Patagonia 2008-2011   ...a photographic project in progress
 

Symbolically, Chilean Patagonia has been doubly marginalized: overshadowed by Argentine Patagonia, and at the same time, forgotten by Chile for its cultural differences. The Chilean gaucho who inhabits Patagonia has no echo in the national cultural imaginary: neither huaso nor Chilote nor Mapuche, gaucho worlds and lifeways, marked by their historical contact with Argentina, have made Patagonia unclassifiable for the patriotic and geopolitical needs of a country obsessed with the search for a national identity.

Within the grand space that Patagonia occupies in South America, Chile claims an irregular strip of coastline plunging south. Within this territory, the region of Aysén occupies some 108 000 km2, with only 81.000 inhabitants, who were only joined to the rest of the country by road some 30 years ago. Claimed by environmentalists as one of the three least contaminated regions on earth, Aysén's economic, political, and ecological peculiarities have placed it at the center of a conflict that pits ecologists, technocrats, capitalists, and peasants against one another.

The HidroAysén project, which proposes to build five hydroelectric dams on the Pascua and Baker rivers in southern Aysén, altering pristine watersheds and their ecosystems while opening the region up to further resource extraction, has garnered the interest of national and international environmental groups and sympathetic celebrities. Little of their attention to the region, however, has been paid to the lives of those who first settled the region or their heirs today, Chilean gauchos.

With the work I am presenting here I have sought to produce a photographic document of the lifeways of Chilean gauchos and their relationship to the natural and urban landscapes in which they live, contextualizing it within the threat of the hydroelectric project by seeking out the spaces that the construction of the dams would irreversibly alter.


René Muñoz on his property, five kilometers from where the Baker 2 dam is scheduled to be built. ©Jorge Uzon

René Muñoz prepares to lasso a cow to butcher and sell its meat. ©Jorge Uzon

Blood on the ground where a cow was butchered. ©Jorge Uzon

René Muñoz and Andres Casanova share a meal after a day of work. ©Jorge Uzon

René Muñoz and Andres Casanova transport meat for sale in the nearby town of Caleta Tortel. ©Jorge Uzon

René Muñoz takes his boat down the Baker river. ©Jorge Uzon

Rene Muñoz speaks on the radio as a lamb dying of hypothermia rests by his stove. ©Jorge Uzon

A cat contemplates a newborn lamb dead of hypothermia. ©Jorge Uzon

Hernan Guelet, whose land lies beside the proposed site of the Pascua I dam, disembarks at his home with his family. ©Jorge Uzon

Hernan Guelet and his son Julio. ©Jorge Uzon

Julio Guelet takes his afternoon tea. ©Jorge Uzon

Hernan Guelet and his son fish in the Quetru lake. ©Jorge Uzon

Gabino Diaz rides along the southern highway toward his home. ©Jorge Uzon

Gabino Diaz drinks mate with his friend Ricardo Rivera. ©Jorge Uzon

Roast meat lunch at Ricardo Rivera's house. ©Jorge Uzon

Dogs tied up at a house in the Maiten sector. ©Jorge Uzon

A huemul, an endangered species of deer who appears on Chile's national shield, eats plants by the side of the southern highway. ©Jorge Uzon

A cow carcass semi-consumed by wild animals. ©Jorge Uzon

Villa O'higgins. ©Jorge Uzon

Tourist information stand in Cerro Castillo. ©Jorge Uzon

A boy dressed as a gaucho plays the accordion during the folkloric festival of Cerro Castillo. ©Jorge Uzon

A group of backpackers camp in Cerro Castillo. ©Jorge Uzon

Arturo Quinto walks on his property on the banks of the Baker River in the Los Ñadis. ©Jorge Uzon

Arturo Quinto looks out the window of his house on the banks of the Baker River in the Los Ñadis.©Jorge Uzon

A view of the Ñadis River. ©Jorge Uzon

Aquilino Olivares cross the Baker River in a rowboat to get to his home near the confluence of the Baker and Nef rivers. ©Jorge Uzon

