It took time and effort for the ideas of progress brought by men and women from Europe to be implemented. It was not easy to conquer the desert. The founding fathers of the area did their part but, it was the pioneers who really pushed for the growth of the region.
Engineer Julio Jerónimo Ballofet
Ballofet was born in Saint Ettiene, France on 9 July 1831 and his life in SanIg. Julio Gerónimo Balloffet Rafael del Diamante was decisive for the agricultural and economic development. He also contributed greatly to the designing of the present city’s urban appearance.
Ballofet married Dona Aurora Suárez, daughter of the richest landowner of the region and decided to settle here despite the many difficulties presented by the arid landscape and the distance from other cities.
He founded the Aurora Fort on the shores of the Diamante River with the aim of protecting the population from Indian attacks and cattle thieves. He projected and executed the street bearing his name, suggesting poplars be planted on both sides of the avenue.
He also designed Villa del Diamante. He was also the owner of the land of what was to become Cuadro Nacional. In 1880 he met Rodolfo Iselin in Paris and persuades him to invest by buying land in San Rafael.
He finally settles in San Rafael himself in 1884 and directs the work of the redesigning of the Cerrito and Toledano irrigation canals helping the community with his ample knowledge of engineering. He died on 12 September 1897 whilst measuring the lands owned by Mr. Domingo Bombal.
Rodolfo Iselín. San RafaelIselin bought land from Mrs Aurora Suárez and from Mr. Julio Ballofet and made his presence felt here. He had been born in Le Havre, France and came from a traditional family. He was very creative and also had sufficient economic power as to very influential. He had flair and skill for business, wanted to progress and ended up owning much land, and was very observant of events around him. He influences wills, manages influences and his own influence transcends local borders.
He does not rest until his Colonia Francesa becomes the new head of the district. Together with his wife, Matilde Wislow, they become the social and cultural centre of the area at La Abeja Estate where he received the most prominent people of the epoch. As Colonia Francesa prospered Iselin began to donate land for the construction of official buildings such as municipal palace, the Police, the Post Office, the school, new avenuesatc, thus contributing greatly to urbanization.