways, taking their names from types of tree, Avenida de los Plátanos (Banana tree), de los Tilos (lime tree), de las Palmeras (palm tree), de las Tipas (a yellow-flowered hardwood tree) to name just a few. El Rosedal (rose garden) is situated on the banks of an artificial lake, 1.000m in length, where races are held and visitors can hire boats.
The park’s majestic gates were brought from England and the ‘caballitos de Marly’ are a replica of the ones on the Champs Elysées in Paris. They are just two of the park’s many attractive features, along with the imposing monument to the Ejército de los Andes(Andean Army) and San Martín who liberated the region from Spain, and from its position on the very top of the ‘Cerro de la Gloria’, there are spectacular views over the whole city.
Within the park there is a zoo, built on the side of the ‘Cerro de la Gloria’, the Teatro Griego ‘Frank Romero Day’ where the most important part of the Wine Harvest Festival takes place, the ‘Malvinas Argentinas’ football stadium, a cycle track, the Museo de Ciencias Naturales y Antropológicas ‘Juan Cornelio Moyano’, the Miniteatro ‘Pulgarcito’ , the showground of the Unión Comercial e Industrial de Mendoza, the Ciudad Universitaria and the Parque de la Ciencia y Tecnología Eureka, the only interactive center of its type in the country.
The metropolitan area of Mendoza manages to preserve its cultural heritage as it grows and tries to remain in equilibrium with the desert, its natural environment. At the same time it has all the services you would expect of a large city, a wide variety of business and cultural and artistic activities.
Visitors interested in shopping could choose the center of Mendoza city, where the most important shops are found on Avenida San Martín, Avenida Las Heras and the Peatonal, where there are many tea rooms with tables in the open air. There are also picturesque Persian Markets and craft fairs to suit all tastes, as well as the historic Mercado Central where the widest variety of fruit, vegetables, fresh meat and fish are for sale, along with spices and more exotic foods.
Mendoza has its own unique character. An excellent way to discover it is by talking the classic city tour offered by local travel agents. Or you could explore on foot, simply following the suggested route.
The city’s squares are particularly attractive, so walks have been mapped out and by following the map of ‘Circuitos Peatonales de Mendoza’, you will discover all the important sites as you enjoy the beautiful squares.
Wine Harvest Festival
Since nineteenth century the people of Mendoza have celebrated the wine harvest. In those days at the beginning of autumn the celebrations at each winery would take place between the rows of vines. The most beautiful grape picker would be chosen and the music and dancing would be in her honor.
The tradition grew until it reached the city, and, due to popular demand, a provincial decree was passed and so in 1936 the first Wine Harvest Festival of Mendoza was held, with a carousel and public show. Over the years ceremonies were added, such as the Bendición de los Frutos, (the blessing of the fruit), the Vía Blanca de las Reinas (parade of the queens) and the main show which began to tale on great significance. Today it is the oldest and most traditional festival in the country, with over sixty years’ worth of celebrations and queens.
Activities start in January, when the blessing of the fruits, a liturgical ceremony presided over by the Virgen de la Carrodilla, the patron of the vineyards, which takes place in the Prado Gaucho of the Parque General San Martín. At the beginning of March, on the Friday evening before the main ceremony, the Vía Blanca de las Reinas is held. This is a parade of brightly colored floats which pass through the main avenues in the center of the city. Each float represents a different department of the province and carries each department’s elected queen, accompanied by her entourage.
The following morning the show is repeated, but there are also traditional groups of gauchos who show off their horse riding skills, leather and silver implements and traditional clothing. The communities who take part in the job of wine making also take part in the show, such as Italians, Spanish, Bolivians, Chileans and others, with their traditional music and costumes. The show ends with the parade of the majorettes and vehicles which show the produce, business and services of the region. These two ceremonies annually involve around 300.000 people.
Finally on the night of the first Saturday in March, the central show of the Wine Harvest Festival takes place in the Teatro Griego ‘Frank Romero Day’, located at the foot of the hill, in the open air. With this imposing backdrop, there is a son et lumière show watched by 30.000 people from the stands and the hills around.
Over 1.000 artists from Mendoza take part in the show. The first part combines dance with light and sound and an amazing set. Then in the second part, the National Wine Harvest Queen is chosen and crowned, amidst feverish participation from the audience. Finally the show is brought to a spectacular close by a firework display.
The following night this main ceremony is repeated, presided over by the new Queen, and ends with a performance by internationally famous Argentinian musicians.
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