Lakes and vulcanos
and some history

We exchanged the Patagonian wasteland for a rolling southern German-looking landscape. In the green grass between the lakes there are the characteristic large round straw bales, black and white spotted cows graze and there are cupboards of houses. At the Chilean eateries, ‘kuchen’ and Kunstmann beer are recommended and we regularly pass exits with German-sounding street names. After the Industrial Revolution, many Germans sought fortune in Chile and Argentina to escape the economic problems that had arisen. Chile had a ‘selective immigration law’ in force at the time. Craftsmen were in demand to colonize southern Chile. Completely German settlements emerged. After the First and Second World Wars, several German refugees joined them. Currently, 3% of the Chilean population is a descendant of these Germans.

Nicanor and Paula are Mapuche. The Mapuche are the indigenous inhabitants of southern Argentina and Chile. Their own language, Mapadungun, is still scarcely spoken. Here ‘Che’ means people and ‘Mapu’ means the land. Both the social relations and the economy of the Mapuche are originally strongly intertwined with the land they own and cultivate. In the past, all their food and possessions came from this. When the Spanish took their land from them during colonization, it meant not only a loss of income but also of their identity. Oil and gas drilling in the vicinity of Mapuche communities (which, like in North America, were placed in reserves after colonization) sometimes lead to protests from those communities. These are severely suppressed by the police. There are currently approximately 900,000 Mapuche living in South America, less than half of whom still live outside the cities. Only fragments of their original culture remain.

Back on the way to our accommodation address, we want to take a look at the lava field of a nearby volcano that erupted only 50 years ago. Near a path of wooden planks that runs from the road into the lava field, a young man appears out of nowhere. He offers us a short tour of the path for 4000 pesos (4 euros). You can walk independently to the viewpoint for 2000 pesos. For a moment I am concerned that he just thinks he can take advantage of a publicly accessible path. But the more we ask, it turns out that he built this platform all by himself, in the sweat of his brow, on Mapuche land, after removing all the rubbish that people had dumped here, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. He interpreted a dream about the volcano that he had a few years earlier as follows: it is his job to live near the volcano and to introduce both foreigners and the Mapuche (again) to their culture and connection with the land on which they live. They live. At the moment he, Christobal, lives in a tent opposite the ‘sendore’ (the boardwalk). He plans to build a simple house there. Of course we want a tour with this young man now! He precedes us and tells us about the mosses that grow on the lava, lets us use our imagination to recognize animal figures in the strangely shaped rocks and, once we reach the viewpoint, hands us binoculars and a magnifying glass so that we can examine the volcano and the lava rock in detail. to look at. In the light of the setting sun, the snow-covered volcano turns pink. Continuous puffs of ‘cloud’ come out of the crater. When we step off the platform, he points out a sign in the Mapadungun. Language, he says, is written from left to right but understood/read from right to left. I haven’t heard that anywhere before! As we cycle away, I am moved by this young man’s dedication and enthusiasm to share Mapuche traditions and culture with others in his own unique way.

When we walk around Santiago I am shocked by the sad sight of the homeless here. We have hardly seen that since Buenos Aires. There are tents where people live in all kinds of places in the city. When we cycle through an elongated park that lies between the two directions of a major street, a mixture of stenches fills our noses. Sweat, pee, alcohol… while we cycle through many tents and people lying in the grass. I see a girl about 10 years younger than me sitting against a tree. She looks unkempt and unhealthy. How did she get there? How did she get like this? The sight hurts me, but I have no idea what I could do for her and her fellow sufferers here and now. How is it possible that her life and mine are light years apart, while we are both ‘just’ a young woman, perhaps with the same humor, intelligence, interests? I try to push myself away from being carried away by such thoughts until I feel nauseous and defeated. And then blame myself for ‘just putting it aside’ and continuing with my privileged life. Of course it is more beautiful to cycle through Carretera Austral-like area. Still, it feels good every now and then to take a look at life in the city and how hard it can be. Not to forget that that is also there. And that we, as humanity, including me, have to do something with that!

Even if those in need aren’t as cute and cuddly as these stray puppies we found with their mother at a bus stop..
(We have been promised that someone will take care of them. Hopefully also of the less ‘cute’ mother stray dog.)

1 thought on “Lakes and vulcanos and a bit of history”

  1. George Hawkins

    Interesting and enjoyable. Wish I’d spent more time in the Lake District. German influence was a surprise.

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