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Chile : Chiloë


20 Feb Chiloë with Penguins

We woke early as we were being collected at 9am to drive to the ferry port at Pargua. Going past Puerto Montt I spotted the signs to the Monte Verde archaeological site (an important discovery, see below), but had no time to visit. On arriving at Pargua, a small town, we boarded the car ferry and went to the observation deck to watch the sail through Chacao Channel, which separates Chiloe Island from the mainland. During the crossing see sea wolves, pelicans and seabirds (autochthon). We were lucky with the wildlife, spotting leaping dolphins, seals and some interesting birds, including an albatross. Chiloé Island (Isla de Chiloé), aka Greater Island of Chiloé (Isla Grande de Chiloé), is the largest island of the Chiloé Archipelago off the coast of Chile, in the Pacific Ocean. The island is located in southern Chile, in the Los Lagos (Lakes) Region. The northwest of Chiloé Island in Chiloé National Park has a great diversity of marine fauna, including blue whale, sei whale, Chilean dolphins and Peale's dolphins; sea lions, marine otters, Magellanic penguins and Humboldt penguins. With an area of 8,394 sq km, Chiloé Island is the 2nd largest island in Chile, after Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, and 5th largest in South America. It is separated from the Chilean mainland by Chacao Strait (Canal Chacao) to the north, Gulf of Ancud (Golfo de Ancud) and Gulf of Corcovado (Golfo Corcovado) to the east; the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Chonos Archipelago to the south, across the Boca del Guafo. The island is 190 km north to south, and 55/65 km wide.
The ferry berthed at Chacao pier, and we walked along the wooden shoreline walkway, spotting vast numbers of birds, including Black-necked Swans, Shearwaters, Petrels, Chilean Skua, Cormorants and a group of Peruvian Pelicans. At the end of the walkway we saw our guide with binoculars and it turned out he was a bird enthusiast, so he could tell us what everything was. Walking on from the short pier took us to the delightful village of Chacao, with its houses and church built with Alerce wood.
Chacao Town/ San Antonio de Chacao, belongs to the commune of Ancud, and is located in the northern end of Chiloe. It is the north entrance to the archipelago of Chiloe and has the main jetty linking it to the mainland Pargua area, through a year round ferry service. Founded in 1567 by Spanish conquistadors, it grew until it became a small town. From 1655 it was the residence of the governor and troops (previously in Carelmapu), becoming the main military garrison of Chiloé province.
Its main attractions are the Church of San Antonio de Chacao, whose two towers are original wood buildings of 1710, the Plaza de Chacao, where two ancient cannons are on display in Battery swirls. In 1741 the English navigator John Byron was imprisoned here, later describing it as a small fortress of earth, with a ditch and palisade, a few mouldy canyons without carriages, that would not serve for the slightest defense of the bay". In 1768 the village was depopulated by order of Carlos de Beranger and Renaud, who moved the people to the newly founded San Carlos de Chiloé. Three military batteries were then built: Swirls, Pampa de Lobos and La Poza, which were the scene of several clashes during the conquest of Chiloe in 1824. The church was interesting as it demonstrated the boat-shape interior typical of the island churches. Indeed, Chiloe is noted for its churches, especially the Jesuit built ones. The tower of the church is not ancient as it was as it was eaten by termites and has had to be rebuilt! Opposite was someone posing as an El Trauco, with people paying to photo him.
Some myths of Chiloe:
�El Trauco, one of the most important demons in Chilote mythology, aka Huelle/ Pompón del Monte/ Chauco. He is the most feared demon of the island. He has a terrifying appearance, like a vine-covered walking tree with stumps for limbs. He eats forest fruits such as “naranjitas” (little oranges) produced by a Chilote plant, the quilineja (Luzuriaga radicans), a creeper on trees where there is high humidity. The villagers believe that when a young, single woman gets pregnant it is the result of her encounter with Trauco.
El Caleuche, a phantom ship of wizards and witches that sails along the south Pacific, appearing close to beaches during night. When the tide is low you can distinguish it in the fog, lit up with music on board, as if a party were in full swing. Those who witness it, generally fishermen, turn into seals or sea lions, or are borne away on the Caleuche.
La Pincoya, a blonde lady in a seaweed dress that patrols the beaches to protect the ocean and save the shipwrecked. It is her task to call the fish, so their abundance or scarcity depends on her. It is believed that when a fisherman witnesses her dancing towards the sea, it is a sign of abundance, but away from it is a time of scarcity.
El Cuchivilu, an aquatic animal, is very important in Chiloé mythology. It destroys fishing pens. It is a mix between sea lion, snake and pig and lives in the lagoons or swamps that characterise Chiloé.
El Camahueto, similar to a calf, with a golden horn on its forehead, can be found in lagoons and rivers, where it sleeps for 25 years. When it wakes up, it destroys everything in its path, leaving behind the characteristic furrows that can be seen all over the island.
