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The Diaguita People of Chile

2 Aug
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Terra Diaguita Boutique Hotel

I never gave much thought to the name of the Hostel…Terra Diaguita Boutique Hostel in La Serena, Chile when I found and booked us rooms online for our South American trip in March/April 2017. Upon arrival, it looked like any other “hole in the wall hotel”…that was until we walked into the small lobby…..then the  magical nature of this place hit us both. There were plants and seating areas everywhere…. art and artifacts on every wall and surface.  The walkway leading to the rooms passed through the back garden. The rooms actually looked like cottages with the outside walls painted a warm yellow.

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One of the many areas with plants and artifacts

 

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Seating area

 

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Pathway to the rooms through the Garden

IMG_20170403_150938Individual Rooms

The next morning, after I had time to settle in and explore the local area, I decided to take a closer look at the artifacts in the hostel. What was the meaning of the name..DIAGUITA…and did it have a relationship to the artifacts and art.

Through further research, I have since learned that these Pre-Columbian Diaguitas had great cultural traditions and in the 21st Century, they have a connection to a large Canadian Company…(Barrick Gold, the largest gold mining company in the world with headquarters in Toronto, Canada). For some, this is a contentious relationship…and today, these Indigenous People are still struggling to retain their ancient culture, art and traditions. If this sounds familiar to stories you have heard about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples….it is.

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Book Cover in a Book Stall in the market

 

 

Digging further into the history of the Indigenous peoples of Chile….I saw the exact same story playing out over the centuries as the Spanish Colonizers came in contact with the Indigenous Peoples…the same story we have here in Canada with just a change in names… here it was the  British and French Colonizers.

Chile is situated in southern South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean and a small part of the South Atlantic Ocean. Chile’s territorial shape is among the world’s most unusual. From north to south, Chile extends 4270 km (2,653 mi), and yet it only averages 177 km (110 mi) east to west.

The Chilean government currently recognizes nine indigenous groups within its borders, the Atacameño, Aymara, Colla, Diaguita, Kawashkar, Mapuche, Quechua, Rapa Nui, and Yagán peoples, each of which has a rich history and culture.

 

 

I was familiar with pre Columbian civilizations such as the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans….but the Diaguita I hadn’t known. I had never really considered that there were likely many other groups that had been living in South America for thousands of years.

The Indigenous Law   Distribution of people from Kawesgar in the south to Aymaras in the North

From Indigenous News.org  (Website)

“The largest indigenous group in Chile is the Mapuche people (approximately 85% of all indigenous people in Chile), which is concentrated in the south. The Diaguita are a much smaller group living in the more northernly regions of the country. Although difficult to summarize, the situation of most indigenous people is one of poverty and marginalization as a result of the discrimination from which they have historically suffered.

After the first Spanish colonizers settled in the central valley in Chile, the native population began to disappear as a result of the conquest and colonization, and the survivors were gradually absorbed and integrated into the nascent Chilean population. Several attempts by the Spanish to subjugate the Mapuche failed and the Crown recognized the independence of these peoples in various agreements (parlamentos), respecting their territorial sovereignty south of the Bíobío river, which became a real, though porous, border between two societies and two cultures. The Chilean Republic maintained the same relationship with the Mapuche nation during the first half of the nineteenth century, but Chilean forays into the region gradually weakened indigenous sovereignty and led to several conflicts.

Finally, in 1888, Chile embarked upon the military conquest of Araucanía in what became known in the official history books as the “pacification of Araucanía”, which brought about the integration of the region into the rest of the country. In addition, as a result of the war of the Pacific (1879-1883), the Aymara, Atacameño, Quechua and Colla groups in the north of Chile were also integrated.  The main outcome of this period for native peoples was the gradual loss of their territories and resources, as well as their sovereignty, and an accelerated process of assimilation imposed by the country’s policies and institutions, which refused to recognize the separate identities of indigenous cultures and languages. Chilean society as a whole, and the political classes in particular, ignored, if not denied, the existence of native peoples within the Chilean nation. The exclusion of native peoples from the popular imagination in Chile became more pronounced with the construction of a highly centralized State and lasted, with a few exceptions, until the late 1980s.

President Salvador Allende, who was elected in 1970, introduced various social reforms and speeded up the process of land reform, including the return of land to indigenous communities. The military regime that came to power following the coup led by Augusto Pinochet reversed the reforms and privatized indigenous land, cracking down on social movements, including those representing indigenous people and the Mapuche in particular.

