As the map above shows, in 1562, the northern part of Patagonia was known as "Chica". This is the oldest reference that I have been able to find that includes this strange name.
The word, in Spanish, means "small" and as nouns have a gender in that language, it is the femenine "small", for if it would be masculine, it would be "chico". But why would a large territory be be named "small"? The answer must lie elsewhere.
We know for certain that a Spanish soldier named Joan de Chica was killed by the natives in what is now Chilean Patagonia in 1558 while fighting for Governor Francisco de Villagrán. Could the name have been bestowed in his honor? We have not been able to ascertain this.
Another theory states that it is an incorrect spelling of the word "Chile", in Francesco Ghisolfo's 1562 Atlante Nautico map. I have seen a poor definition version of the map (Here) and can not be sure if it is so.
Below is a map published in 1575 by André Thevet (who wrote about the Succarath; it included "Chica", located to the north of Patagona [sic] Region des Geants (Patagona region of giants).
Cornelius Wyfliet published in 1597 the first map of Chica and its title was Chica sive Patagonia et Australis terra, which means: Chica that is, the land of Patagonia and the Southern land. It can be seen online Here.
Other maps also mention "Chica", such as those done by: Hulsium (1599), Mercator (1608), Koerius (1614), Bertius (1616), Brahe (1630), Piscator (ca. 1639), Valk (1654), Goos (1654), L'Isle (1703), Lapie (1816), Brué (1816), Collin (1828) among others.
Hondius included it in his 1608 and 1623 maps, but in the 1631 edition he eliminated the name from his map. Furthermore, it was often spelt incorrectly as "Chicha" such as the Ptolomeus printed in Venice in 1598.
German geographer Philip Cluverius in his "Introductionis in universam Geographiam" dated 1611, mentions different parts of South America such as Peru, Chile and includes Chica.
Somehow, the name "Patagonia" was preferred and gradually replaced Chica, which disappeared from the maps as Patagonia expanded northwards towards the Pampas.
Could the name have originated from the word "Charcas" which was part of what is now Bolivia? or from the word "Chicha", an alcoholic beverage that the natives made by chewing corn and letting it ferment? It will remain a mystery.
See our post on the origin of the name "Patagonia".
 Roccatagliata, J., (1988) La Argentina: geografía general y los marcos regionales. B. Aires: Planeta. pp. 501.
 Deharis, F., J., (2006). Contribución a la cartografía de Patagonia o Chica desde 1519 a 1900: Río Negro Argentina. pp. 33.
 Thevet's map. Online Here.
 Diego de Gutierrez (1562)Americae sive quartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio [North and South America]. Online Here.
 Levene, R., (1939). Historia de la nación argentina: (desde los orígenes hasta la organización definitiva en 1862). B. Aires: El Ateneo. Vol 4. Part 2. pp. 200.
 de Vivar, J. Crónica de los reinos de Chile. Chapter CXIX.
 Martínez J., (1967). Atlas manuscrito en la Biblioteca Nacional. Investigaciones y ensayos, Academia Nacional de la Historia (Argentina). Buenos Aires. No. 3, 1967. pp 109+
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