Leaving, we saw the Church of Chacao Viejo, a couple of km east, bordering the coast, in the sector Chacao Viejo, corresponding to the site of the first Spanish site, where a wooden church stands on top of the walls of the old colonial fort. On one side is Plaza de Chacao Viejo, where two guns are displayed.

We now took the car again to drive on the smaller roads around the edge of Chiloe Island, arriving at Caulín beach, famed for its oysters, bird sanctuary and rich marine fauna. Our helpful guide pointed out all sorts of birds, including ibis, herons, oystercatchers and even a stork. There was a small church in a field, with a number of ibis sitting on it, followed by a long beach with small beach houses along it. Isla Lacao, just offshore, is a renowned sanctuary. Caulin Beach- Between the port of Chacao and City of Ancud lies Caulín Bay, a singular spot on the Eastern coast of Chiloé Island, with of a great variety of birds. The beautiful beach becomes larger when the tide is low where flamingos, black-necked swans, herons and seagulls, to name a few, stop during their migration. Thus, visitors to the bay may observe a natural show of colourful beauty. In these surroundings, the inhabitants of the quiet community of Caulín carry out agricultural and fishing activities. The beach was declared a Bird Sanctuary, a designation celebrated with a festival every January. In turn, the rescue of cultural traditions has enabled the town of Caulín to show visitors handicrafts representing the Huiliche culture, as well as regional festivals such as “la mariscada” (a seafood festival), celebrated when the sea recedes one km and the beach is sown with seafood the villagers pick up to produce their typical dishes, such as curanto. Every year, over 60 sea species populate Caulín. The most outstanding birds include black-necked swans, herons and seagulls, to name a few, stop during their migration. Thus, visitors to the bay may observe a natural show of bird beauty. The inhabitants of this quiet community of Caulín carry out agricultural and fishing activities. The beach was declared a Bird Sanctuary, a designation celebrated with a festival every January. In turn, the rescue of cultural traditions has enabled the town of Caulín to show visitors handicrafts representing the Huiliche culture, as well as regional festivals such as “la mariscada” (a seafood festival), celebrated when the sea recedes one km and the beach is sown with seafood the villagers pick up to produce their typical dishes, such as curanto. Every year, over 60 sea species populate Caulín. The most outstanding birds include black-necked swans, which reach a population of 1,500 specimens in the summer, and pink flamingos, with thousands in autumn/ winter. There are also zarapitos (small birds of Scolopacidae family), ralladores/ rayador (birds who fish on their flight, from the Rynchopinae family), and several kinds of ducks, herons and seagulls that fly continuously over the shore.
Birds on Caulin Beach: Black-faced Ibis, American Oystercatcher with Andean Gulls, Southern Lapwing, Snowy Egret, Egret and Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Sandpiper and gulls, Black-necked Swans

We continued on the smaller roads, seeing many birds, especially lapwings, but also hawks, and even a chucao tapaculo (not common). Our guide explained that Chilotes (people of Chiloe) are different to the mainland Mapuche (although a similar ethnic group), being shorter and darker. He pointed some out to us en route (although we saw very few people anyway). Apparently drunkenness is a real problem on the island as there is little in the way of jobs and an abundance of local hooch (Yerba mate). The farms we saw were small and generally of a subsistence type, with a few crops and animals.
We arrived outside Ancud City (though really a town), and drove up to a high viewpoint before crossing the long bridge to drive to the late 18th century San Antonio Fort; located in the highest part of the city, one of the last Spanish fortifications in Chile. Ancud was once a rather wealthy place with gracious buildings, palafitos and a railway line. but the 1960 earthquake decimated the town. Today it is a quaint, sprawling town peppered with native architecture leading down to the spectacular waterfront.
ancud-chilo-chile_33335512066_o.jpgThe city was established in 1768 to function as the capital of the archipelago and held that position until 1982. Numerous glaciations have dredged the Chacao Channel to the north, separating Chiloé Island from mainland Chile to the north, marking the border between two natural regions of Chile, Zona Sur to the north and Zona Austral to the south. The Pacific Ocean lies on the west as the Chilean Coastal Range continues as a chain of islands. As consequence of the Seven Years' War the Spanish authorities had the coastal fortification system of Chile updated and expanded. By recommendation of former governor Antonio Narciso de Santa María the Spanish founded the "city-fort" of Ancud in 1767/8 and separated Chiloé from the Captaincy General of Chile into a direct dependency of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Summers are mild with Jan average of 15.0 °C.