The treatment of indigenous people as if they were “invisible” did not begin to change until the decline of the military regime, when their most representative organizations began to push a number of demands for recognition of the rights denied to them. The return to democracy in 1989 signaled a new phase in the history of the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Chilean State, embodied in the Nueva Imperial Agreement signed by the then presidential candidate, Mr. Patricio Aylwin, and representatives of various indigenous organizations, and culminating in the 1993 Indigenous Peoples Act (No. 19,253), in which, for the first time, the Chilean Government recognized rights that were specific to indigenous peoples and expressed its intention to establish a new relationship with them.

Among the most important rights recognized in the Act are the right to participation, the right to land, cultural rights and the right to development within the framework of the State’s responsibility for establishing specific mechanisms to overcome the marginalization of indigenous people. One of the mechanisms set up in this way was the National Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI), which acts as a collegiate decision-making body in the area of indigenous policy and which includes indigenous representatives.

To back up the State’s indigenous policy in this new phase, the Government of President Ricardo Lagos set up the Historical Truth and New Deal Commission, chaired by former President Patricio Aylwin and consisting of various representatives of Chilean society and indigenous people. Its mandate was to investigate “the historical events in our country and to make recommendations for a new State policy”. The Commission submitted its report, conclusions and proposals for reconciliation and a new deal between indigenous people and Chilean society in October 2003.  IMG_20170404_182212

In September of 2008, after nearly two decades of struggles, the Chilean government ratified Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO 169), which guaranteed additional rights to the indigenous peoples living in Chile.  In particular, ILO 169 supports the rights to consultation, property, and self-determination.  The law officially went into effect in September of 2009, and has only now begun being litigated in the courts.  Despite the victory ILO 169 represents for indigenous rights, in reality, many conflicts and fights remain to be had between the Chilean government and the indigenous peoples living within its borders.”IMG_20170404_180931

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In artistic terms, the Diaguita are known above all for their

distinctive ceramics, which feature two-colored geometric

designs applied on a base of a third color. This kind of decoration

is found on a variety of vessels they produced,  such as pots,

urns, duck-shaped pitchers, and bowls. The Diaguita’s

highly complex designs are thought to be representations

of shamanic visions; many of their vessels bear feline

motifs or people with feline  features. Apart from

ceramics, the Diaguita also produced some of the geometric

designs and mask forms found in the rock art of the region.

 

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Checking out Murchie

On the day we left La Serena, Kunza came to say Good-bye.  Kunza or Cunza is an extinct Language Isolate once spoken in theAtacama Desert of Northern Chile. Likely he is a very old soul….

I have included two articles I found on the web talking about the Diaguita and their land claims and their relationship with Barrick Gold.

Nancy Yáñez is a professor in the Law Department at the University of Chile and codirector of the Observatory of Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Sarah Rea is an anthropology student at Harvard University. She conducted independent fieldwork in Chile in 2006, focusing on indigenous politics in the Huasco Valley.

DIAGUITA

Publication Date

December 2006

Author

Nancy Yáñez and Sarah Rea

Indigenous people in Chile’s Huasco Valley have held onto their land and their identity for 4,000 years despite conquerors, dictators, and a dominant culture that didn’t recognize their existence. Now they face a new threat, one that glitters.

Legend has it that it was the Inca leaders of Cuzco who told the Spanish colonizers that there were hidden riches in the south. Dreaming of gold, the Spanish, who had already taken the land and treasures of the native Peruvians, headed south for Chile to expand their colonial empire. Neither the Spaniards nor the leaders of the Incan empire could have imagined the magnitude of Chile’s natural resource fortune—now measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars—or the degree to which getting those riches would disrupt indigenous cultures.

This dynamic is still being played out today in the Huasco Valley of northern Chile, which is the traditional home of the Diaguita people. The 700-mile-long Huasco River is fed by glaciers and nourishes the lush vineyards, tropical fruits, avocados, and legumes of the Huasco Valley microclimate. The valley is known for its freshwater shrimp, artisan olive oil, grapes, Pisco (the national liquor), and Pajarete liqueurs. Unfortunately for the Diaguita, the Huasco Valley is also known for its gold, silver, and copper deposits.

The river is fed by two tributaries in the valleys of El Carmen and El Tránsito, the second of which is home to the Diaguita. Some locals believe the indigenous peoples imposed taxes on dried fruits to keep the Spanish out of El Tránsito, and others say the Spanish took the “better” valley and left the lesser for the native Diaguita. Today, the families of El Tránsito still have Diaguita indigenous last names such as Campillay and Huanchicay, and those in El Carmen have last names of Spanish descent like Rojas and Marín.