Aquilino Olivares drinks mate in the early morning at his home near the confluence of the Baker and Nef rivers. ©Jorge Uzon

Aquilino Olivares speaks on the radio, the only means of long-distance communication available to many residents of Chilean Patagonia. ©Jorge Uzon

Aquilino Olivares gallops his horse on his land near the confluence of the Baker and Nef rivers. ©Jorge Uzon

A landscape near the Ñadis River. ©Jorge Uzon

A sign announcing arrival in Cochrane, a small city near the Baker. ©Jorge Uzon

A recently butchered pig shares a boat with a dog on the Vargas River. ©Jorge Uzon

Andrés Casanova, on board the Matarangui boat, chats with a resident of the Baker River. ©Jorge Uzon

Woods on the banks of the Baker River. ©Jorge Uzon

Andrés Casanova rests on his boat. ©Jorge Uzon

Erminio Orellana receives the Matarangui boat at the end of its trip up the Baker River in Ventisquero Norte. ©Jorge Uzon

Erminio Orellana draws water from a well in Ventisquero Norte. ©Jorge Uzon

René Muñoz prepares to saddle his horse at his home in Ventisquero Norte. ©Jorge Uzon

A man fishes in a lagoon formed by the flooding of the Cochrane river. ©Jorge Uzon

View of the Cochrane River overflowing. ©Jorge Uzon

The El Manzano bridge swamped by the Baker river. ©Jorge Uzon

A pickup truck drives past the end of the road in the Colonia Norte sector. ©Jorge Uzon

Hernán Guelet, together with his wife Carmen Vidal and his son Julio Guelet, drives home in his boat on Lake Quetru. ©Jorge Uzon

A child jumps with the Lucas Bridges Mountain in the background near the border with Argentina on Estancia Valle Chacabuco. ©Jorge Uzon

A child plays near the border with Argentina on Estancia Valle Chacabuco. ©Jorge Uzon

Children protect themselves from the wind produced by a helicopter in Cochrane. ©Jorge Uzon

A man drives through the Estancia Valle Chacabuco. ©Jorge Uzon

Elvira Reyes prepares to feed two orphaned calves in El Maiten, at two hours on horseback from the end of the road. ©Jorge Uzon

Elvira Reyes readies her horse for riding at her home in El Maiten, at two hours on horseback from the end of the road. ©Jorge Uzon

Elvira Reyes drinks yerba mate tea at her home in El Maiten, at two hours on horseback from the end of the road. ©Jorge Uzon

Porfirio Diaz, a Catholic priest, readies a goat for slaughter at his family home in El Maiten. ©Jorge Uzon

A cow skeleton near Cochrane. ©Jorge Uzon

Gabino Diaz looks for his sheep from a mountain in El Maiten. ©Jorge Uzon

Gauchos herd cattle in Colonia Norte. ©Jorge Uzon

Gauchos herd cattle in the Baker Valley. ©Jorge Uzon

Young men prepare to ride their horses in Caleta Tortel. ©Jorge Uzon

A young man leads a horse in Caleta Tortel. ©Jorge Uzon

Residents walk along a wooden walkway in Caleta Tortel. ©Jorge Uzon

A woman walks along a wooden walkway in Caleta Tortel. ©Jorge Uzon

A man looks out over Villa O'Higgins. ©Jorge Uzon

Residents dry clothes in Villa O'Higgins. ©Jorge Uzon

A passenger of the "Quetru" ferry looks at the moon reflected on the waters of Lake O'Higgins. ©Jorge Uzon

A family drinks yerba mate tea in Villa O'Higgins. ©Jorge Uzon

A house with roses in Cochrane. ©Jorge Uzon

Residents of Cochrane play in a local park. ©Jorge Uzon

A man works on his truck stranded on the Southern Highway. ©Jorge Uzon

A family drive through the Estancia Valle Chacabuco. ©Jorge Uzon

A man drives through the Southern Higway. ©Jorge Uzon

Arriving in Balmaceda. ©Jorge Uzonn

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