Temperatures rarely exceed 30 °C. The Colonial fort of San Antonio is part of the fort system of Ancud together with the nearby fort of Agüi is one of 4 fort systems of colonial Chiloé. It is made of 2 forts and 4 batteries. Fuerte Real de San Carlos was built as late as 1824 by orders of Antonio de Quintanilla, the last Spanish governor of Chiloé. The arsenal (polvorín) of this can still be seen at the centre of a small plaza. The battery of San Antonio is the best preserved part of the fort system. We were dropped off outside the fort and walked down the lane into a very small fort with a few cannons, a statue and a great view of Quilo Bay. It didn’t take long to see the fort and we soon rejoined the car.

Chiloé Island/ Chonos Archipelago are a southern extension of the Chilean coastal range, which runs north and south, parallel to the Pacific coast and Andes Mountains. The Chilean Central Valley lies between the coastal mountains and the Andes, of which the Gulfs of Ancud and Corcovado form the southern extension. Mountains run north-south along the spine of the island. The east coast is deeply indented, with natural harbours and numerous smaller islands. The Alfaguara project (blue whale project), conducted by the Cetacean Conservation Centre, is based at Puñihuil (north-west coast). The project combines long-term research, educational and programs for marine conservation combined with sustainable development of local communities. Chiloe’s history began with the arrival of its first human inhabitants more than 7,000 years ago. Spread along the coast of Chiloé are a number of middens containing mollusc shells, stone tools and bonfire remains, indicate the presence of nomadic groups dedicated to the collection of marine creatures (clams, mussels etc) and to hunting and fishing. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived on Chiloé Island in the 16th Century, the island was inhabited by the Chono, Huilliche and Cunco peoples. The original peoples navigated the treacherous waters of the Chiloé Archipelago in boats called dalcas with skill that impressed the Spaniards. The first Spaniard to sight Chiloé was Alonso de Camargo in 1540, travelling to Peru. An expedition ordered by Pedro de Valdivia, captain Francisco de Ulloa reached the Chacao Channel in 1553 and explored the islands forming the archipelago, and is thus considered the first discoverer of Chiloé. In 1558, Spanish soldier García Hurtado de Mendoza began an expedition, which would culminate in the Chiloé archipelago being claimed for the Spanish crown. The city of Castro was founded in 1567. The island was originally called New Galicia but Chiloé, “place of seagulls” in the Huilliche language, was ultimately given to the island. Jesuit missionaries arrived on Chiloé at the turn of the 17th Century and built chapels throughout the archipelago, more than 150 wooden churches built in traditional style can be found on the islands, many are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, the Franciscans assumed responsibility for Chiloé. Chiloé only became part of the Chilean republic in 1826, eight years after independence and following the two failed campaigns for independence in 1820 and 1824. From 1843, a large number of Chilotes (as inhabitants of the island are called) migrated to Patagonia in search of work, mainly in Punta Arenas, but as conditions in Chiloé improved this migration decreased. Isla Grande de Chiloé is the continent's fifth-largest island and home to a fiercely independent, seafaring people. Immediately apparent are changes in architecture and cuisine: tejuelas, the famous Chilote wood shingles; palafitos (houses mounted on stilts along the water's edge); the iconic wooden churches (16 of which are Unesco World Heritage sites); and the renowned meat, potato and seafood stew, curanto. A closer look reveals a rich spiritual culture that is based on a distinctive mythology of witchcraft, ghost ships and forest gnomes. All of the above is weaved among landscapes that are wet, wind-swept and lush, with undulating hills, wild and remote national parks, and dense forests, giving Chiloé a distinct flavour unique in South America.
It was along the coast on another small road a viewpoint over Teguaco Beach (huge waves, unsafe for swimming) and Puñihuil beach. The small hut’s rickety landing made a good viewpoint and we could watch the vultures circling around. Then it was on down, fairly steeply, to Puñihuil beach itself.
The guide said he would arrange the boat to the islands, so we went for a coffee at Costa Pacifica. When we got back it was organised and all we had to do was put on our life jackets (and annoyingly NOT our suncream which we’d forgotten as it was raining when we’d left Puerto Varas). We got onto the platform, which wheeled us into the sea to get the boat, which they then pushed off. The islands are forbidden to land on or swim by due to the nesting penguins. This is a unique place as it is the only place in the world where both Magellan and Humboldt Penguins nest. The boat guide did his best in English and we got the gist of it, mainly because he pointed and said “Look”, which was generally enough! As well as the penguins, we saw Red-legged (pic 1), Neotropic (pic 2), Imperial and Rock cormorants, Kelp geese (pic 4 female/ pic 5 male and female), Diving petrels, Magellanic and Black oystercatchers and Fuegian Steamer Duck (pic 3). The Fuegian Steamer duck is in fact a flightless duck as its wings are too small to allow true flight, being used to paddle-skim over water. It’s only distantly related to true ducks and has no other relatives. What was amazing was how the penguins managed to climb up quite steep slopes, mainly by hopping and jumping. A natural formation, looking like a fat man or a bear is called The Bear. A local storm petrel, Pincoya, was only discovered in 2011.

