city, east-central San Luis provincia (province), west-central Argentina. It is located on the Quinto River in a semiarid transition area between the Pampa (east) and the San Luis Mountains (northwest). It was founded in 1856 as Fuerte Constitucional, and the surrounding lands were distributed to veteran army officers who guarded the frontier. In 1861 the settlement was renamed Villa Mercedes in honour of the Virgen de la Merced (Spanish: "Virgin of Mercy"), its patroness. From 1863 to 1865, the city was constantly attacked by Indians and mountain rebels; they were finally repelled and the rebel leader, Puebla, was killed. Water for irrigation from the Quinto River has enabled the area to become an important grain (corn [maize], sorghum, and rye) and cattle-producing region. Incorporated as a city in 1896, Mercedes has a large grain mill and refrigerator plants to process beef for export. Pop. (2001) 51,967.
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