Thank you for the observation------looked over a google map today of La Serena (found the courtyard where my shop was, it's still there!)-----I guess I noticed it at the time but not really, but it is quite on the angle everywhere. Interesting that the map shows it all square but its not obviously. Now that think of it so many homes I was in had funky corners-----maybe limited materials to survey everything in the old Spanish way and maybe going to the contours of the land could be an answer----maybe a trip to Madrid to see if there are any notes on the subject?-----probably just laziness on their part or the final layout after Drake burned it down and the big earthquake.
Also interesting the side arroyo with what appears to be a creek down the middle of what would now be Francisco de Aguirre. Makes sense.
I’d sleep in the sun, swim and sleep in the sun again. I had brought swim fins with me and this was a revelation for the locals or really anybody——body surfing growing up, I was good at it and taught a lot of Chileans the idea——kinda hard there as the waves, while big, just really drop with no real run on them.
There was always a soccer ball and paddle board to play and we had our little community there——fun. Always got invited to evening parties and again it was just good summer fun.
One day this girl I had seen came over. She was on vacation from Santiago with family but with a family home in Serena. We hit it off and started hanging out, dancing, eating out and other adventures. I got invited to lunch one day and I knew where the house was after dropping her off a few times. Exactly next door to the intendente of the IV Region. Kinda not getting it at this point of who she could be but not really caring either——we got along, she was nice, pretty and had a good attitude so here we go.
I walked up to her house from where I was living——but now in Chile, I had become accustomed to what a walk was———in the US we walk across a parking lot to a store but what Chileans have for a walk that is shorter than driving is a different proposition——she lived about a kilometer away from me up on the hill. I had walked her home a few times after a date and I went up the same little back trail to her house to arrive at the back gate. There were always Carabineros about when I was with her and no trouble. I assumed they were there for the Intendente but came to realize in the coming days, the Carabineros were there more for her and her family as well as the Intendente.
Lunch was simple and good. To start it was her, her older sister and mom. Later her dad came in to join us. Our house was nice but this house——was really nice. Her dad came in and immediately everyone but he and I got up and left, so then just us. Nice accent, well dressed and serious. He nonchalantly asked me questions in spanish which I answered——we switched to english not soon after. He was at one end of a long table and me at the other. Not quite an interview but kinda like one. He was very adept about asking about my family and me and where I was going. My own father was military and it reminded me of my own dad when he was not just alone with family——straight, courteous and yet that strange formalness where you feel okay but always being watched for the smallest misstep. I guess he approved of me.
I had noticed in the street before this a feeling of being followed——friends told me about people asking about me—pretty sure there is a file on me now——Never intrusive----it was everywhere and even going out with her there was always this crew of men around us but just watching. Never intruding but always there. We were coming back from a disco one night in my jeep and cruising along and got pulled over by Carabineros——the paco approached and asked for documents but before I had them out he leaned in and looked at us both for a moment.
“Just wanted to make sure you were okay”
“You are going home?
“Yes, I am dropping her off and then going home.”
“I see, we will escort you”
A cop car ahead and two behind us all the way home to her house and then to mine.
At one point I thought I had lost my wallet and passport——She and I were out carousing so we decided to report it——we went to the main comisaria in old La Serena———At first held on the street for a moment, we were ushered in——a watch sergeant at the left in an office and a radio room at the right.
“Please sit down.”
“The corporal tells me you have lost your documents?”
“Yes sir, my passport and wallet.”
The Sergeant contemplates this for a moment before standing and pulling a very large ledger off a shelf at his side. Opening it up he finds the last entry and begins to write out a script of my name and what I had lost——like a novel he writes it ou—it’s several paragraphs long describing the ice cream we had before and the collectvo ride we took to the comisaria as well as the moment I realized I had lost my documents. I am asked to sign and she is asked to sign as a witness. He stamps it and signs his name over it and places the ledger back on the shelf. We are leaving but a Carabinero officer stops us and asks us to follow him——we are brought into the office of a Carabinero Major, the head of the comisaria——He had been advised of my situation and would send out personnel to find my documents. I went home and of course the gardner had found my wallet and passport on the driveway so all good.
After this, anytime in the street, the Carabineros seemed to know who I was and nodded. I remember walking up to her house in the late evening, and then leaving later, through the eucalyptus trees and a short cut——Carabineros there on guard and just nodding as I passed in the dark.
One time I was leaving her house in my jeep and through a road block——I was hailed over in my jeep by a pack of maybe 10 Carabineros——one approached with smiles, “Hey, how are you doing?” As he approached the uzi strapped to his chest came loose with the barrel coming in exactly on my mouth and chipped my tooth———hurt like hell——The pacos all thought this was hilarious and I did too actually. “Good thing it didn’t go off!!!!” he said. They had an army leutentant at the side of the road in dress with a briefcase. “Hey can you take him up to the fort?….we’ll radio you in.”
The Lieutenant got in——I was one of them I guess?——they trusted me——It was past midnight and I was driving an army officer to the fort.———BTW, the fort is a military fort that overlooks all of La Serena and is the local main army attachment for the army in the 4th region. Not my last time at the fort but more about that later.