Chilean history students have always learned that the Diaguita pueblo, or community, existed only from a.d. 900 to 1500, and the Diaguita name was not spoken in public discourse between the Spaniards’ arrival and 2001, when a fieldwork study was carried out by the Chilean Commission for True History and New Treatment. In the course of that fieldwork, Diaguita descendants told stories of their recent ancestors, and archeologists began to share their artifacts with the local people. In 2002, the residents of the Huasco Valley established the Diaguita Cultural Center. Suspicious outsiders say that the Diaguita identity is being revived just to get indigenous benefits under Chilean law. The Diaguita, however, say that the Diaguita ethnicity has persisted for centuries. Community member Oscar Cubillos Cuello says, “The disappearance of the Diaguita name is the fault of the anthropologists who never came to our land to interview us. The ethnicity has always lived; it is not dead.”

On September 8, 2006, the government came to the same conclusion and passed Chilean Law 20.117, which recognized the “existence and cultural attributes of the Diaguita ethnicity and the indigenous nature of the Diaguita people.” That declaration has significant cultural implications, of course, but it also has major political ramifications. The recognition of the Diaguita as indigenous people gives them rights to their traditional lands, but a significant portion of those lands have already been appropriated by the state, and that land is now extremely valuable.

The Diaguitas’ land was taken from them not by the Spaniards during 16th century colonization, but in 1997, when the government claimed 40 percent of the Diaguitas’ territory and divided it into three haciendas. One of those haciendas, Chollay, is currently being developed by the Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada. In October 2006, Nevada, Ltd., a subsidiary of Barrick Gold, began the construction of Pascua Lama gold mine in the mountains above Huasco Valley. The company is digging a gorge about a mile long and 1,800 feet deep, where ore will be extracted and processed using cyanide (the standard method for processing gold ore). The corporation had proposed drilling into three glaciers, one of which feeds the Huasco River, until valley residents and international environmentalists protested in Huasco’s main city of Vallenar and in Santiago throughout 2005.

Swayed to some degree by the protests, the Chilean government barred the mining company from touching the glaciers, and with that most serious concern addressed, gave the project final approval in early 2006. The company itself claims it will minimize the social and environmental impacts of its operations. They will give the local government $60 million for agriculture and will invest a further $10 million in the valley’s towns. In addition, the mine has hired the most advanced mining experts and is using state-of-the-art technology. “It still puzzles me why there is so much controversy,” Pascua-Lama project manager Ron Kettles told the New York Times. “This is far and away the safest and most environmentally sensitive project that I’ve ever built in 40 years in this business.”

Certainly there are those among the 70,000 residents of the Huasco Valley who welcome the mine and hope to be selected as one of 5,500 workers employed there. Most residents of Vallenar, Huasco Valley’s humble palm-lined metropolis, speak fondly of the mining industry. The city was once the prosperous hub of the mineral region, but it has fallen on hard times and now has an unemployment rate of 18 percent. Many there see the Barrick mine as a source of potential economic revitalization for the city.

But for the 262 Diaguita families of the Agricultural Community of Huasco Alto, land is the crux of their identity and the mine is a threat. Local Diaguita say that the mine is “new colonization, by transnational corporations.” When asked what “being Diaguita” means to them, residents of the valley have a standard response: “I was born here.” Most inhabitants of El Tránsito Valley—and El Carmen, too, for that matter—have never left the valleys. Many tell stories of their parents meeting down-valley and moving to the interior to farm their grandparents’ land. Many of the Diaguita families who no longer own ancestral land have a combination of indigenous and Spanish blood, but they choose to identify as indigenous because they, too, value the land in Huasco Valley as their native ancestors did. Some Diaguita families traveled north to take advantage of employment opportunities in the gold and copper mining industries from the 19th to early 20th centuries, but most returned to Huasco. “It’s like a magnet,” say residents across Huasco Valley, from Huasco to Vallenar and into the interior. “You might leave, but you always find yourself coming back.”

 

The history of the Diaguitas’ land claims is as long and winding as the dirt road that traces the Huasco River up the valley—a road along which pedestrians, horseback riders, and local buses ride from Vallenar to the pueblos of the valley interior. The interior is called Huasco Alto, and various pueblos or communities have lived here since 4000 b.c. The Molle were followed by the Ánimas, Copiapó, and the Diaguita cultures. The Diaguita developed between a.d. 1000 and 1470, when they were invaded by the Inca, and 1540, when the Spanish arrived. The Spanish divided the land into a grid of large landholdings, on which they built haciendas and estancias. The natives ranched, farmed, and mined land belonging to the Spanish patrons, and paid a portion of their produce to them. Under this system, the indigenous people were assigned land and permitted to use it freely.