The Magellanic penguin
Spheniscus magellanicus is a South American penguin, breeding in Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. It is the most numerous of the Spheniscus penguins. Its nearest relatives are the African, the Humboldt penguin and the Galápagos penguins. The Magellanic penguin was named after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who spotted the birds in 1520. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. Magellanic penguins are medium-sized penguins 61–76 cm tall and 2.7-6.5 kg. The males are larger than the females, and the weight of both drops while the parents nurture their young. Adults have black backs and white abdomens. There are two black bands between the head and the breast, with the lower band shaped in an inverted horseshoe. The head is black with a broad white border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat. Chicks and younger penguins have grey-blue backs, with a more faded grey-blue colour on their chest. Magellanic penguins live up to 25 years in the wild, but as much as 30 years in captivity. Young birds usually have a blotched pattern on their feet, which fades as they grow up into adulthood. By the time these birds reach about ten years of age, their feet usually become all black. Like other species of penguins, the Magellanic penguin has very rigid wings used to swim under water. Magellanic penguins feed in the water, preying on cuttlefish, squid, krill, and other crustaceans, and ingest seawater with their prey. Their salt-excreting gland rids the salt from their bodies. Adult penguins can regularly dive to depths of 20-50m to forage for prey. During the breeding season males and females have similar foraging and diving patterns as well as diet composition, however bone tissue analysis suggests that diets diverge post-season when limitations imposed by chick rearing are removed.
Magellanic penguins travel in large flocks when hunting for food. In the breeding season, they gather in large nesting colonies in southern Chile. The breeding season begins in September and extends into late Feb/ March when the chicks are mature enough to leave the colonies. Nests of 2 eggs are built under bushes or in burrows. Incubation lasts 39–42 days, a task which the parents share in 10- to 15-day shifts. The chicks are cared for by both parents for 29 days and are fed every two to three days. The male and female penguins take turns hatching, as they forage far away from their nests. The males return from the sea on the day the second egg is laid to take their turn incubating. The second egg is generally larger and with higher temperature than the first egg, so the first one is more likely to survive, but generally both of the chicks are raised successfully. Magellanic penguins mate with the same partner year after year. The male reclaims his burrow from the previous year and waits to reconnect with his female. The females recognise their mates through their call alone. Millions of these penguins live on the coasts of Argentina and Chile, but the species is classified as threatened due to the vulnerability of large breeding colonies to oil spills. The decline of fish populations is also responsible, as well as predators such as sea lions, giant petrels, and leopard seals which prey on the chicks. Climate change has displaced fish populations, so Magellanic penguins must swim an extra 40 km for fish.

The Humboldt penguin
Spheniscus humboldti (Chilean penguin, Peruvian penguin, or patranca) is a South American penguin that breeds in coastal Chile and Peru. The penguin is named after the cold water current it swims in, itself named after explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Humboldt penguins are medium-sized penguins, growing to 56–70 cm and 3.6-5.9 kg. They have a black head with a white border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat. They have blackish-grey upperparts and whitish underparts, with a black breast-band that extends down the flanks to the thigh. They have a fleshy-pink base to the bill. Juveniles have dark heads and no breast-band. They have spines on their tongue, which they use to hold their prey. Humboldt penguins nest on islands and rocky coasts, burrowing holes in guano and sometimes using scrapes or caves. In South America the Humboldt penguin is found only along the Pacific coast and the range of the Humboldt penguin overlaps that of the Magellanic penguin on the central Chilean coast. Due to declining population caused by over-fishing, climate change, and ocean acidification, the Humboldt penguin is threatened. Historically it was the victim of guano over- exploitation. The current population is between 3,300 and 12,000. In 2009 at a German zoo two adult male Humboldt penguins adopted an abandoned egg, hatched, raised and fed the chick. In 2014, Gumbs and Kermit, two male Humboldt Penguins who had pair bonded a number of years earlier successfully hatched and reared an egg given to them.
After a brilliant trip and plenty of time to enjoy the penguins we headed back to shore where our guide met us and recommended the nearby restaurant of El Rincón De Puñihuil. We ordered, as suggested, the curanto. This is basically a mix of seafood and meat (mainly chicken and sausage) with dumplings (milcaos). The seafood, especially the clams and mussels, were enormous. An unusual addition was piure (red sea squirt), but very tasty. Steve ordered chips, but we no way needed them (which was lucky because they forgot the guide’s food and he ended up eating the chips instead). It was quite a long meal, so after we needed a walk. At the bottom of a wooden stair we paid a girl so we could walk up to the viewpoint over the islands, which was really worth the view. Then we collected our car from the beach and drove out of Punihuil (a one way beach system) to head back to Ancud market. Crossing the wild beaches of Pumillahue, we took the more major road back to the town.