There was a specific uphill road to the fort——if you were not going there on purpose and without authorization you did not come close to it. There was a roadblock with soldiers at the bottom and we breezed through without stopping and then a gate further up——the gate open and guard at attention and saluting and finally the fort with gated entry open to a large courtyard. Pulling up to the casino, I dropped off the soldier and returned home.
At home the next morning things started to add up——I knew her full name and it was simple——she was the close relative of someone big——always in the news, in fact every day in print and tv——I never asked her and we never talked about it.
We continued to see each other after summer——she was going to the U de Chile and lived in a house on Pedro de Valdivia that looked like an embassy——in fact several embassies bordered her home there. She was very sweet but not meant to be so it ended in a nice way. I see her now in the social pages now and again but that’s it. She was really a sweet girl.
- Rank: Chile Forum Citizen
- Posts: 8570
- Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:38 am
- Location: Somewhere south of Valpo
- Rank: Chile Forum Citizen
- Posts: 8570
- Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:38 am
- Location: Somewhere south of Valpo
He experienced the utility cuts and such and much more by the same left that still exists in Chile. You are free to read or not read what he posts.
Was waiting for the light to change when a very large dump truck pulled up at the light and immediaty dumped a load of rock in the the intersection. Immediately a horde of students where in the street throwing rocks at everything they could break——employees came out under the barrage to drop the steel curtains over windows while cars in the street struggled to get thorough while not hitting anyone——this went on for maybe 4 or 5 before an armored bus filled up with pacos pulled up in riot gear——lone pacos on the outside formed a line around the bus and beat out a circle from around the bus——the students attacked with rocks maybe 40 to 50 away. The Pacos on the bus began to hit their night sticks on their riot shields slowly at first and began to beat faster and faster until you could not hear the individual beat but a loud clatter—with that the pacos flooded off the bus.
I was kind of stuck——waiting for family with no real place to go——I retreated into a planter that was sunk in behind two parts of a building and knelt there out of fire from rocks and hopefully the eyes of the cops. By this time you could see the students reacting on the far side and in their rear——Pacos on the other side and arrived in busses at each end of the street backed up on each side with a guanaco. There were maybe 350 protestors in all——many wearing the red and black of the FMPR———the militant arm of the communist party. I’d say it was split between men and women. With the cops on the other side and behind then they had no where to go.
Typically at the time when a protest broke out, the metro station or stations closest would close the pull down metal curtain to keep protestors out and as well eliminate a possible route of escape. The metro simply did not stop at the station——another reason would be that protestors could not arrive as re-enforcements via the metro and come up behind the pacos. A horde of protestors got stuck against the closed curtain, awaiting their fate trapped in the stairwell to the metro.
Nearly immediately, after the protestors realized there was no way out, they attacked the cops and the cops bled their way into them. It was a melee like what you see in some roman times epic with two armies going at it. Every cop was engaged with one or two protestors using their shield and night stick——the protestors held strong and kept fighting. At my feet just on the pavement maybe 8 feet below where I was in the planter, a lone paco and bearded protestor traded blows back and forth. The cop, helped by his shield, got the protester down on the ground and was beating on him. The protester decided to opt for grabbing the cop by the testicles from underneath and behind his shield. The paco went down just as two pacos came up on him and obviously what down. The one paco got a hit across the jaw of the protestor——his teeth came out like tic-tacs and he was down with blood everywhere. One cop helped the other cop behind the line while the other dragged the downed protestor by the leg back to the bus. He got a few more blows before they hucked him aboard. Several other protestors were dragged to the bus to join him——similar blows on the way.
By this time, at the rear of the action, the Guanacos had pulled up after letting maybe a few dozen protestors and civilians get through ——they sat at angles to the protest with the rear guard pacos back but between———shooting water at the edges of the protest it effectively pushed them all back into the pacos at the other side where beatings were still going on——tired protestors, giving up, simply scrambled between the guanacos where they were caught up by the pacos there waiting for them on the other side——as wounded and disoriented protestors fell off the main group——an assembly of 6 or 7 pacos would wade in and drag them back to the bus on their side of the melee.
The protestors fell back off the fight to a small degree licking their wounds but the pacos were not going to let them gain force again and sent tear gas cans along with the Zorrillos, a small fully enclosed armored jeep. Two went in doing across the plaza driving erratically between the protestors shooting tear gas in quick hissing spurts out of these side tubes——the Zorillos have trap doors in the bottom as well so Pacos simply drop tear gas grenades though the hole in the floor as well.
Not more than 10 minutes of this and it was over. A carabinero officer, over a loud speaker made the order for every one to sit down. The protestors just sat down as Carabineros pushed in among them now completely taking back the square. One by one from one edge of the plaza sitting protestors were stood up and lined up against a wall on the far side of the plaza. Sub-oficiales checkd id’s as a lone officer walked behind them. Checking documents and writing down names, the sub-official, standing back, would occasionally consult with the officer. The officer waved some people onto the bus and others out through police lines. Occasionally a protestor would get sassy and get a few smacks and hauled off to the bus. Meanwhile a crew of city workers was finishing up clearing rocks off the street as well as in the plaza. Overall maybe the protest was an hour and 15 minutes start to finish.
I have to say, by their attitude, the protesters came brewing for a fight----no question about it. They took a beating with no worries. They were definitely tough.
