The Indian population the once lived here in the Valdes Peninsula belonged to a Patagonian race called the Tehuelche, the word jeans a tough or difficult people.
In the year 1779, Juan de la Piedra took control of the Valdes Peninsula and all of Patagonia in the name of the Spanish Royalty and the Catholic church. They began by building along the shores of the gulf of San Jose. This fort was attacked, pillaged and burned by the Tehuelches in 1810 in one of the few battles won by the indigenous people of the area. Aside from the natural beauty of the Peninsula, commercial exploitation was soon to come.The close access to salt reserves and the large number of seal and sea lion colonies quickly became a business. Initially the salt was transported from the salt flats to the San Jose fort. In the year 1898 the desire for better exploitation of the salt reserves led to the building of a train from the flats to the bay of Piramides, the closest access to the ocean with favorable conditions. On the 14th of July 1900 Puerto Piramides was officially declared a town and its name taken from the local eroded formations surrounding the bay. With the arrival of the first world war combined with the arrival of meat packing plants in Bs.As., the need for salt diminished and the town of Puerto Piramides dwindled away. It was nearly three decades later before the town once again began to grow thanks to the whales, nature and tourism.
The livelihood of our community is directly and intimately related to the protection of this national monument:the Southern Right Whale.
Mariano VanGelderen, known locally as the Kingof the Whales, comments that, in 1972, when Jacques Cousteau arrived aboard the Calypso they observed the whales as they migrated towards the Gulf of San Jose to mate and give birth to their calves. At this same time, local divers noticed the interest that the whales created in the few tourists that visited the area. It was here that whale watching in boats began in this area and over time evolved into the formal tours that now exist.
In 1973 the first formal whale watching company was started on the shores of Puerto Piramides. Today Piramides has a stable population of just over 400. It is the only formal population and town in the Peninsula and is trying to find the balance between self sufficiency and eco-conscience together with this the local community and the thousands of tourists that visit each year.