Friday, January 30, 2009

Futa is the new Provencial Capital

Above: A poster on points out that in the first picture the huasos are wearing "mantas", and in the third picture the rider is wearing a "poncho". Manta's being shorter and likely a different material and pattern. A poncho is generally longer, and made of tightly woven wool, it repels even the most harsh rain and keeps the rider warm and dry.

When my friend Helen, in Puerto Rica messaged me yesterday afternoon with the news that Futa is tapped to replace Chaiten as the new Provencial Capital of Palena, it was typical of how isolated we have been here. And I'm not sure how I feel about it. Excited, I guess that it might mean a gas station or pharmacy. That we will not have to travel long gravel roads to accomplish business. A bit sad, or maybe ambiguous to think that things will change forever here. The things I love about here, also sometimes drive me crazy.

As I went out to take care of errands today, the sentiment in town seems the similar. Happy and honored to be picked, hopeful at the prospect of a gas station and other services not available here, but a little melancholy that Futa will no longer be the quiet, sleepy little haven it has been for almost 80 years. The other underlying feeling is that of, "Uh oh! Strangers!" Futa loves it's tourist time, they put on a good show of hosting, but boy when the seasons over....well, they are happy to have their town back. Now, as the capital of Palena, it means people who might never walk down these streets will now be a common event. The strangers have no history here, so they are to be feared, or at least suspected. After all...they don't do asados like they do in Futa. They don't keep their yards like Futans do. They are just different.

When we moved here, we were obviously strangers, and still are in some respects. But we have a little history now. In this little ecological and social microcosm, Futa has developed into a country all it's own. They are welcoming, yet protective, helpful yet reserved and hesitant to let people become involved in their lives. Cautious would better describe it. Suspicious. Bosque is at his wits end because I insist on sleeping with a window open. Wagging his finger and shaking his head at me, he cannot believe that I would take the chance that someone might crawl in the window at night and kill me.

Crime is almost non-existent here, with the exception of drunken rodeo participants and petty theft for fun, also a result of too much alcohol. Everyone always get caught and does the walk of shame around town for months because everyone knows. And it doesn't happen often. The very first murder occurred just last year out in Azul. In 80 years there was not one murder. This was a husband and wife dispute which tragically ended with him shooting her, then himself. Add to the low-crime rate, the fact that we have between 60 or 70 Carabineros rotating at any given time here. I don't know the exact number on duty in Futa, but with the border just 10 kilometers away, we are well covered...Walking patrols, Carabineros on horse back, truck patrols, officers living and working and being involved in everyday life.

There are thoughts that better transportation routes will reduce prices, as would a gas station reduce difficulties. However, there is a fear that prices on property and hotel and hostel accommodations will go up with demand. It all remains to be seen. One thing for sure, the days of the bank with one frenzied teller should end. Today, I went in only to find 40 people in line, one teller, and the bank manager almost ready to pull his hair out. Poor Walter and Patricio. Piss poor planning to not make adjustments for the already increasing influx of customers.

This also might mean fiber-optic lines out in el campo, and internet. This would be good! There are no phone lines out there, making it difficult to get emergency services, or to arrange business without traveling into town. Many people in el campo do not have cars, and the bus service runs almost never now that Chaiten is deserted. So, good things will come from this, and a way of life may be altered. We'll see how it all gets handled.


Helen said...

I can assure you change will come slowly. I have been visiting the same little village of Futrono on lago Ranco for 25 years. When we first went we had to travel 60 kilometers of ripio roads to get there. It was a welcome change when they finally paved one of the 5 or so roads leading from route five, I actually came to dread that drive after a few years, and was happy when it changed.

My point being as things become a little easier you will also be ready for those small improvements.

Our village has now become a good size town probably due to the increase in dairy farming and the availability of jobs and we were amazed this last trip that what once was a 2-3 road deep village now has housing projects sprouting out back as homes for all these workers.I still love it, but my cousins decided it wasn't what they wanted and decided to move down the road 20 kilometers and build a new camp near the village of Llifen where it still resembles the Futrono of 20 years ago. You already have that escape by being a ways out.

I doubt that as time goes by you will regret not having to go all the way to Esquel to get a few basics. I am sure that change in Futa won't even be as fast as the change in Futrono, other than tourism it is unlikely that Futa can support a huge increase in population, the climate is too harsh .

The very first I ever heard of Futa would be in relationship to environmental activism, so I doubt logging or mining or other environmentally altering industries are going to find Futa a good place to develop.

Don't worry, be happy, I promise you , things will still be tough for years to come!

Vicki Lansen said...

I think you are absolutely right Helen. I don't think things will change out in el campo at all, and as you say, things will be a little easier for, gas perhaps, hopefully lower prices. Folks here stubbornly hold on to their lifestyles and funny ways...that will be something that may shape newcomers, instead of the other way around. It will be interesting!