Maybe 30 or 40 minutes of this and the plaza was clears, cops were pulling out with traffic running thourgh on both sides. I had come down to sit on the concrete wall of my planter and had been watching since just as the protestors had begun to sit down. I did not want to seem as if I was hiding but at the same time, did not want to sit with the protestors either. The two pacos closest to me, about 8 feet away, watched as I came to sit down, completely ignoring me. I felt I was fine and made no move to leave or do anything. I think in part I looked like a civilian and also had made no move during the protest to do anything. All good and was just waiting for the metro to open.
My family members came out in the first push once the metro was open again. Pacos at the top of the stairs, assuming there would be protestors trapped inside, patiently waited there———stopping a few people——some got let go and some went to the bus——in all I would say maybe 90 or hundred got hauled away. Then, except for pools of water on the ground, it was another calm sunny spring day again.
My family members related the following——just coming off the metro through the turnstiles the metro station closed——no one in or out. About 80 people were stuck there on the overpass above the overpass crossing the metro line——there were also two pacos on their foot beat that just happened to be stuck there——the two pacos took one corner and everyone else was in the opposite corner. A few of those trapped there, from inside the assembled group started up with anti paco and government comments directed at the pacos. The pacos, both armed with uzi’s, leveled them at their waists to the group——not threatening but obvious taking a stance of “don’t come any closer” ——undoubtedly nothing was going to happen but need for someone to get stupid. If it went down, I have no doubt based on the pacos of the time and how serious it was, they would have opened fire.
The onslaught of cops and protesters could well be heard inside. My family in Chile has always been anti-communist and very much pro-pinochet. Feeling uncomfortable in the assembled group, they each, along with a few others moved out and down the walls slowly to the cops. The cops eyed each person carefully, about 20 in all, as they passed along the edges of the platform to their corner. As the group arrived in a line, the two pacos, moved out of the corner to allow them room. A very big and dicey decision on everyone’s part. If something went down I don’t know who would have done more damage, the uzi bullets or the 20 standing against them all.
If you think about the carabineros working during Pinochet and those working now——in light of the present day state of emergency in Chile——the experience is not there on the part of the carabineros and maybe that is a good thing overall but when you need a hard hand to deal with issues, its good to have——very few could still be working and long retired——maybe just a few in the alto mando.
Look for the authority of power in this thread mostly. Enjoy the aspect of the everyday life of Chile, the old and new, past and present, but mostly look for that authority in what I write now and of those that have had it and in reference to what is going on now…..sorry for some of the english here as I am remembering it in Spanish rather than in english so it can be funky.———this is again a long reference——to what is going on. It helps if readers ask questions or comment as it brings up memories——there are so many and it all became my normal so its just there until prompted.
In 1985 I met an older landed Chilean man that was from a wealthy La Serena family. I will call him Diego (NHRN.) Mostly his business was agriculture and he had a lot of hectars under cultivation on his own (both inherited and purchased) as well as being a part of a Co-Op with a nationally distributed Pisco all across Chile. Very cool and progressive man and we really hit it off. For several years it became a regular routine for me to go along with him into el valle de elqui, Vicuna, Paihuano, Pisco Elqui and other areas where he owned property——but really all over the fourth region——mostly just for the day leaving early and many times overnight camping in a barn, shed or adobe house——probably 3 or 4 days a week. Each time I encountered real on the ground experience in all matter of venues from business, the pacos, the government, driving, women, children, school, Allende, Pinochet, politics in all aspects, birthdays, crops, the bank, the roads and driving——just everything. Chile was only a few years away from having frozen food at the time so it was mostly suppliers like him producing and delivering fresh fruits and vegetables locally. A a medium holder in Chile’s national wealth, regionally, he was somewhat of a king but a working king——good looking and with a maturity younger women liked and admired----- while he was all that, men across the board, feared him and did what he asked----- he was tough and good at taking advantage of a deal in the fairest way but still with that Chilean way of being so clever, no one saw it——make no mistake, he worked very, very, very hard every day——more stories later on that and how I witnessed it but might have to disguise it as there were deals that could come up now and I would not want have to talk about what I witnessed——not for the law as it was all legal but out of respect for him and his trust in me——maybe later on with all of that.
Principally he grew table grapes for export, domestic consumption and then also fruits and vegetables of the season locally as well as cattle and sheep. As well he had land he leased out to smaller farmers where plots were too small for him to really work himself with any profit. He had somewhere around 300 or 400 hectares all in and all across dozens of properties throughout the fourth region. As well he bought fruit and vegetables from smaller farmers in Vicuna and into the Valle Elqui as a wholesaler and selling into local shops in La Serena (Transport for small farmers, especially in the cordillera was an issue——they sold their goods, he made a little and so did they——he was fair in what he paid always) ——also, he’d take shopping lists into town for food items as well as medicine, mail and packages from relatives off the bus in order to bring them back---- he knew everyone and had developed a situation where everyone owed him a favor he could call on when needed—not in a bad or malicious way, but he had this angle and it was not uncommon for him to use one favor against another to, with no gain for himself, help out all the parties involved in a way they never knew about A little before Allende the rio elqui had over flowed and several bridges blew out——he taught himself to fly and air dropped food and supplies into the valley on his own as there was no other way for people to have access to goods——he delivered to his own and others.
