The following text, in homage to the 500 years of Patagonia, is included in the book that commemorates the 90 years of the creation of the Argentine Academy of Letters. It is written by the professor and Doctor of Letters, César Fernández, a native of Alto Valle.

On March 31, 1520, the ships of Fernando de Magallanes arrived at Puerto San Julián in the current Province of Santa Cruz. They would stay there for about five months, waiting for a milder climate to face the next stage. During that time, the navigators toured the territory and made contact with the flora and fauna of the region, as well as with its inhabitants.

Antonio Pigafetta tells in his chronicle the details about that first trip around the world, a trip that would be very fruitful from the linguistic point of view, since new place names would be provided such as, among others, the Pacific Ocean, Tierra del Fuego, Cabo Deseado, Santa Cruz River, Magellan Strait, San Julián port, Virgin Cape and the first name of Argentina: Patagonians .

Pigafetta, describing the customs of that town, says in this regard: Their food consists of raw meat and a root that they call Capac. Each one of us on board ate a basket daily. The current name of the Strait recognizes a varied path. The first name was “from All Saints” (Antonio PIGAFETTA, First trip around the world, Buenos Aires, White Elephant, 2001, p. 154, n. 38). However, on the map that Pigafetta drew up, “Streto patagónico” appears, written in Italian; later, it would go on to have the current name of “Strait of Magellan”, in homage to its discoverer. It refers to the natives who were in the biscuit flagship, and also, without skinning them, how many mice he could catch on the ship. With one breath they drank half a bucket of water. Magallanes gave these people the name of Patagones.

According to these data, Cápac and Patagones would be two of the first Americanisms that are registered in the territory of what centuries later would be called Argentina.

Some studies refer to camalote as the probable word that would have the first dating of Argentinism, although without declaring it as such or being so explicit. Manuel de Lavardén analyzed it in his poem “Al Paraná”, in 1801, and even made some observations about it. Barcia points out that the poet omitted to write down other words of a regional character that appear in his text, such as amaranth, Patagonian, cayman, junco.

Corominas gives the first camalote dating in 1609, while Pigafetta records the words of yore in the year 1520, almost a century earlier. Another aspect is related to the language or linguistic group that the Patagonians would make up. Fernández Garay and Hernández indicate that “they would be southern Tehuelches, although it is presumed that they would belong to the boreal group that spoke Teushen”. According to Viegas Barros, this language would have become extinct at the beginning of the 20th century.

On the identity and origin of «Patagones / Patagonia» 1, there is a wide bibliography in which this etymology has been debated and in which it is concluded that Patagón was the name of a character in the chivalric novel of the Palmerines cycle. This novel was published in 1512 and it is presumed that Magellan would have read it, as he was fond of the genre; It was also published prior to his trip, and for the election of such a name he would have been inspired by one of its characters.

With regard to capac, it is a word ignored in dictionaries by specialists. This indigenismo has not been recorded as Americanism or Hispanicism, nor does it appear in the DiHA. The term is mentioned for the second time in Pigafetta’s account when presenting the list of eighty-three words used by the Patagonians that the chronicler translates into Italian and Spanish. It says: “Capac, root that serves as bread.”

In a recent publication, Graciela Barreiro analyzes this term and points out that probably the kind of “bread” that the Patagonians ate would be the Bolax gummifera , whose territorial distribution is within the area traveled by travelers, while the Bolax caespitosa, the another umbelliferous or similar species, which also responds to the characteristics of capac, would be outside that region. The first species has trilobed leaves and the next, simple leaves.

These are perennial shrubs about two meters in diameter and no more than eight inches tall that bloom in the spring in stony areas. They belong to the apiaceae family and are cushion-shaped and have a powdery appearance. They are roots with a sweet flavor that were used to make bread flour and with which the Patagonians were fed. The roots or bread would have been eaten raw or on the embers until the middle of the 20th century. The etymology of this word would be teushen-aonikenk or tehuelche and it would be the first indigenous word in Patagonia.

Just as Christopher Columbus registered canoa, an Arawak-Taíno etymology word, in his Diary, and this was the first Americanism to enter the Spanish language, so it was also up to Pigafetta to incorporate Cápac as an indigenism that along with Patagonians would also be the first Argentinisms.

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