Puñihuil is a cove with a small community on the northwestern coast of the Isla Grande de Chiloe. The Islotes de Puñihuil Natural Monument, three small islands, lie west and north of the cove and are the only known shared breeding site for Humboldt and Magellanic penguins. The government has recently introduced a licence system for the visiting boats, so only 6 operators are allowed (1 boat each).
On the way we spotted a tree full of Austral Parakeets. We liked them, but apparently the locals don’t because they strip the crops. We had half an hour to explore the market, which was ample. The lower floors were food, mainly dried meat, artisanal honey (we purchased some off a seriously stoned farmer) and various fruit/ veg. Some of our favourites were nalca or Chilean rhubarb (nothing to do with our rhubarb) that we’d seen growing earlier. Gunnera tinctoria (giant or Chilean rhubarb) is native to southern Chile. It is a large-leaved perennial that grows to 2+m tall. It is edible both by the stem and the erect spikes of cone-shaped inflorescences (to 1m) from spring to early summer, with small flowers. The fruit is orange. The number of seeds is c250,000 per plant. Another unusual one was Chiloe potatoes (Papas Chilotes) small round, or fingerling potatoes with hues from yellow to pink to a purplish blue. A stall selling marijuana (legal in Chile) did not tempt us at all! The upper balcony area was gift and clothes stalls, all selling much the same stuff, so I got a small alerce wood pudu deer statue that was easy to transport home.
We were getting tired, so re-found the car, which drove back to the port by the main road. The ferry (we were the last car on) went right through a colony of seals, which was really nice. Then, back to Puerto Varas. Ironically, as we headed back the mist cleared and we finally had a view of the snow capped volcanoes for which the area is so famous! We were not hungry at all, so we thought we’d just get a drink and an ice cream. On the lakeshore we sat outside at Cafe Mawen and enjoyed one of their famous hot chocolates and helados. The “pirate” ship was anchored just offshore, completing the volcano-lake-boat picture.

The South
Although many lakes can be found in the Andean and coastal regions of central Chile, the south (Sur de Chile) is the country's most lacustrine area. Southern Chile stretches from below the Bío-Bío River at 37° south latitude to Chacao channel at 42° south latitude. In this lake district of Chile, the valley between the Andes and the coastal range is closer to sea level, and the hundreds of rivers that descend from the Andes form lakes, some quite large, as they reach the lower elevations. They drain into the ocean through other rivers, some of which (principally the Calle-Calle River, which flows by the city of Valdivia) are the only ones in the whole country navigable for any stretch. Central Valley's southernmost portion is submerged in the ocean and forms the Gulf of Ancud. Isla de Chiloé, with its rolling hills, is the last important elevation of the coastal range of mountains. The south is one of the rainiest areas in the world. One of the wettest spots, Valdivia, has an annual rainfall of 2,535.4 mm. The summer months of Jan/ Feb are the driest, with a monthly average of 67 mm. Temperatures are moderate, the two summer months average 16.7 °C. The lakes are remarkably beautiful. The snow-covered Andes form a constant backdrop to vistas of clear blue or even turquoise waters, as at Todos los Santos Lake. The rivers that descend from the Andes rush over volcanic rocks, forming numerous white-water sections and waterfalls. The vegetation, including many ferns, is lush green. Some sections consist of old-growth forests, and in all seasons, but especially spring/ summer, there are wildflowers and flowering trees. The pastures in the northern section around Osorno, are well suited for raising cattle; milk, cheese, and butter are important products. All kinds of berries grow in the area, some of which are exported, and freshwater farming of trout and salmon has developed. The lumber industry is also important. Many of Chile's distinctive animal species have been decimated, pushed farther and farther into the remaining wilderness by human occupation of the land. This is the case with the huemul, a large deer, and the Chilean condor; both are on the national coat of arms. The remaining Chilean cougars, bigger than their Californian cousins, have been driven to isolated national parks in the south by farmers who hunt them because they occasionally kill sheep and goats.
Early history (pre-1540)
About 10,000 years ago, migrating groups settled in the fertile valleys and coastal areas of Chile. Pre-Hispanic Chile was home to over a dozen different Amerindian societies. The current theory is that the initial arrival of humans to the continent took place along the Pacific coast southwards in a rapid expansion preceding the Clovis culture, backed by findings in Monte Verde archaeological site, which predates the Clovis site by thousands of years. Settlement sites from very early human habitation in Chile including the Cueva del Milodon and Pali Aike Crater's lava tube.