Get on his bad side and you were in trouble. I remember one time we pulled up a truckload of end of season grapes not fit for anything but grape chicha. Dropping down out of the cordillera on the road out of elqui was a guy that made Chicha but also crushed it for you and took part of the vintage as payment. We delivered bottles on the way up for Diego’s share and on the way back down, the grapes. In Chile this sharing is called “ mitii-mite." Returning a few days later, Diego had gotten word from someone that the chicha crusher was taking much more than his agreed share and hiding it——in effect, a thief and a cheat. Diego knew how much the grapes would render in Chicha———Pisco was his business and he could take a few grapes out of a crate, feel them and tell you how many liters they would produce. Diego would have figured it out anyway but he had the tip and where the crusher was hiding it all. Diego also knew the taste of his own grapes and the chicha so there was that——he had to know what the crusher was handing over on the deal and then get to the hidden chicha and taste it and then confront him.
We arrived and here was the crusher all smiles and holding onto his big belly. His sons stood nearby, nervously behind their father. Certainly not a campesino with about 10 to 12 hectares of grapes on his own and all well tended——he was just enough dangerous and just enough of a scoundrel. I did not like him to begin with the first time I met him but here he was somehow worse than before. He and Diego had the big greet with one of the son’s pouring out a taste of the promised chicha. We all had a taste with Diego getting a look on his face in just a second where I knew it was going to go down. Another few sips and this look he had for just the briefest moment. The crusher had seen it too and you could see he knew he was in trouble. The sons back up standing in a way to put the crates with bottled chicha between themselves and us. The crusher made no move to stand back. Maybe, he was thinking he could talk his way out of it all.
Diego: Hmmmmm, Crusher, this does not taste like my chicha, are you sure these are my grapes?
Crusher: Oh yes Don Diego of course these are your grapes, we finished yesterday and bottled last night and this morning.
Diego knew the deal in one taste. The crusher was keeping all Diego’s better tasting chicha and handing off a mediocre vintage from who knows where——and trading off less to Diego than what was promised in the deal of “ mite-mite." Diego had calculated the empty bottles he delivered to fit what he knew would be the liter amount in his vintage (Partly because he knew anyway but also because we had weighed the full truck load of grapes at the Pisco Co-op before we arrived to see the crusher——Again, Diego knew anyway with his experience but also the Co-op delivered the juice outcome from each member’s load by kilo through out the season along with the production list for improvement the next year. I don’t remember how many bottles (Chuicas——about a 5 liter bottle) were left filled and unfilled but there was about a good third of what of Diego had coming that was not on the ground there at the finish of business.
Diego stared him down——This was Don Diego, a very powerful man and someone you needed, that could be anything for you or your family——certainly not Don Corleone of the godfather movies, where offenses were most often settled violently——but there would be consequences and the crusher knew it and so did his sons——a bad enough offense and sons, long after their father was dead, would be responsible and really never get out of that shadow——but also there would be no favors if you needed it. A very dumb move on the crushers part.
Diego, simply turned around and motioned me back to the truck. In the back of the truck were 5 of his workers we had brought in order to outnumber the father and sons. Diego pulled the the truck around and drove deeper into the valley of vines, a few hundred meters from the crushing barn and finally pulling up in front of an adobe walled bodega. The crusher, with sons, arrived to find Diego in the bodega where we found the right chicha, his chicha——Diego took a swig and smiled, knowing he had found his chicha and just as the crusher arrived. The 5 workers got the nod to begin loading——pushing the crusher to the side, it did not take long to finish the job of loading everything up. The crusher said nothing——a wise move. There were no sorries or apologies------- just the same flush face of the crusher——both from shame and anger as well as the run to the bodega
Diego: So this is my chicha and part of our deal? ( It wasn’t-------it was the whole load of Chicha, partly owed to the crusher)
The crusher nodded but really it was the slow dip of his chin down into his shirt that never came up for what Diego wanted to see——he knew his position and that he been caught and this was a powerful man that could crush the “crusher” much like the grape chicha he promised——no one was going to help him out of it——the only position the crusher had in his bag for any revenge or payback would be the Arab adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend——he now had an enemy in Diego and good luck with revenge with anyone else except those that were already his enemy——in Chile, that would most likely not save you anyway, but still, the crusher could hope and eventually render some kind of equality in his own eyes anyway——but unlikely.
Diego: Good, now these are your chuicas I am loading up, so before next season, I will deliver back your bottles and you will give me mine back.
The essential factor here was that Diego would deliver his promised chicha to “provedores” through out the fourth region and would not get back neither the bottle or the deposit on bottles until everything was sold and sorted out—lets just say the IVA was not a concern——after all this was late March and chicha needed until September to mature for the best selling season which would be the 18th, el diezyocho.
In reality, the crusher’s chuicas were a mess and on their last legs——Diego’s chuicas had just been re-branched with the green vines from his own fundo and set to last several years——Chuicas traditionally are wrapped in a braided basket made from pruned grape vine of the season; nice and green to me fresh and bendable to braid -----the clipped vines had given their fruit already in the last harvest and no waste——prepped for spring—— a nice handle woven tightly at the neck and the bottles had the best protection they might have. We simply climbed into the truck and left with no further word or comment. Somewhat harsh this action, but the idea would be, with the guilt of the crusher and no objection made by the crusher in the end——in Chilean terms, Diego did not break the deal and rob the crusher——Diego had several witnesses to the fact even if the crusher was brave and dumb enough to call the Pacos and/or complain, he would be the fool Now what would the consequences be?