In the Huasco Valley, the indigenous community was divided by geographic location: Huasco Alto, Paisanaza, and Huasco Bajo. The majority of the native land that was not usurped by the Spaniards was found in the valley’s interior, Huasco Alto. The year 1750 is of great significance to the huascoaltinos, as the indigenous people mounted armed resistance against the state, which hoped to reduce their territory to the space between two mountain ranges in the valley of El Carmen. The indigenous people won the battle, and, in 1757, El Tránsito river valley became huascoaltino territory, creating an environment for the Diaguita people to live autonomously.

At the onset of the country’s independence, the Republic of Chile asserted a new form of control over Diaguita territory. Laws passed in 1823 and 1830 aimed to eliminate Chile’s indigenous communities altogether, transferring most of their property to the state through a process called reduction. The republic hoped for a Chile without natives, at least from Copiapó at the foot of the Atacama Desert to the lakes district. This area comprises the whole of the country’s inhabitable, temperate central valley suitable for lucrative agriculture, ranching, and mining. Fortunately, the authorities focused their efforts on the valleys surrounding Santiago. The huascoaltino Diaguitas were able to conserve most of the territory they have called home since before the Spaniards’ arrival.

In 1993, the Chilean government issued Law 19.253, politically legitimizing the right to organize around a social tradition or culture. This should have cemented the Diaguitas’ land claims, but under the law the Diaguita ethnicity was not recognized. Politicians and anthropologists and Huasco Valley residents alike had no idea that the Diaguita had survived colonization intact. Archeologists had not collaborated enough with locals to realize that many of their beliefs and customs were in line with those represented in the ancient ceramics, roofs, and graves they uncovered. Social anthropologists had not begun to rescue the family histories, pastimes, foods, and legends of living valley residents. As a result, local indigenous histories and regional colonial struggles have not been incorporated into elementary school history classes in Huasco Province. School children learn brief biographies of the prominent conquerors of central Chile but not about the battles their respective ancestors fought.

On August 22, 2006, the Huascoaltino Agricultural Community wrote a letter to President Michelle Bachelet about this situation, asking for official recognition of their overlooked identity. “At the beginning of the 1990s,” they wrote, “our Diaguita identity still had not been presented publicly, because we were accustomed to organizing ourselves like farmers and ranchers. Moreover, we had forgotten our own history, and our schools did not teach us, nor did they teach our children, about where we had come from and who we were . . . [but] up to this moment, we maintained our own property, and with it our customs and way of life remained intact.”

That letter, one of many sent by the agricultural community and the Diaguita Community Center since 2002, worked, and one month later the government recognized them. But that recognition may have come too late. The government gave final approval to the gold mine earlier this year, and all decisions concerning the land are now made by the mining corporation, which will certainly proceed with planned extractions. How will the Chilean government begin to repay the newly “re-identified” indigenous descendants who they have agreed to protect by law? The Diaguita will not forget that they were denied the right to partake in negotiations for the use of their land. For indigenous families, monetary compensation could never come close to recovering the loss of their land, their sustainable way of life, and the worldview those represent.

Nancy Yáñez is a professor in the Law Department at the University of Chile and codirector of the Observatory of Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Sarah Rea is an anthropology student at Harvard University. She conducted independent fieldwork in Chile in 2006, focusing on indigenous politics in the Huasco Valley.

Period

The Diaguita of Chile: Supporting the determination of an Indigenous people

March 30, 2009

For more than a thousand years, the Diaguita have made Chile their home and thrived as a culture within its borders. Today, they are recognized as a distinct indigenous community living in Chile’s Huasco Valley. They have formed a close relationship with Barrick Gold based on a shared mining history and a common focus for the future.

Barrick Gold’s Pascua-Lama project is located 45 kilometers away from the nearest Diaguita settlement, making them the company’s closest neighbors.

The history of the Diaguita begins around 1000 A.D., when the indigenous group first descended from the Andes mountain range to settle in Chile’s valleys. Anthropologist Franko Urqueta, who was hired by Barrick Gold to study the Diaguita and has since written a book on the culture, says the population flourished between the eighth and 15th centuries, settling in the Norte Chico valleys and growing to a population of nearly 30,000 at their peak.