Monte Verde archaeological site nr Puerto Montt, c16,500 BC, pre-dates the Clovis culture by 1000 years (contradicting the c13,500 Clovis model of American settlement). The site was discovered when a mastodon bone found in Chinchihuapi Creek, a tributary of Maullín Rv, in an anaerobic bog. Finding 2 large hearths and wooden posts from 12 huts, Monte Verde has reshaped archaeologists thoughts about the earliest inhabitants of the Americas. Radiocarbon dating of 14,800 BC and possibly 33,000 BC, establish Monte Verde as the oldest-known site of human habitation in the Americas. Previously, the earliest site had been Clovis, New Mexico, c13,500-13,000 BC.
The dates of Monte Verde make it a key factor in the debate over the first migration route from Asia to North America. Before its discovery, the accepted theory was the overland route, from Asia across the Bering Strait, then spreading throughout North America. However, Monte Verde weakens this theory. Prior to 13,000 BP, the Cordilleran Glacier had not melted enough to become an ice-free corridor. Monte Verde thus dates prior to the glacial melt, when the desolate, icy landscape of the Americas could not have permitted vegetation to sustain people or herded animals. This has led to a new theory of coastal migration, where people migrated down the western coasts of North and South America. Monte Verde is 8,000 miles south of the Bering Strait, an unlikely trek by foot, especially on ice. Remains of 22 varieties of seaweed (many still used today) argue for marine knowledge. Together with a relative lack of stone tools, it appears these were hunter-gatherer-fishermen, rather than big-game hunters like the Clovis. It is feasible they travelled along the coast by boat or along the shoreline. The only human settlement site in Southern Chile of comparable age is Pilauco Bajo in Osorno, 12,500–11,000BC. There is evidence of giant sloth, Patagonian panther, llama and horse (which later died out in the Americas) being hunted. The Chinchorro culture, a coastal culture of north Chile/ south Peru, originated c9,000 BC. Other coastal sites, Quebrada Jaguay and Tacahuay (Peru), c13,000-12,000 BC.
It is possible to classify the indigenous people into 3 major cultural groups

  • northern people, influenced by pre-Incan cultures.
  • agrarian Mapuche (Araucanian) culture, between the river Choapa and island of Chiloé
  • Patagonian culture of various nomadic tribes, who supported themselves through fishing and hunting.
  • far south groups in the southern tip and Tierra del Fuego archipelago in much smaller numbers

1. The Inca Empire briefly extended into northern Chile, where they collected tribute from small groups of fishermen and oasis farmers but were unable to establish a strong presence.
2. The Mapuche are the indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile/ southwest Argentina/ north Patagonia. The term refers to various groups who share a common social, religious and economic structure, and a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers. Their influence once extended from Aconcagua River to the Chiloé Archipelago. Today they make up 80% of Chile’s indigenous people, and 9% of the total population. They are particularly concentrated in Araucanía. Mapuche can refer to both the Picunche (people of north), Huilliche (people of South) and Moluche/Nguluche from Araucanía, or exclusively to the Moluche/Nguluche. Mapuche economy was agrarian, with a social organisation based on the extended family under a lonko (chief). In times of war, they united in larger groupings and elected a toki (axe-bearer) to lead them. The Araucanian Mapuche inhabited the valleys between the Itata and Toltén rivers. The Huilliche and Cunco lived south, up to the Chiloé Archipelago. In the 17-19th centuries, Mapuche groups migrated east to the Andes and pampas, fusing with the Poya and Pehuenche. The Spanish referred to the Mapuche as Araucanians, now considered pejorative. The name was likely derived from the placename rag ko (Spanish for clay-water), rather than the Quechua word awqa, meaning "rebel, enemy”.