Diego was well enough respected to have several non-paying honorary titles in the region, all in the benefit of the public——He was one of several that executively oversaw the reservoir and canals that fed La Serena it’s water from high up in the cordillera. Also he was an Alguacil, which translates to Sheriff in English but in the Chilean position it would be more of an ombudsman. An informal but official position with no badge or direct authority to arrest anyone or directly charge someone with a crime or directly effect discipline or restitution by the government but he did have quite a say in things——So basically if there was a controversial arrest in the poblacion and there was an issue, he would transmit the feeling of the public to the cops or maybe the true situation——“Jaime is only 13 and while he did rob the botilleria, his mom is dead, his dad is a drunk and has no one, maybe instead of 10 years in jail, we could send him to the monks instead.” On the part of the wealthy, I remember one time a student at the University had been caught with grades that would get him kicked out——He was from Santiago and Diego knew the family and was asked to intervene on the kid’s behalf with the Rector and got him an extended probation. If there was a particularly violent crime the cops would go to him and he would go to his sources to ask that the offender be given up and they usually were. Even negotiating for bad guys, through family members, that wanted to give themselves up and not get shot in the process. Asked by the local courts, he would mediate issues that judges felt would do more harm to both parties if it got into court. He always got results.
Not to say he was not completely Chilean——He had asked me to go on a day trip and I could not go. In the evening he showed up at the house in a very bad dark mood.
Diego: So I had mishap on the road to ###########. This c******** s* m********** took my mirror off.
Turns out it was a local competitive fundo owner (They were not friends) from another town and they played chicken along the center stripe of the road as they met coming from opposite directions. Both of them lost a mirror. They stopped and had it out in the road. Both alone, they went about their business with both men reporting it to the Pacos in their respective towns.
Diego: So, I need a witness. I reported it and we are going in to see the judge in a week, so I need you say you were with me and it was his fault.
Me: Diego, I can’t do that, I was not with you.
DIego: Here is the thing, (Asi es la cosa) he will have a witness even though he was alone as well. I will loose if I don’t have a witness. Besides, even if he does have a witness, the judge will believe you more because you are a gringo.
Me: I can’t do it Diego, there is no way I can lie in court for you or anybody else, no way.
Diego looked at me sternly but not mad, just a look that he knew this and knew most likely what I would have said. He was in a bad mood about it for awhile but in the truck sometime later he told me what went down.
Diego: Hey you want to know? I won the case. He brought two witnesses but I had two as well, but I won. I have been thinking about what I asked you to do for me and really my point of view is that I can trust you with what you refused to do.
Diego had gotten not only two witnesses but also got the case to be held in La Serena. Authorities from both towns argued the location of the accident decided where the case should be heard but the site was exactly between the two cities. Diego’s position and influence as Alguacil allowed the case to be tried in La Serena. Not to say the judge dropped the gavel down in favor of his own local guy, but there it is.
Not long after the Chicha incident the punishment for the crusher was revealed. Water canal board members looked after the care and maintenance of the canal to La Serena but also who got water, how much and when they got to pull from it. The canals, high up on the slopes, allowed water to travel its way to La Serena; along the way farmers in the valley could access the this water via sluices---- farmers opened the gates for a prescribed time at a set time in order to irrigate crops. A morning time, or really anything in daylight was the favored position but there were a lot of farms to feed. Adjustments would be made over time to make it all fair and who wants to get up at 3am to open the sluice———Adjustments were also made for those farmers that were less than honest with the water----- mostly with farmers opening gates out of their time or taking too much water——a very serious infraction. So, it turns out the crusher ended up with 3:00 am sluice time——probably still has it. Now you could say thats unfair and Diego was allowed to use his power unfairly on the crusher. The Chilean view would be power decides and the crusher could have to gone to jail and was now simply getting what he had coming. You have to consider as well that someone has to get the early hour sluice time——generally it was done in a cycle so everyone shared the misery and then its a simple way to handle little things and if you have the power, you exercise it. Now as I think about it, the crusher had a lot of face time at SII——no survives that.
The Power----Was asleep in bed and Diego came by early. "Let's Go!" One of the canals high up in the Cordillera had broken off the mountain. We went to the municipal yard for La Sererna. Diego asked for sand, gravel and cement to be loaded up. Asked for a work order he just shushed the caretaker and off we went with our load and into the cordillera. Arriving in the afternoon-----It was way high up and no town or people for hours-----we pulled over on this remote road and down a trail where the canal had been dug into the mountain via a cave as it was to steep to have the canal outside. From within, using flashlights we found four men working on the canal-----the water had somehow breeched its edges and blown out through the cracks leaving a meter by meter hole ominously below and out to the valley below. The water had been stopped above and now the men worked at building a wall at the break to allow the water to continue.
