|Elevation||1 m (3 ft)|
|Population (2001 census [INDEC])|
|CPA Base||B 7165|
|Area code(s)||+54 2255|
Villa Gesell is a seaside village in Villa Gesell Partido, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. It was founded in 1931, afforestating a dune field. The growth of the city allowed it to annex the nearby cities of Mar de las Pampas, Las Gaviotas and Mar Azul.
The town is named after Carlos Idaho Gesell, the son of German economist Silvio Gesell. Carlos Gesell bought wood at Tigre for his business, and wanted to plant pines somewhere near Mar del Plata to reduce costs. Gesell was not planning to build a town at that point. Héctor Guerrero told him of 16.48 km2 (6.36 sq mi) of sand dunes on sale for 28,000 pesos, and Gesell bought them in 1931 when he checked for the existence of groundwater in the area. The coastline was 10 km (6.21 mi) long. He immediately began to forest the area, and built a house for himself in 1932. This house is now a municipal museum.
The forestation work did not proceed as expected: the strong saline winds moved the sand and harmed the plants, exposing and drying their roots. Gesell hired German agronomist Carlos Bodesheim in 1934, who could not find a solution. He then implemented two new ideas. First, he planted a high number of beneficial weeds, capable of surviving in the dunes, in order to anchor the sand in place. He planted trees with tubed roots, so that the roots sought water deeper in the ground and the wind could not tear them. Losses were still high, but decreasing. In 1938 he learned about the Australian Acacia longifolia, which was well adapted to the sand and the saline winds, and increased the ratio of nitrogen fixation. The Acacia was a success, and he arranged the plants so that the Acacias protected the pines from the wind.
Carlos Gesell lived permanently in the area from 1937 on. He began to run out of money in 1940, so he built a small timeshare named "La Golondrina" (Spanish: The swallow). The first tourists were the Starks. Mr. Stark was manager of the local branch of the Siemens corporation. The Starks promoted the town back in Buenos Aires, and more tourist accommodations were built. The town was linked to Provincial Route 11 in 1943.
With new houses for tourists and the local population, the area was turned into a proper urban settlement, so Gesell began to see after the needed urban services, such as the supply of food, electric power, gasoline and a car workshop. He banned alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and any other things he deemed as a vice. He strongly opposed the establishment of a local casino, which was finally established at the nearby town of Pinamar. The city saw a large European immigration during World War II, who built the first hotels and themed restaurants. Most Italians worked as construction laborers, and most Spaniards administrated the shops and hotels. Urban development grew even more in the 1960s, as people that bought land and built houses in six months or less were refunded half of the land's original price.
The settlement gradually expanded stretching along the coastline, and today continues its growth has annexed three more resorts to the south, namely, Mar de las Pampas, Las Gaviotas and Mar Azul. Villa Gesell has been a popular tourist destination since the 1940s.
In recent years Villa Gesell was known as a touristic destination for teenagers, but the current administrations seek to change this and aim instead for mature tourists. The "Gesell Rock", an annual rock festival, is not celebrated anymore, replaced for family-oriented musical shows.
Being a coastal city, the main tourist attraction in Villa Gesell is the beach. The Villa Gesell beach is 10 km (6 mi) long, with a soft slope, and a variety of spas built alongside; the annexed cities of Mar de las Pampas, Las Gaviotas and Mar Azul extend the beachside to 21 km (13 mi). The city has a staff of 150 lifeguards.
There is a lighthouse 30 km (19 mi) to the south, surrounded by a forest; some houses organize adventure tourism visit to the forest. It is the second highest lighthouse in the coast of the Buenos Aires province, second only to the one in Bahía Blanca. The area around the lighthouse works as a natural reserve as well.
The city has a zoo, a golf field, a market of crafts and many discos.
Villa Gesell and Pinamar, both tourist cities, have a regional rivalry about the type of tourist trade they cater to. Pinamar aims for wealthy Argentine tourists, while Villa Gesell aims for those in the middle class.
The city is served by Aeropuerto de Villa Gesell.
Villa Gesell is built parallel to the coastline, along a main avenue. The architecture has a mix of styles, with buildings of different sizes, shapes and colours. The urban development at the beaches proved to be harmful for nature, as the beach became gradually smaller each year. The city sought to revert this effect, and when the franchises of each spa began to expire, they were not renovated. The buildings made with bricks and concrete were demolished, and replaced with smaller buildings made of wood. Automobile traffic was banned next to the beach, and each beach lease was allowed a maximum of 80 tents.
- Rosemarie Gesell (1983). Carlos I. Gesell, su vida. Villa Gesell: Martínez Salas. ISBN 950-562-751-3.
- Historia de Villa Gesell (Spanish)
- Villa Gesell, la playa de los jóvenes (Spanish)
- La Playa Archived May 31, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. (Spanish)
- Paseos y excursiones Archived May 31, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. (Spanish)
- Faro Querandí Archived May 31, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. (Spanish)
- La Reserva Archived May 31, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. (Spanish)
- Villa Gesell (Spanish)
- Villa Gesell y Pinamar, "hippies" y "chetos": la guerra del verano que enfrenta a los adolescentes (Spanish)
- Menos cemento, más madera y arena (Spanish)
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