The Diaguita formed an agrarian-based society, creating an extensive and highly efficient irrigation system able to sustain a large population. The ywere known as walking farmers – moving from the coast to the mountains depending on which climate would give them the best agricultural results. According to Urqueta, the Diaguita were an advanced society that valued art and artisans. Throughout Chile, they were known for their varied and beautiful pottery and weaving. These artisanal traditions continued despite years of submission, first by the Inca empire and then by the Spaniards. Today, less than 1,500 Diaguita remain, making their home in the Atacama Region, specifically in the Huasco Valley. One of the smallest of nine indigenous groups in the country, they are a tight-knit and vibrant community.

“Right from the beginning, we have respected the Diaguita and their ties to the land,” says Igor Gonzalez, president of Barrick Gold South America. “We opened up the channels of communication and invited members of the community to discuss issues, to openly ask questions and to work together with us on the Pascua-Lama project.” Globally, Barrick Gold actively engages with indigenous peoples in the areas where the company operates. The aim is to develop long-term relationships that are constructive and mutually beneficial.

Justa Ana Huanchicay Rodriguez (pictured) is a respected Diaguita Elder and president of the Diaguita Cultural Centre in Huasco Alto. She says the company’s support is helping the Diaguita address their greatest obstacles. “Our main challenge is to preserve our customs, traditions, family names and lifestyle for future generations,” Huanchicay said. “To me, that is our major challenge and Barrick Gold is helping to make that happen.”

Huanchicay came to live with her Diaguita grandfather in the Huasco Valley at the age of 12. She has fond memories of her grandfather working the field, sowing wheat, corn, beans and potatoes. “My grandfather Pedro was not an educated person, but he was very wise,” she said. “He told me the history of our people, the importance of agriculture to our livelihood and how it had to be maintained. Our roots are tied to the soil. Helping us thrive as an agricultural society by providing assistance to farmers is a very important aspect of Barrick Gold’s support for the Diaguita.”

In 2006, Barrick Gold set up the Agro-Forestry Assistance Program in the Huasco Valley. The program recognizes the importance of farming to the Diaguita and the challenges of working the land, particularly during the dry season that hits the region hard each year.

Under the program, farmers receive specialized training in animal health, crops and cattle vaccines. To date 107 Diaguita farmers have taken advantage of the assistance program. Cattle vaccines have been provided to 67 farmers and another 40 have received seeds and technical support to help improve crop yields.

Diaguita artisanal traditions have been passed down through generations. Barrick Gold engaged Diaguita artisans, primarily women, to hold workshops and teach skills such as pottery and weaving to a new generation of Diaguita. More than 120 people have already become certifi ed in a variety of artisanal traditions through these workshops, which involve 60 hours of study. In addition to learning the ancient artistry, participants received commercial training to enable them to sell their work nationally and internationally and earn an income.

Already, Barrick Gold has sponsored these artists to attend several cultural and commercial exhibitions, most recently in Santa Cruz, Chile.

Paula Alcayaga is a 24-year old artisan who uses the art of the yard loom to weave beautiful work. She is a graduate of Barrick Gold’s looming workshop and was recently sponsored to attend the Santa Cruz exhibition. She came away amazed at the difference it made to her income and pleased with the contacts she made for future sales. “The company has assisted us with the recovery of Diaguita artisanal work,” Huanchicay said. “With Barrick’s support, we are able to hold courses in various techniques and later exhibit them successfully. We hope this support will continue.”

After years of struggling for official recognition, the Diaguita were granted legal status as a distinct ethnic group by the Chilean government in 2006. Following passage of legislation by the Chilean Congress in July 2006, President Michelle Bachelet signed into law recognition of the Diaguita people in August, 2006.

Subsequently, Barrick Gold agreed to provide free legal assistance to individuals seeking to gain official status as Diaguita and be eligible for government benefits. More than 20 people sought out this legal support and were later recognized by the government. Today in Chile, approximately 600 people have official status as Diaguita.

Five years earlier, the company also set an important precedent. When submitting its Environmental Impact Assessment for the Pascua-Lama project to authorities in 2001, Barrick Gold explicitly identified the Diaguita as a distinct ethnic group residing close to the project. This marked the first time this designation had been associated with the indigenous group. This key document was reviewed extensively by government and the public and laid the foundation for the company’s future relations with the Diaguita in the Huasco Valley.