We were not there very long when we were called out by two carabineros on horseback on the road. Carabineros in those days would travel the frontier in this way for several weeks at a time on horses. They would camp and monitor what ever was going on. They explained that a mining store up the road had been robbed of dynamite and were looking for the culprits----they had a description and wanted everyone out in order to identify anyone involved. So it was tense moment. A young man, maybe 18, in the group of Maestros was obviously part of it.
Everyone came out with documents. Diego identified him self as Algualcil but the pacos already knew this. It was obvious to everyone the pacos knew the young man and while did not come out it was getting to that fast. Diego parsed it out as having to get the canal fixed and he needed everyone there to do the job. The carabineros stood firm but relented. It was no favor to the young man on Diego's part-----he needed it done. A week later the young man was killed in a shootout with the cops at the house of his mother in a little town down the valley.
I don’t think anything else came the crushers way in regard to payback. Diego got his chuicas back the next season where the crusher had to deliver them some 20 kilometers up the valley to Diego’s fundo. Then he had to come back to Diego’s fundo to pick up his own a week later——just a little kiss on the cheek for him and a reminder. The likely hood Diego would intervene or side in favor of any issue on behalf of the crusher would be unlikely and for his sons as well——a dispute in land, business deal, an accident or other damage would see no help even if the crusher was in the right and Diego could get away with it. Now the crusher and his sons don’t forget that even if you get them to say they started it——while anything they could now do to foul up anything they could for Diego-----you can guarantee they would do it and for the rest of their lives Little messes like this are in play all over Chile all the time.
During Allende, land reform began——regardless of what Allende thought of it, he had made deals in the three days he had leading up to the congress and deputy vote in which no one got a the needed percentage for the 1970 presidential elections—they decided it but he had to make deals to become president——as a proclaimed socialist, he made the most deals with those who could give him the sash and they were communist.
Diego lost a lot many hectares in the Elqui Valley to expropriation. During Allende and his land reform, the government expropriated lands of the “wealthy"——typically those that won a land grant in this way, were the principal workers and families that had historically worked those lands——now while paid for their work, the Allende government looked to them first to hand over the land——at least in the north——in the south it was a mix of historical workers as well as Chileans that could sign up for it. A Senator with major land holdings in the 9th region, his region, gave up thousands of hectares to this cause——driving from Temuco to Villarrica, it was the land on the north side of the highway beginning at the Allipen River. Traditionally not as productive in the north agriculturally so that’s how it worked out.
In the south, and much less so in the north, it was common for workers to live on the larger fundos in homes provided by the landowner. Case in point, one of my family members, long dead by the time I got to Chile, had about 15,00 hectares stretching from the puntilla in Pucon to Villaricca and then south from there. Chile needed to colonize the south, especially the area around Villarrica, because of the heavy Mapuche resistance to any government.
My relative (from Spain) received a 5,000 hectare land grant during this time. Another 5,000 came a few years later as a result of his success, granted by the government.. An additional 5,000 hectares he purchased. An then an additional 5,000 he bought on his profit and used in trade on and off as he needed land here and there to take advantage of forest, pasture and growing crops. At the same time a land grant of the same size was given to a German colonist that also did well. The German settled from VIllarrica inland to the cordillera, while my relative settled from Villarrica, around the lake and to the south. The survey was not exactly clear in regard where one land grant began and another ended. At some point during this time, the two met in Villarrica to solve the issue——nether were worried about a simple fence nor even giving over perhaps a swath of several hectares on the line against the other but more a general idea——they decided on a small yellow wooden house just off the beach of lake villarrica to be the general marker and then across, in a line to the peak off volcan villarrica——last I knew up to a few years ago the house was still there on the road from Villarrica to Pucon just a few blocks on the Villarrica side from where the Supermercado El TIt is now. As I saw and knew it, it was still painted yellow but very a faded yellow. Keeping it off the record and out of the hands of the banks and officialness, it was a handshake deal, on and off as the two needed money for projects and expansion, they traded, the land back and forth from the yellow house into Pucon and the puntilla. They were competitive but friends.
My relative’s land writ was so large it took three days to ride off it by horse and maybe five or seven days by oxcart, depending on the season, and all they had at the time——no roads really and just simple forest trails to Villarrica through muddy ruts for goods to be packed up on a narrow gauge rail line down to Pitrufquen from Villarrica. My relative eventually built his own narrow gauge rail line from the interior of his property as the size of his land generated so much product----it was nearly impossible and very tedious to do by way of oxcart. Without being royalty, he was a king of of his own kingdom and this was going on all over Chile. No government could govern it on their own from Santiago and he was all the power, the law and a provider——the remoteness was far to great. The Spanish had tried, in their day to conquer it——I think they tried several times to establish a trade center there in Villarrica and the Mapuche burned it all down at least 10 times. The government just wanted the products and the taxes and left these men to govern as they wished. Even up to the 1950’s, a Mapuche head had a bounty. Simply show up to the Carabineros in Villarrica with the cut off head of a Mapuche trespasser on your land and you got paid. In the late 1800’s and into 1920, it became a sort of a business and later on a very good way to make a point. Not a popular tradition but there it was.
