Río Gallegos is the capital of the Patagonia province of Santa Cruz, Argentina. It has a population in the 2001 census was 79,000. The city is on the estuary of the Gallegos River, 2,636 km south of Buenos Aires.
The river was first sighted by the European explorer Jofré De Loaiza in 1525. Simón de Alcazaba's 1535 expedition named the river "Río Gallegos". The first European settlement did not come until 1885, when the Argentine government was concerned with promoting its sovereignty over southern Patagonia. Between 1912 and 1920, the government encouraged settlers from the Falkland Islands and southern Chile with financial inducments. This attracted around 3,000 settlers. As sheep-farming increased, Río Gallegos became the principal port for exporting sheep and their products.
The town has a Pioneer Museum complete with old Patagonian house and an exhibition about the life of the early settlers.
In 1957, the Territory of Santa Cruz was declared a Province, with Mario Cástulo Paradelo as its first Governor.
In the 1982 Falklands War the city airport was the base for the Argentine Air Force Mirage III interceptors and A-4 Skyhawks strike aircraft which bombed the Falklands and the British Navy. Today tension appeared to have relaxed someewhat and Río Gallegos is an important city with military bases and an international airport. Flights between Chile and Mount Pleasant airbase at the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas stop at Río Gallegos once a month.