Europeans were slow to occupy this stretch of the coast, so Mardel was a late bloomer. Not until 1747 did Jesuit missionaries try to evangelize the indigenous people of the southern pampas; the only reminder of their efforts is a chapel replica near Laguna de los Padres.
More than a century later, Portuguese investors established El Puerto de Laguna de los Padres. Beset by economic problems in the 1860s, they sold out to Patricio Peralta Ramos, who founded Mar del Plata proper in 1874. Peralta Ramos helped develop the area as a commercial and industrial center, and later as a beach resort. By the turn of the 20th century, many wealthy porteño families owned summer houses here, some of which still grace Barrio Los Troncos.
Since the 1960s the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’ has lost some of its exclusivity, with the Argentine elite seeking refuge in resorts such as nearby Pinamar or Punta del Este (Uruguay). Still, Mar del Plata remains a thriving Argentine beach town. As a local taxi driver recently explained to us, 'There's enough hotel rooms for everyone, and if it rains, there's a lot to see and do aside from the beach.'