On these large fundos there was a great need for workers. Typically Fundos would create little villes for workers in areas where work was to be done. With abundant forests, it was not a big deal to build a ville of homes for workers in addition to barns and shops for whatever was needed. The owner of the fundo would simply travel between villes as work and direction was needed in any area——a general program of what ever product was needed in the rest of Chile. Chile was growing fast and everything was needed to build it. It’s rare to find now but in the south you will find houses with the main structure built in mortise and tenon (like an old school chair or table) on the main timbers and then on skids of a sort like Santa’s sled——now not large houses but not small necessarily——this was because houses would be towed, according to summer or winter, into cooler spots close to water for summer and warmer and out of the wind for winter——simply hook up the oxen and pull it away to the better spot.
Men worked cutting down trees and tending crops, women and young children worked in everything that was needed to support the corps of working men——weave shops for blankets, candles, clothing, gardens for each ville’s food and then shepards to tend to cows, horse, sheep, pigs, turkeys and chickens——everything——too far to go to town for it all. The Fundo owner supplied everything that could not be provided on the fundo itself—coffee, sugar, medicines, shoes and boots, tools etc. Workers were set at a wage whereby the Fundo owner would deduct rent and supplied food from the land as well as what was purchased from the outside world After accounting, you can imagine there was not much money, if any at all, to pay the worker each month——it behooved the fundo owner to have everyone fed, healthy and strong, so plenty of food, clothing and blankets——just not much money Not as harsh as Mexico where the King of Spain employed the “Encomienda” where a guaranteed work force, unpaid, was given over in a land grant——but pretty damn close.
So you are not happy where you are at as a worker and you want to move on----- the consideration that getting out and off a fundo owners land would take three days by horse and maybe seven days walking, it was very much a pretty prison surrounded by forest. Well better do it at the end of the month after payday when you have no “debt” so you are not hunted down for not settling what you owe——and trespassing, either paid up with no debt, it's just trespassing——most farm workers were Mapuche and if mixed with european, only slightly so and father’s long gone and uncaring——a simple bounty on that head if they caught up to you and your severed skull was on a town police desk for the cash.
How could you run all this on a Fundo where you’d have people to follow your orders———lots of immigrants off the boats from where ever they were, were brought in and while still not trusted, they were trusted more than the Mapuche. Typically as well during this time large fundo owners had the business of having a lot of children as blood is thicker than water. My relative had 20 children with one wife where she died in child birth at number 20 and then another wife right after who gave him 20 more—so yes, a total of 40 children——all to go to work on the farm and head up one division or another.
Why did the Mapuche stay and work then with conditions as they were? Typically in Chile a Mapuche clan was made of maybe 60 to 100 people in what in Chilensis they call a “communidad.” Very territorial in custom, a Chilean Mapuche communidad covered just a few hundred hectares before bleeding into another communidad and family group. Fiercely loyal to their own communidad, these small groups carried all the same prefix in their last name——— typically after a local land feature they inhabited——a creek, hillock, river, valley, forest, mount etc and then with the prefix set after a land feature, a mapuche suffix was added at the end of the prefix to determine their basic region that could span an area of maybe 2 or 3 thousand hectares and much bigger than that——in the area my relatives colonized the suffix was “pan” and bleed into other suffix’s at the edge of the original land grant. Because of this Mapuche tradition of name, prefix to a land feature and then suffix to a specific community that had gone on for thousands of years (?)—the Mapuche were extremely tied to the land they were named for——Not always the case, but in our area, there were very solid facial features where it was obvious if they came form our area———I could not tell form beyond where I lived but within my area I could almost be certain they were from our area——I say this as a tribute to them and their obvious loyalty to one another----the Spanish came, the government of Chile came, the colonists came and they were not leaving their land——no matter what. They stayed together, they endured and suffered but they were together and on the land they knew——really then and now, such experts at knowing their land and its every contour and subtlety, they could hide anywhere and no one could find them———just a very, very very tough people——I applaud it.
In my time in the south I had a fundo on the same land as my relative——yep, re-bought on the same land he sold) and learned Mapudungu (to an extent)—— I relate it this as I learned it form the Mapuche in my small area and my accent, grammar and verbage was from them——but meeting any Mapuche and speaking anywhere else outside my area, by my words and accent, they could pinpoint where I lived by the land features and where I owned on my land——rivers, creeks, hills, ravines, forest, and what grew well there and what special plants I had there and their quality——very spooky but you, the reader, get the point. Not officially in any ceremony, but out of commonality of being there (plus I sold them wool on the cheap) I got “pan’ added to my last name in reference by neighbors in my area and was referred in that way—to be honest, some of this out of respect, some out of making fun of me and others to get a better deal on my chicha. A different result for me as my land owning relative was out right killed by the Mapuche in the mid 60’s for his bounty killing——thats another story entirely and while creative, just gruesome.
In a side note——walking through my forest came across this mapuche up in a tree, about 40 feet and just hanging out there———just got a feeling someone was there—looked around and looked up.
Me: Mari Mari Pena
Me: Que le pasa, en que estes?
Mapuche: Esperando no mas
Me: Esperando, y que?
Mapuche: un c***** su M*****
A mix of weather and goings on followed in Mapuche, He was obviously angry enough that anything I did in the way of the law was not worth it. Besides the local Mapuche traveled across our land all the time so….
Me: hmmmm cual C*****s***m******?