e839d0f0-9544-11eb-b9bb-35ac1b35db75.jpge7ef8180-9544-11eb-8c51-61eabea3148a.JPGThe Mapuche in central Chile were more settled while those in the south combined slash-and-burn with hunting. Of the 3 Araucanian groups, the one that led the fiercest resistance to attempts to seize their territory were the Mapuche (People of the land). The Inca attempted to extend south but encountered fierce resistance. During their attempts at conquest in 1460 and 1491, the Inca established forts in Central Valley of Chile, but they could not colonise the region. The Mapuche fought against Sapa Tupac Inca Yupanqui (c.1471– 1493), ending in a bloody 3-day Battle of the Maule, halting the Inca conquest at Maule river, which became the boundary between the Incan empire and Mapuche lands. The Mapuche are the direct descendants of the ancient pre-Hispanic cultures of Pitrén (100-1100AD) and El Vergel (1100- 1450AD) that lived between Bío Bío River and Reloncaví Sound. By the time of the Spanish arrival, the Mapuche language of Mapudungun was in use from the Choapa River to Chiloé. Spanish conquest in the 16th century seems to have led to the amalgamation of several indigenous groups and the forging of closer social/cultural ties, forming a Mapuche identity. Scholars speculate that the total Araucanian population may have numbered 1.5 million when the Spanish arrived in the 1530s; a century of European conquest and disease reduced that to 700,000. The Spanish expansion into Chile came from Peru. In 1541 Pedro de Valdivia founded Santiago. The northern Mapuche tribes, the Promaucaes and Picunches, fought unsuccessfully against Spanish conquest. In 1550 de Valdivia travelled south to conquer more Mapuche territory. Between 1550-3 the Spanish founded cities (Concepción, Valdivia, Imperial, Villarrica, Angol) and forts (Arauco, Purén and Tucapel) in Mapuche lands. Further expansion engaged them in the Arauco War against the Mapuche, a sporadic conflict that lasted nearly 350 years. From 1550-98, the Mapuche frequently laid siege to Spanish settlements in Araucanía. Mapuche numbers decreased significantly as wars, epidemics and forced gold mining labour decimated the population. In 1598 a party of warriors from Purén led by Pelantaro, returning south from a raid in Chillán, ambushed Martín García Óñez de Loyola and his troops. All the Spaniards died, save cleric Bartolomé Pérez, who was taken prisoner, and soldier Bernardo de Pereda. The Mapuche then began a general uprising that destroyed all the cities south of Biobío River. A general uprising among the Mapuche and Huilliche followed this Battle of Curalaba. The Spanish cities of Angol, Imperial, Osorno, Valdivia and Villarrica were destroyed or abandoned. With the exception of the Chiloé Archipelago, all Chilean territory south of BíoBío Rv was freed from Spanish rule. The Araucanian Nation crossed the Andes to conquer parts of modern Argentina. During the conquest, they quickly added horses and European weaponry to their clubs, bows and arrows. They became adept at raiding Spanish settlements and held off the Spaniards until the late 19th century. Some Mapuche mingled with Spanish during colonial times, and their descendants make up the large group of mestizos in Chile, but the Mapuche in Araucanía/ Patagonia remained independent until the Chilean Occupation of Araucanía and the Argentine Conquest of the Desert in the late 19th century. Today, Mapuche are fighting over land and indigenous rights in Argentina and Chile. The Araucanians inspired the Chileans to mythologise them as the nation's first heroes, a status that did nothing to elevate the wretched living standards of their descendants. In 1910, the country’s first indigenous organisation, Sociedad Caupolicán, brought forward a series of petitions. From 1960-73, Mapuche people attempted unsuccessfully to recover their seized territory through the Agrarian Reform. At the same time many Mapuche migrated to Santiago, and by the end of the 1970s, 70% of the Mapuche people lived in urban areas, mostly of them in extreme poverty. The country’s emerging capitalist economic model perceived the “indigenous problem” as a concern related to rural peasants. In 1976, the military government passed the Law of Community Division, which sought to privatise communally held Mapuche land and force people to place it under individual ownership. In the 1980s, poverty was on the rise among the Mapuche population, driving them to the cities and reducing the number of pure-blood natives. New indigenous laws in the late 1980s sought the assimilation of the country’s native groups into mainstream Chilean society, but the reestablishment of democracy helped to reverse this. The Indigenous Law of 1991 recognised, protected and promoted the development of Chile’s ethnic groups. Chile’s pre-Hispanic Mapuche population is estimated to have been around one million. Today, there are 600,000 Mapuche in Chile, 87.3% of the indigenous population. At the time of the arrival of Europeans, the Mapuche had constructed a network of forts and complex defensive buildings as well as ceremonial constructions such as earthwork mounds recently discovered near Purén. They quickly adopted iron metal-working (they already worked copper).
They learned horseback-riding and the use of cavalry from the Spanish, along with the cultivation of wheat and sheep. In the 300-year coexistence between the Spanish colonies and relatively well- delineated autonomous Mapuche regions, they develop trade. Such trade lies at the heart of the Mapuche silver- working tradition, for they wrought their jewellery from the widely dispersed quantity of Spanish and Chilean silver coins. The Mapuche combined new Spanish techniques with sheet metal work, traditionally used to manufacture copper jewellery. Over time, silver Mapuche jewellery became a central feature of Mapuche women’s traditional attire and part of their bridal dowry. Typical pieces include the chain link belt (trarilonko), earrings (chaway, upul), breast ornaments (trapelakucha, sikil, runi, llol-llol), breast pins (akucha), and pins used to hold shawls (tupu, ponzón), as well as silver rivets adorning leather and woven straps used for their horses. Silver was also used to make the horse tack, notably beautifully crafted Mapuche horseshoes, spurs and stirrups. Woven cloth is a central element. Usage and traditional symbolism determined which colours and designs were used to make ponchos (makuñ), woven sashes (trarihue), blankets (pontro), bedcovers and woollen bags. Mapuche pottery has its own emblematic pieces, including metawe, earthenware jugs in asymmetric designs made to resemble animals such as ducks, chickens and frogs. The Mapuche are known for their woodwork in beautiful native hardwood species such as roble, laurel, raulí, alerce and coigüe. They produce range domestic utensils (platters, bowls, spoons) and ritual objects such as the kollong (mask), rewe (ceremonial altar) and chemamull (carved tree trunks with multiple heads used for funeral rites). Less well known is Mapuche basketry, which produced heavy, densely woven baskets. Mapuche art includes music and dance, with instruments such as the kultrún and truruka used to produce the unique sounds of traditional rites.
