First Impressions

In October, 1965, Lorenzo first arrived in Caburgua. It appeared sparsely populated and residents seemed very reserved. Within a few months, however, he met many people, most of whom were hospitable. The people taught him about their past. They discussed their challenges and dreamed of change. They had a difficult and profound dialogue with their natural environment. Their silence was as important as these conversations in getting to know their lives. Many of these dialogues and other reference materials provide the historical background for this Caburgua visual archive.

Natural and Human History

The region's history dates back a surprisingly long time. The earliest Caburgua inhabitants before the Spanish were the Pehuenche, a subdivision of the Mapuche, who lived in the southern Andes and moved back and forth across the mountains. Numerous descendants of these people live in Caburgua today. Local residents do not usually distinguish Mapuche subdivisions; rather, they call Mapuche all the people who still speak the native language and have Mapuche surnames.

The forests where the Mapuche lived stretched from the Pacific coast to the Argentine pampas. They were ancient and very productive.  The most important tree was the Pehuén, referred to today as the Pino Araucaria, which produces large quantities of pine nuts. In the fall when the nuts mature, locals climb to the Pehuén forests, usually located above 3,000 feet, and collect the pine nuts or piñones in sacks. The Mapuche have various ways to consume the nuts: roasted, ground into flour, boiled, or in a fermented cider. The nuts are still consumed in large quantities and are seasonally available in Pucón grocery stores. 

The Mapuche and Their Land

Taking advantage of natural meadows, the Mapuche planted corn, potatoes, and other vegetables. They also used slash and burn agriculture, but most of the Andes in this region were covered by giant, noble hardwoods, like coihue, roble, and raulí, which were not easy to clear for farming. The Mapuche did burn trees to make dugout canoes, but without iron tools they could not make lumber.  When the Spanish conquered the forested regions, they likewise had trouble developing a lumber industry for lack of machines and transportation.