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Julius Popper.
Julius Popper with a killed Ona. In late 19th century estancieros and gold prospecters launched a campaign n of extermination against the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego.

Julius Popper (December 15, 1857 – June 5, 1893) was an engineer, adventurer and explorer of Romanian Jewish origin. He is responsible for the modern outline of the city of Havana, Cuba[citation needed]. As a "conquistador" of Tierra del Fuego in southern South America he was a controversial but influential figure.

Popper was born in Bucharest, son of professor Neftali Popper, a prosperous antiques merchant. He studied in Paris before arriving to Argentina on 1885 hoping to find gold. In 7 Sep. 1886, together with eighteen people, he as captain, chief engineer, mineralogist, journalist and photographer, they started the "Popper Expedition" and found gold dust on the beach of El Páramo, a Patagonian peninsula. Expedition was rigorously and stricly enforced after military standards with heavily armed men with Popper in direct command of everything. He succeeded in unearthing great amounts of gold and his Compania de Lavaderos de Oro del Sud realized enormous capital gains at the Argentine stock exchange.

5 grams gold coin.
1891 stamp by Popper

In Patagonia, Popper gained dominance with a private army and he issued his own coins and stamps to symbolize his power. When the Argentine peso lost its value in the market crash of 1890, even there his gold coins were regarded as currency.

Popper vigorously fought against his enemies; gold diggers and thieves were castigated after arbitrary law. However, the most controversial aspect of his life is his involvement in the genocide against the native communities in Tierra del Fuego.

Popper prepared an expedition to enforce the Argentine claim for parts of Antarctica.

After his sudden death at the age of 35 his empire collapsed. Popper died in Buenos Aires, the cause of death remains unclear, but sources reveal being assassinated in his hotel room by a stranger.

In fiction

  • Daniel Ares wrote a novel about Popper's life called Popper - la Patagonia del oro.
  • Patricio Manns makes him one of the main characters of "El Corazón a Contraluz"(1996).
  • In a play written by Céline Monsarrat: " La mère de la mariée", his story is briefly but accurately explained, and emotionally described.

External links

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