Pirque is a fertile and cultivate land, protected by the foothills of the mountain range on the east, south, and west. The Maipo River is its northern border, separating it from the city of Santiago, and in the south its lands are crossed by the Clarillo River. Pirque is an end destination in and of itself; you don’t go through Pirque to get to anywhere else. This transforms it into a protected, almost isolated location that has preserved its traditions and lifestyle, rural, peaceful, and picturesque.
The beginnings of Pirque can be traced to the Pre-Columbian period when the Picunche natives inhabited the area. In the mid-XVI century, the valley was divided between the lands of Don Alonso de Córdova and of Don Rodrigo de Quiroga, husband of Doña Inés de Suárez. With the end of this marriage, Don Alonso purchased these lands from Cacique Sebastián, and all of Pirque began to be called El Principal de Córdoba. In 1620, Córdova’s widow, Victoria Urbina, sold the property, and since then it has changed owners several times.
This led Pirque to a slow decline until 1764 when Don José de Gana purchased it and rebuilt the facilities of Pirque. Don José died in 1786, and his Gana Darrigrandi children inherited it. The descendants of these children sold the property to Don Ramón Subercaseaux Mercado. Just over 40 years old when he bought the property, Ramón Subercaseaux was a successful mining businessman who executed the most important construction of the time in Pirque: the excavation of the Pirque Canal which to this day distributes the waters it takes from the Maipo River throughout the valley. Thanks to this major construction and other advancements, in 1854 Pirque was the third richest property of the Province of Santiago. Ramón Subercaseaux died in 1859, and in 1864 the Pirque hacienda was divided into six estates among his children and wife: Magdalena Vicuña who inherited Santa Rita, Manuela who inherited La Isla, his son Antonio who inherited El Cruceral, Doña Emiliana who inherited El Llano, Carmela who inherited San Juan, and Francisco, his youngest son, who inherited Las Majadas when he was just 21 years old.
Francisco, a young and brilliant businessman and a tireless traveler, would travel to Pirque to his mother’s house and to visit his tenant, Manuel Jesús Carvajal, who cultivated the famous “empastadas” of Las Majadas. He wanted to have a house on his estate, and much earlier planted a park on the rolling foothills at the foot of the canal that his father built. Many years later, he built a small but elegant colonial house in the middle of the trees that he had planted. In one of his trips, his children, the Subercaseaux Browne, wanted to surprise him, and in 1905 commissioned a new house for Las Majadas to Architect Alberto Cruz Montt, which was later built on the site of the old construction. The park was commissioned to Landscape Architect Guillermo Renner, who redesigned it taking advantage of the existing trees and planting numerous other exotic species, following the tradition of the time.
In 1907, and due to the saltpeter crisis, Francisco Subercaseaux was forced to sell many of his properties to pay off debts, but kept Las Majadas, which was inherited by his wife at the time of his death. The property stayed in the family until it was sold to Don Julio Nieto, a successful farmer in the Aconcagua Valley, in 1928. At the time of his death, the property was inherited by his only son José Julio Nieto Espínola, who assumed and promoted major agricultural work in what is now known as the Las Majadas estate. Together with his wife, Elvira Varas Montt, Don José Julio made Las Majadas their home. Their children, Hortensia, Isabel, Luz, Elvira, Julio, and Antonio, grew up here and saw how farming works and family life with their cousins mixed with social events, such as the party to celebrate the transfer of power to President Don Gabriel González Videla, or the reception of the Vice-President of the United States, Mr. Wallace, or Prince Bernard of Holland. Also memorable were the missions carried out in its chapel with the Capuchin Fathers where hundreds of people congregated every summer.
After the death of Don José Julio Nieto in 1972, the property was divided among his children, and the house passed into the hands of Doña Elvira Varas who every summer would bring her family together in Las Majadas. When Doña Elvira Varas de Nieto died in 1987, her descendants had to take charge of the property. They opened the park to the community for the successful and anticipated concerts of the Rosita Renard Foundation, and also developed a real estate project that attracted new neighbors around the heart of the Park.
It was in 2006 when a young Argentinian entrepreneur, Wenceslao Casares, discovered the park with the house and fell in love with it, purchasing it to make it his home. Business led Wenceslao to ultimately settle down in Palo Alto, California, and Las Majadas was left to continue looking for a noble destiny. In 2010, Wenceslao and his friend Pablo Bosch, a Chilean businessman, partnered together, along with Diego Valenzuela, to turn Las Majadas into the first place in Latin America to develop bridges between different people with common goals, bridges between people based on trust and reciprocity, a true factory of human networks, what Philosopher Francis Fukuyama defines as Social Capital.
Learn about the reconstruction and rescue process of the Las Majadas de Pirque park here