The wild nature of the Gran Chaco has changed little since then – it is beautiful and terrible
The wild nature of the Gran Chaco has changed little since then – it is beautiful and terrible (especially for Europeans), it fully justifies the nickname “Green Hell” given to this vast region. The name of this natural zone is made up of the Spanish word “gran” (“big”) and “chaco” (in local Indian tribes – “hunting field”). “Chako” – a special kind of collective hunting, when the Indians surround a fairly large field, then gradually narrowed the circle, not letting go of the prey, driving it into the center and all together hammered. The fauna of Gran Chaco is really rich and represents for the hunters real expanse: marsh deer, tapirs, jaguars, howlers and bakers, nutria and cougars, armadillos. The Spaniards transferred the name of the type of hunting to the place of hunting – the word “chako” was fixed with the designation of a wooded plain, unlike a pampa – a treeless South American plain.
The administrative territory belongs to Argentina (40%), Bolivia (35%), Paraguay (20%) and Brazil (5%). Gran Chaco is a vast, sparsely populated region in central South America that covers the northern part of the Low Plains Lowland (50-70 m above the sea level) and the foothills of the Andes in the west (height of 500-600 m). In the south, the natural boundary is represented by the Rio Salado (in translation “salty river”: in many local rivers and in almost all lakes, water is characterized by increased salinity).
Most of the territory of this region falls on the basin of the large South American rivers Paraguay and Parana . From north to south the region is almost twice as long (more than 1500 km) than from east to west (up to 750 km in the widest places). The southern part and partly the north-east of the region are swamped. Given the uncomfortably high summer temperatures, which reach + 47 ° C and are the highest on the mainland, one can understand why this region acquired the nickname “green hell”.
It would seem that there is everything for a happy life – fertile soils, diverse vegetation (forests along river banks, marsh lands, savannahs and plantations of cacti make up independent ecosystems), an abundance of potential prey for hunters. But with such unbearable heat, hordes of mosquitoes and sharp temperature changes (in winter, for example, at high daily rates at night, the thermometer can drop below zero and tropical vegetation is covered with the most real frost), the region still remains underdeveloped.
In the XX century. the semi-abandoned South American “hunting field” became a field of serious battles: first for potential oil reserves, then for the economic opportunities of the region and, ultimately, for the restoration of its ecology.
Even before the independence of the South American countries, the Gran Chaco became a disputed territory. First, Argentina claimed its rights to part of these lands (south of the Rio Bermejo River). The northern part of the Gran Chaco was extremely interested in Brazil, and then neighboring Bolivia, which since the end of the XIX century. raised the issue of the official definition of borders and began in every possible way to encourage “their” natives to develop the neighboring region in order to subsequently organically join the lands. Bolivia, which lost territorial access to the sea, it was vital to get at least an outlet to the Paraguay River.