Don’t even think of looking it up on a map. Suffice it to say that it is a God-forsaken town of approx. 12.000 inhabitants about 1000 km south of Santiago. There is a legend that it was named after the wife of a Mapuche chieftain who was taken prisoner by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Upon seeing him in chains, she was so furious that she threw their baby infant onto a rock, killing it, and screaming at her husband that she would not keep the child of someone who let himself be defeated by his enemies (more…)
Fresia can boast several social housing projects, with houses being made available for the equivalent of approx. 250 Euro for qualified persons. And the town even has a youth orchestra – maybe it is even part of the “El sistema” made famous by Gustavo Dudamel and José Antonio Abreu?
And it is here that my friend Alexander and I arrived in the early morning hours of a rainy day to change to the 4-wheel drive “camioneta” (pick-up truck) he keeps parked at the local police station. Although I didn’t say anything, the thought did occur to me that he may be exaggerating in terms of road conditions, since, up to now, the roads had been excellent. Well, he was right. No sooner had we passed the gates (see the “Veneno” photo) that the dirt track turned into, well, a king-size dirt track, even having to cross a river bed, now swollen by the rain into a respectable stream.
We passed the house (photo) of two brothers who live there alone and tend to their cattle. We met one of them, who complained that he had had 14 head of cattle stolen within the last month (the usual count is 2-3 per year). Whereupon he and Alexander resignedly discussed the lax penal system, which allows these things to happen with nary a persecution, fine or sentence should the thief ever be found.
The rain stopped and Alexander and Marcelo, the head tree-planter, set out to measure the area of the work done with a GPS measuring gizmo. According to that measurement, the tree-planting team gets paid. I went along, with knee-high rubber boots, raincoat with hood.
Alexander has about 200 ha, which he has planted about half and half with pines and eucalyptus. But before being able to put the little plants into the fertile earth, he has to have the land cleared of “malezas” (weeds), which include wild blackberries and which are very difficult to eradicate at the root. After the pine and eucalyptus are planted, all you have to do is wait about 15 years and then you can “harvest” the mature trees and sell them. In the meantime, of course, you hope there are natural (insect plagues) or unnatural (forest fires) catastrophes that may anihilate the crop.
Stomping up and down the countryside and with drizzle turning into rain, made me stop after about an hour. Off I went into the warm house and the company of a cat and the daughter of the caretaker, who saw in me a live toy to play with.