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Neuquén: population growth and collective identity See map

The current Neuquén society is formed from a particular historical process with touches that give a specific profile in the whole Patagonian provinces.

This process begins with the military occupation, the destruction of most of the native population and the repopulation of the territory with migrants from neighboring provinces, overmountains and overseas.

The peculiar characteristics of the landscape of Neuquén and the interaction environment-man helps to understand the unique local identity that society is acquiring and taking over the twentieth century. The people make different strategies for adaptation to the harsh climatic conditions and to exploit natural resources. The first settlements are delineated by the central government when there were created the National Territories to defend the border. Later, the advance of the laying of the railway, the construction of irrigation works, the discovery of oil and gas and the operation of hydroelectric dams constitute pull factors of population in different historical moments.

Indeed, exploitation of natural resources by both the National State as by private initiative, enables, in different stages, the establishment of population. This economic development generates a set of productive, commercial and administrative activities that complicate the provincialization and changed substantially with the realization of complex El Chocón-Cerros Colorados.

The dam attracts popular sectors as workforce and professionals and technicians in addition to those that come with multinational corporations, leading, in the early seventies, a population explosion that demands more and better services. In this sense, the state of Neuquén implemented a series of policies and public works focused on education, health and housing. Among them we can mention the Provincial Health Plan (1973), the creation of the National University of Comahue (1971) and the construction of schools and housing plans. In the context of "modernization" (1958-1976) of provincial legal-administrative and economic structure, it is begun to respond to the social infrastructure needs.

Population growth and social complexity resulting from the process, significantly change consumption patterns and sociability. As a result, some activities are invigorated and transformed and new jobs are generated from state action that is in addition to those caused by fruit and oil activities. Simultaneously, the number of professionals arriving the city reverses the dependence in previous years with Río Negro province, making Neuquén in a regional reference regarding the provision of some specialized services, such as certain medical benefits that do not count with locations neighbors.

By the end of the 70's, especially the direct and indirect impact of the works in El Chocín is outlined in the provincial capital a tendency to incorporate middle sectors from other provinces and from the interior of the same, a feature that takes momentum in the 80's. The emergence of this new layer shows that it was operating a modernization in society in general, present in both the consumption style of the middle classes as the recruiting process state. Internal migration caused the depopulation of rural areas and the concentration in the capital and other shanty towns, mainly in the Department Confluencia.

The provincial growth reaches its peak in the eighties to form the basis of conception Neuquén island, built by the local government. With the crisis of the nineties, the privatization of state enterprises, it is evident the exhaustion of the model and it is opened the possibility of greater unification of the Upper Valley, surpassing the existing administrative boundaries with Río Negro to form a main economic, social, technological and cultural scenario of the Patagonia in twenty-first century.

Similarly, the identity condition leads to a constant dynamic reconstruction in different historical moments. In the case of Neuquén in general, one could think of two stages: one from the "Conquest of the Desert" with the creation of the National Territory and the other related in material and ideal terms to the socio-cultural transformations in the region operated from the works of El Chocón, which substantively alter patterns and behaviors in the population.

The territorial phase gives to the existing small population a collective identity rooted in the idea of ​​the pioneers, that in terms of Gregorio Alvarez are the "first settlers who came to populate the land of Neuquén, blacksmiths at the anvil of the will and work that make the Patagonian desert into a garden". The people of Neuquén belonging to these old families reinforce in these attributes the local identity.

In the second stage, the population boom spurs the traditional values ​​of land and labor, that combines with the new: social mobility in a society under construction. This reality is experienced both by ancient people as by those who lie in Neuquén in recent years.

In this sense, the provincial authorities are committed to finding symbolic elements that reinforce the Neuquénś identity. It was thus that the realization of the symbolic was made through the shield (Law 16/58), the flag (Law 1817/89) and the provincial song, creating an appropriation of registered uses and interpretations among citizens.

The crisis of the 90 leads to a strengthening of the identity from the state. To insert in the work market in the public sphere regulations that favor natives or former residents of the province against the newcomers were promulgated.

The identity of the Neuquén is rooted in history and is presented as an inevitable factor for the technicians who developed the Draft Neuquén 2020, who say: "greater identity to further globalization". Given this, we ask how the state will nurture this particular identity against the strong impact of globalized values ​​imposed from global hegemonic centers?

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