The Watch

Ruedas de Agua

Larmahue, Pichidegua, Chile

2002 World Monuments Watch

More than two dozen waterwheels built by the Spanish at Larmahue are among the last such agricultural devices still in use in the Americas, and constitute the largest grouping of waterwheels still in use worldwide. The waterwheels, which operate along a four-kilometer stretch of irrigation canal of possible Prehispanic origin, bear witness to the Spanish colonial contribution to agriculture in the region. A waterwheel similar in design to those at Larmahue has been reconstructed near Cordobá, Spain, and evidence of several waterwheels dating to the Middle Ages has been documented near Toledo. Waterwheels around the globe have disappeared, many replaced by mechanical devices or left crumbling from neglect. In 1988, there were 80 remaining in Chile, of these only 25 survive, 20 of which remain in use. Seventeen of the remaining waterwheels have been granted Historical Monument status, however, a plan for their preservation has yet to be developed. Their disappearance would entail the destruction of a unique cultural landscape.

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