Mapuche: Ese, que esta ***************** mi mujer, el pasa por aquí jaa le estoy esperando…
He had a very big knife at his belt. I could keep a secret, but really it was not my business so that was that. Okay, he was not asking for permission or telling me what he had planned but i pretty much figured what was up, so I just signed off. I walked that trail through my forest for nearly 9 days after that and we greeted each other every day with just the common hello and best wishes like it was Sunday morning after church and then after that, he was gone. I guess it all worked out. I’d see him now and again when he came to buy chicha at our place with no words but a big grin. Thats a cat fight nobody wants to stick their hand into so that was that.
Two cases and two different relatives——One was a land buyer. He had a friend in the government that was tasked with buying land for electrical transformer sites to upgrade the old ones between Santiago and La Serena. He handed off the list to my relative and through straw men bough ALL the land sites up the engineers had sectioned off——relative made a nice sum and so did the government worker. Two——Realtive in Santiago——worked at medical supply firm. Firm wanted to expand and needed to remodel——Relative and Director of Operations were friends enough to conjure up a deal where by they found a contractor to bid over the limit with the overage to be split between the relative and the DOO——simple and these things are done all over Chile, everyday, like baking bread.
Had a relative of conscription age——and definitely poor so no pre-planning to get out of it. No university prospect either. They came for him in a big army truck about 6am——surrounded the house and barged in ripping him out of bed. No gentle note or summons. Threw him into the truck with a few others and off he was to the Escuela Militar in Santiago. Three days he was there before family got a related army colonel to get him out——no reason for it like grave family issues——just some cash and favor to the colonel to be cashiered when he needed it.
Back to Diego in La Serena. When I knew him, he was almost done with buying back all the land that had been expropriated by Allende. The land, untended, had just grown over with weeds. The campesinos that had gotten the land from the government had no idea how to run it all successfully——of course they knew pruning, irrigation and how to harvest——simply they had no idea, nor the money, on how to buy fertilizer, how to tranport their goods and get the right price——another issue was that now as a landowner, they could not connect the idea of working the land (not just in the north, this was an issue all over Chile) As a landowner they had the idea that he did not do anything so they were intent on copying that action. Of course on the farm with the landowner off on business or traveling between properties they had never seen it——to them the land owner just sat around and never put his hand to the dirt to work it. Diego bought it all back on the cheap——still buying back your own land and land that had to be completely overhauled with it left fallow in those years——but he did it.
In those years as well the Russians and Cubans, during Allende, were every where. At the time Russian and Cuban money was used instead of the Chilean Escudo. There were Russian signs on the road beside those in Spanish with many surviving even late into the 80’s when I first got there. The Russians sent over free Romanian tractors to each land grant. They were of course red and huge behemoths of machinery. Cannot remember the name but started with a “G” i think?—Anyway they were very heavy and prone to breaking down. When they were working it was mostly for campesinos to ride to town on a joyride by which many of them were crashed on the way back. We had several of them with only one doing the work and the rest for parts which was constant——all them we bought crashed and laying derelict in the field.
When I bought my property in the south I had been looking for two years——It was the perfect situation of dirt quality, forest, road access, creeks and streams in addition to wells——the house was kinda down but I could build one. I rented a small plane to see it all from the air. A nice view of Villarrica, the town and the volcano, and so from 1,000 feet up I could see the heads of streams, natural flow of land and what my nieghbors would be up to——what astonished me most, this was in march, so harvest time, was not the abundance of what I saw but lack of it———only a few farms had anything growing———Maybe if i flew over 500 farms that day or a thousand——perhaps less than 10 percent had anything growing.
Intrique about this, I asked around——most land is inherited in the south from one family to another——broken up certainly in wills of course but still large tracts of land where owners have no idea how to grow but limited things———plus no one wants to work. Not lazy because when they do work, they work hard, just substance living off the chacra———maybe chopping wood for some cash and pulling fardos to the barn. Because they don’t work, they don’t have money for seed or fertilizer——they’d rather drink chicha. The Chilean Agriculture Ministry has tried to come in but they are nearly worthless——there co-ops that work well with those that work but they are not going to waste their time with the ones that don’t work. We had a community meet-up ever week so farmers could go over things going on, trade, sell and buy——it was mostly all women trying to pry something off their farm that their sleeping husbands would not do.
I don’t have a lot experience with mining———I do know, along with the fisherman, they were the beginning of the communist party in Chile. Typically, high in the cordillera or in remote areas in the big north were the mines. Miners got paid in script——saying 1880’s in the teens. While housed in bunk rooms, they got food deducted from their pay with the ability to buy what else they needed from the company store. Mining companies produced their own script in a type of hard wax coin. You can go into any coin shop in Chile and find them. The advantage for the mines in paying in script was that they could set their own exchange rate. At payday you got what you got and paid with deduction for food at inflated rates. The company store had inflated prices as well. Going home for Christmas or holiday? You got paid in Chilean money off the script at less than what it was given to you——A lot of room for hard feelings——Chile carries this hard view of the worker to this day and its ingrained——funny thing is that I can nearly guarantee if you took a regular working Chilean and handed him sacks of money to run a business, he/she would run it in same way they would have learned from working in their own lives under complete oppression. You take the best and most ernest protestor off the streets today and put them in command of fixing all the shite going on and they will be as bad as anyone else they were protesting against and probably worse.