The BioBío

We had to travel back to Los Angeles before heading south again to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is the last town of any size before heading up to the alto BioBío. Perhaps its best restaurant is an unmarked place at the back of the bomberos (firehouse) adjacent to the town square. Here we met with Cristian Opasso, another of the major figures in the Grupo de Acción BioBío's struggle to help the Mapuche fight the dam projects on the river. We had come without any guaranties that we would get an interview with Cristian, in fact, on most of our earlier phone conversations he seemed somewhat unwilling to talk. We were able, however, to convince him, and after outlining our project we were lucky enough to tape nearly an hour of conversation with him. Cristian, whose home is just a few meters from the banks of the BioBío is very passionate about the ecological impacts as well as the social impacts of the dam projects. With Volcan Callaqui clearly visible from his small second floor office, we talked of many things including my earlier film and his interest in broadcast media. It turns out that Cristian was completely familiar with the barrio where my first film was set, and had actually been educated at San Francisco State University. Since Cristian was also about to leave town, he gave us the number of a young Pehuenche man that he thought might help us to find  interview subjects. He also suggested that we contact Sara Imalmaqui, whose number we already had. Sara, who had also been active in the dam struggles, is just shy of 5 feet of raw energy. Both her and Guillermo Salamanca (Mito for short) proved to be invaluable resources. It was several days before we could pull everything together
Here Mito and Sara sit atop a stone overlook near the Ralco dam site.  A white cross shares the top of the stone escarpment with a survey marker. We had to skirt a fence and scramble up the rock to take these photos. There had been a wooden stairway, but Endessa, the company that is building the dam has knocked it down to dicourage journalists from filming here. In the photo below, the arrow shaped scar to the upper right of the buildings will be the site of the newest dam. Ralco is the second of seven proposed sites on the BioBío. It will be four times as large as the first dam Pangue down river.