Merit and Entrepreneurship Rewarded
By Wenceslao Casares
grew up in Patagonia on a sheep ranch. Our
nearest neighbor was 20 miles away, the
nearest town 100 miles. In this place with
long, tough, snowy winters and cool, windy
summers, we were very isolated.
I learned a lot from my mother’s entrepreneurial skills. She took the wool from our farm and
worked with Mapuche women to spin it into sweaters
that she would sell to tourists. In the midst of hyperinflation, making money was the difference between
having clothes for winter or not.
When I was 17, I won the Rotary International Exchange Program scholarship, giving me the chance to
finish high school in a small town in Pennsylvania.
When I returned, I briefly attended San Andrés
University in Buenos Aires, but dropped out to start
a new business: Patagon.com, an online financial
Even by the 1990s, there were a lot of obstacles to
starting a business in Latin America—especially if
you were not part of the establishment. Every time I
pitched my business idea for funding, potential inves-
tors would ask: “Who is your father? Which school
did you go to?” My father was a sheep rancher, and my
school was not an elite private school.
“We opened more than 7,000 innovative and efficient branches
and provided 15 million customers with their first bank account.”
SOMEONE: FIRST LASTNAME INSET: COURTESY OF WENCESLAO CASARES
Patagonia to Palo
Casares in Silicon Valley
(preceding page), and
Wenceslao (far right)
with his brother and
cousins on the family
sheep ranch in Chubut,
Argentina, in 1987.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JONATHAN SPRAGUE/REDUX PICTURES
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012