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Founded in 1582, Salta lies in a basin surrounded by verdant peaks. This valley’s perpetual spring attracted the Spaniards, who could pasture their animals in the surrounding countryside and produce crops that it was not possible to grow in the frigid Bolivian highlands, where the mining industry created enormous demand for hides, mules and food. When the extension of the Belgrano railroad made it feasible to market sugar to the immigrant cities of the pampas, the city recovered slightly from its 19th-century decline. In recent years, growth has been rapid, as numerous families have settled here in search of work, fleeing the economic conditions in rural areas.