Central to Mapuche cosmology is the idea of a creator called ngenechen, embodied in four components: an old man (fucha/futra/cha chau), an old woman (kude/kuse), a young man and a young woman. They believe in the two worlds of Wenu Mapu and Minche Mapu. Mapuche have spirits that co-exist with humans and animals in the natural world. The most well known Mapuche ritual ceremony is the Ngillatun, a major communal event of spiritual and social importance. The main groups of spirits in Mapuche mythology are the Pillan and Wangulen (ancestral spirits), the Ngen (nature spirits), and the wekufe (evil spirits). Their god of evil, Gualichu was blamed for every disease or calamity. Gualichu could enter people's body or objects and then an exorcism had to be performed to expel him. He was a purely spiritual being and there is no depiction of him. He was believed to live underground. The machi (shaman), usually an older woman, is an important part of Mapuche culture. The machi performs ceremonies for warding off evil, for rain, the cure of diseases, and has an extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs, gained during apprenticeship. The main healing ceremony performed by the machi is the machitun. The legend of Trentren Vilu and Caicai Vilu is related to the geography and origin of the Chiloean archipelago, and mountains of southern Chile. These were said to be created by a fierce battle between two mythical snakes, Trentren Vilu (trentren="related to earth", vilu="snake") and Caicai/ Coicoi Vilu (Caicai="related to water", vilu="snake"). Trentren Vilu is the god of Earth, a generous spirit and protector of life on land. Caicai Vilu is the god of water and its creatures. Thousands of years ago, what is now Chiloé island (and the smaller islands around it) was part of mainland Chile. One day a monstrous serpent appeared and flooded the land, submerging all, even the mountains. Trentren Vilu attacked and won the battle, but was only able to raise some of the land, leaving some valleys flooded and creating the islands. Caicai Vilu left his representative controlling the seas, the king Millalobo (Millalonco), who was conceived when a beautiful woman fell in love with a sea lion. Other spirits are the Cherufe, evil humanoid creatures made of rock and magma that inhabit the magma pools deep in volcanoes and are the source of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and meteorites. The only way to appease the Cherufe's appetite was to throw a sacrificial victim into the bowels of its volcanic home. Much like the European dragon, the Cherufe's preferred delicacy was a virgin.
Until the 16th century, Mapuche society was organised in a polygamous patrilineal kinship system. In the early 17th Century, the Cacique (tribe) became more prominent, with groups organised into a military hierarchy, and the wartime leaders (tokis) emerged to play a strategic role in Mapuche society, while colonial authorities attempted unsuccessfully to bolster the role of the lonkos, local community chiefs. After the Mapuche were defeated in 1881, a protectorate system was introduced and the authorities began handing over land to family based communities, identifying each estate with the name of the corresponding cacique or lonko. The establishment of these communities did little to integrate the Mapuche into Chilean society, as their society had no concept or practice prior to the establishment of this regime. Today, a Mapuche community is a primarily patrilineal consanguineous group established when an indigenous land title was granted to a chief and his family. Prior to the 16th Century, the Mapuche lived a dispersed nomadic existence with slash and burn horticulture. Spanish chroniclers used several names to identify local groups, including Levo, Lof, and Rehue, probably because of their cultural differences or spatial separation. Local groups were composed of different “houses” separated from each other and in which the males of each lineage lived with their wives (usually from another group) and unattached daughters. The ruka was the traditional dwelling of the extended Mapuche family. These structures differed in size and form, being rectangular, circular or elliptical. The most common type had a strong frame of roble hardwood and was covered on top and sometimes on the sides with bunches of straw to provide insulation from the extreme cold and to protect the inhabitants from the rain. These dwellings had no windows and only a single entrance, which faced eastward toward the Puelmapu, the Land of the East, homeland of the Gods. Inside, the hearth (kutral) was placed at the centre and always kept burning, coating the walls with soot. The Mapuche used very little furniture, mainly wankus (small stools made from a single block of wood) and beds along the walls. Domestic implements hung from the ceiling and walls, and special spaces were used to store food. The traditional ruka, which is no longer in use, was built by the community and inaugurated with a rukatún ceremony that included dances with kollong masks.
The Bear, Chiloe Island

Posted by PetersF 12:42 Archived in Chile Tagged penguin island chile chiloe puerto_varas Comments (0)

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