Pucón, at the shores of the Villarrica Lake, is located in the Araucanía Region, which is the main territory where the Mapuche people live in Chile. For years the region suffered the struggle of the Spanish conquerors trying to annex the land to the rest of the country, and the firm resistence that the indians put against them. However, the process called the "Pacification of the Araucanía” finally was completed towards the end of the 19th century, and was later reinforced with the colonization by Centereurope inmigrants sponsored by the Chilean Government at the time of the century turn.
Hence Pucón, which in Mapudungun means “enter to the mountains”, was founded on February 27th, 1883. To make it possible to establish the town, the commander of the Chilean Army Gregorio Urrutia sealed a pact with the local cacique Pocollanca, leader of the Mapuche in the zone. The original settlement was made where the main square is nowadays, and it had the characteristics of a military fort at first. The Mapuche people was sent to "reductions" in Quelhue, Palguín Bajo and Curarrehue.
Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the Chilean Government sponsored the colonization of the new annexed territories, inviting Centereuropean inmigrants to come to the region. That is how the young town received new neighbours with the arrival of the families Geiss, Nappe, Holzapfel, Gudenschwager, Quezada, Matus and Ansorena. Also among the oldest families of Pucón there are the Panguilef and Painepán. Years later, there was another migratory wave, this time from the Middle East, with the merchant families Eltit and Zerené.
During the first years, the base of Pucón's economy was the forest and agricultural production, the trade of timber and livestock. In 1923 the Hotel Gudenschwager was founded at La Poza, which was a strategic place right by the pier where the boats arrived from Villarrica, the only means of communication with the outer world in the time. The touristic impulse started with the construction in 1934 of the Gran Hotel Pucón next to the main beach. The Chilean Government built this luxury complex with a park and golf court. The idea was to promote the region as a paradise for sport fishing. And having this kind of public in mind, during the '40s new hotels were built, like the Hotel Antumalal by Guillermo Pollack.
Also in the 40s was opened the road that connects Villarrica with Pucón, which meant a big progress for the region, since until then all kind of communication was only possible through the boats that navigated the lake. Towards the end of the 60s the road got paved, giving a new impulse to the touristic industry, making it easier the arrival of visitors to the zone.
Today, in the 21st century, Pucón is connected with the world. And thanks to its undeniable natural beauties, it is considered one of the main touristic destinations in Chile, welcoming every year thousands of national and international visitors. The influence of the pionners that arrived to the region almost 150 yeas ago is still there in the name of the main streets, and important local institutions are still under the management of the descendants of those pioneers, like the Hotel Antumalal, Termas Huife and the Supermarket Eltit, just to mention some.
The Mapuche roots are also still present, since most of the places in the region have names in Mapudungun (Catripulli, Curarrehue, Huerquehue, Caburgua, etc). Some years ago was inaugurated a Mapuche Museum in Pucón, which displays a collection of objects, artifacts and jewelry. There has been also an impulse to the indigenous gastronomy, that is possible to taste at Curarrehue, and there has been an attempt too to rescue the legacy of the original owners of this land, their traditions and customs, like the celebration of the We Tripantru (Mapuche's New Year).
Pucón is today a mixture of people that is still arriving to this region full of dreams, projects and ideas, just the same as the first pionners did. Many have come from other parts of Chile, hoping for better chances and quality of life. And even it is far-fetched to talk about a "migratory wave", every year many foreigners arrive seduced by the beauty of this place, with the idea of making this land their new home. According to the National Census of 2002, Pucón registered 13.837 inhabitants, and was proportionally one of the cities with biggest growth in the country.