By Moira Millán
Mari mari lonely mountain, I know, don't tell me anything, I promised you a chronicle of my trip along the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, and here it goes. It is only yours. I wrote it thinking of you, but also for the world. Because there are truths that must be told, and injustices that must be denounced. Because there are silences that scream in the most remote corners of our geography, because there are landscapes that look at us, from the depths of their history and demand justice.
You already know that I flap like a caged bird, until I open the gate, and I fly, this time with gull's wings and a sea breeze, I reached Sierra Grande. The Patagonian routes are witnesses of my adventurous walk. At times the sun burned with its powerful rays, but I was not discouraged, I was not alone in the middle of the infinite route, you accompanied me through the memory, your gaze protected me, your voice whispered to me, and your laugh refreshed me, even Malón seemed to bark at me among the sounds of the wind.
Sierra Grande is a small town in the province of Río Negro, the epicenter of our ancestral Mapuche territory. It is located at 41º36`41 "south latitude and 65º21`27" west longitude, on "km 1250" of National Route 3 , which links it to the north with San Antonio Oeste and Viedma - Patagones; and to the south with Puerto Madryn. It is found leaning against the eastern side of the slopes of the mountains, about 28 km from the coast, where the Playas Doradas Spa is located.
Some 7000 people live there, although it was not always like that, in the 90s just over 11,000 inhabitants made up its population, the majority Mapuche, since this municipality is the administrative head of Konaniyeu, and other Mapuche communities. The countryside is depopulated and migration forced by poverty pushes our people to settle on the outskirts of that city. In the 70's the fantasy of eternal prosperity was fed with the exploitation of an iron mine.
HIPASAM was installed in Sierra Grande between the years 1973 and 1989 approximately. However, during the 1990s, the national government decreed the closure of the deposit, making Sierra Grande the first of several public companies closed by the Menem government. The 1,000 unemployed workers were devastating for the town, which suffered the largest drop in population among towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants in Argentina, remaining at the end of the decade at less than 50% than at the beginning, and an unemployment rate greater than 30%.
Subsequently, the provincial government, administered by Horacio Massaccesi, provincialized the company to put it into operation again, trying to avoid the scrapping that was taking place of equipment and supplies, creating the provincial company HIPARSA. All kinds of initiatives were tried to reactivate the economy, and leave From that desolation of a ghost town in which the town was submerged, until the highly promoted mining tourism, was one of the letters that were used to awaken the illusion that it would return to the old era of prosperity, they called it TRIP TO THE FUND OF THE EARTH. However, magic spells had no effect. The town, once the most prosperous neighborhood in the city, was turned into tapas bars, squatted by the new outcasts of a town that did not know so much poverty. The Mapuche communities submerged in misery since the installation of the Argentine state have been mere spectators of these developmental attempts.However, today there is a decided and firm awakening of our people to intervene, to raise their voices, to act against a model that only death seeks to progress, the contamination of our mapu.
At the beginning of 2006 Chinese capital Grade Trading finally acquired the mining deposits, Trading is an American company incorporated in California. They are now said to have sold the mine to another company, but to whom is unknown.
The promises of incorporation of local labor was promoted from the media, as the lifeline for each and every one of the inhabitants, but when the disappointment was launched, the company brought in a significant number of Chinese workers, and professionals from other places and a minimum number of workers from the city of Sierra Grande. However, life became more expensive, the rents and the cost of the products were highlighted at the height of the pocket of a mining professional. Pollution and predation is gradual, and it is incredible from the Mapuche logic that nature is destroyed to finally end up making golf clubs for an elite.
When we oppose mega-mining we must not only ask ourselves about the distribution of profits, the capital that benefits, the levels reached by the impact on the environment but also which industries we feed, many of the mines contribute to the arms industry, destroy an ecosystem for a small group of people to play golf is absurd.
And believe me lonely mountaineer, I have nothing against this sport, but I have everything against the vain explanations and arguments that justify extractive and polluting exploitation.
Other evils also afflict the town, along with mining came prostitution, and drugs. The brothels are lined up along the route, they already were before, since Sierra Grande is a mandatory crossing point for transit. However, the mining reactivation multiplied the brothels.
Despite the many injustices that were related to me in detail by the settlers I met, I felt fortunate to meet such wonderful people, women from my town, with vitalizing strength and dignity, men from my town who were vigorous, confident and firm in their walk Identitary.
They caressed me with their food, with their care, with their company. They made me grow with their testimonies and reflections, they watered me with emotion through their tears, and I walked by the sea, as my people did in the past. I left there with the piwke, a heart full of gratitude, with the desire to return and continue to strengthen ties, I felt happy and proud to be People of the Earth !!
That is how I arrived at the Caves, but that is another chronicle, my dear friend. Hugs from the southern mountain range, for territory justice and freedom, marici weu !!