Rio BioBío

Our goal on the Alto BioBío was to interview some of the families that still remain. Unfortunately we had little success in that area. One of the fascinating things about this struggle is that the resistance has been led almost exclusively by women. Ralco, the second dam site, has proceeded in spite of numerous required social and environmental impact studies that have suggested that the project be abandoned. Ralco will displace more than one-hundred Pehuenche families, as well as inundate an ancient burial ground. Mito, who along with Sara helped us in the search for interview subjects suggested we spend the first night on his mother's land. His mother, Irma Jara, is the last remaining Pehuenche that remains on the shores of what is now called Laguna Pangue. It is actually more of a stagnant green reservoir choked with algae than a lake. Local fisherman say that fishing here is futile. For a people whose lives were so closely attached to the running waters of the river the place is a source of great heartbreak. Although Irma welcomed us in her home, she declined to be interviewed. She rarely smiles, yet she is a warm and lovely person. She suffers from constant depression. The doctors tell her it is nerves brought on by the noise of the constant flow of heavy trucks that carry mountains of material to and from the dam site. Sara believes it is a disease of the soul.  Whatever the cause, her sadness is palpable. It is overwhelming. She posed for this family photo with her son Mito, and daughters Jenny and Hilda.
Her home below is part of a sacred landscape that has been permanently altered by the dam's presence.
The source of the power in this landscape is this salto about 100 meters from her door. It feeds the peaceful stream at the bottom which courses through her pasture.