Huanchicay says Barrick Gold’s acknowledgement in this way was a stepping stone to gaining official recognition. “Many people helped us to attain this,” she said. “From local authorities to members of the House of Representatives, many people were involved. This includes the considerable efforts of the Diaguita cultural centre in Copiapó and our centre here in Alto del Carmen. Together we all pushed towards the same goal.”

To increase awareness of Diaguita culture, Barrick Gold sponsored the writing of Etnia Diaguita, Urqueta’s book about the known history of the Diaguita. The book is now being used in schools in the Atacama Region and elsewhere to teach the next generation about this distinctive indigenous culture. A documentary film was also sponsored by Barrick Gold to give the Diaguita an opportunity to showcase their culture. The film features first-person accounts from Diaguita from all walks of life, recounting ancestor stories and describing their customs, language and traditional activities. More subtly, the film reveals the determination of a people bound by a shared identity who, with little outside support, have managed to endure. The documentary was screened by members of the community on the second anniversary of the group’s official recognition by the Chilean government at an event in Copiapó in 2008.

“To us, the film is a tribute to our effort and our people,” Huanchicay said. “It is a way for our children to get to know the Elders, speaking in their own words.”

At the packed film screening, members of the Barrick Gold team who had championed the Diaguita cause in the region received a special blessing and thanks from one of the community’s spiritual leaders.

“Barrick’s future in the Huasco Valley and the future of the Diaguita are interconnected,” says Gonzales. “We will continue to ensure this community and the region benefit from Pascua-Lama.”

Franko Urqueta is an anthropologist specializing in the study of ethnic groups in Chile. He studied anthropology at the University of Chile in Santiago and has worked with several ethnic groups, namely the Mapuches, Atacamenos and Coyas. In 2005, Urqueta was sponsored by Barrick Gold to study the Diaguita culture. He discusses his research with Beyond Borders’ editor Nancy White.

Who are the Diaguita? Where do they make their home?

The Diaguita were officially recognized as a distinct indigenous community by the Chilean government in 2006. Approximately 600 people have official status as Diaguita. They live in the Huasco Valley, which is part of their original pre-Colombian territory. In all the other valleys in the northern area, as well as in the rest of Chile, the Diaguita population has disappeared. Some individuals bearing Diaguita names continue to live in the Huasco Valley, but they do not constitute an indigenous group. The remaining Diaguita exist only in the upper Huasco Valley.

Why was the book “Etnia Diaguita” created?

The book was an opportunity to compile the limited pre-existing data on the Diaguita and support further study. It examines past and current culture and some of the challenges this community faces.

What makes the Diaguita culture so unique and so resilient?

A key characteristic of Diaguita people is their capacity to adapt. Throughout their history, the Diaguita came into contact with other groups, such as Incas, Spaniards and then the Republic of Chile, that tried to impose their customs and traditions. By adapting to new authorities, the Diaguita were able to maintain their identity and endure as a people for more than a thousand years.

Some critics claim that the culture of the Diaguita will be threatened by mining above the Huasco Valley? Do you agree?

Most of the people who criticize mining activity in the valley do not live in the valley. They also have very limited knowledge of Diaguita culture. From the beginning, the Diaguita have mined gold. Five hundred years ago, they developed mining activities in this valley – becoming the first miners in this inpart of Chile. They paid taxes to the Peruvian Inca Empire in gold and were also gifted goldsmiths. The Diaguita population have combined their traditional agricultural and cattle raising activities with small-scale mining. Barrick Gold has introduced itself as a respectful neighbor, aware of this mountain culture and committed to safeguarding its identity.

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Connections to the Gods…Nazca Lines in Peru

13 Jul

I was first introduced to the Nazca Lines when my Dad shared with me a book he had been reading…Chariots of the Gods by Eric Von Daniken. This would have been sometime around the late 1960’s when UFO’s, Aliens anddownload Pyramid Power were of  interest to many people. My Dad was a voracious reader and in his retirement, visiting the Public Library was one of his main passions. He would bring home the most interesting books which we would often discuss during those long dark winter evenings.

Erik von Daniken was a Swiss author of several books which makes claims about the influence of aliens on early human culture. His book, Chariots of ther Gods, was published in 1968 and brought the Nazca Lines to public prominence with his proposal that the lines were built on instructions from extraterrestrial beings as airfields for their spaceships Since that time most of his theories have been debunked by scientists as pseudo-archaeology and pseudo-science.

If my memory is correct, he or someone speaking about his theories, visted Edmonton to give a talk and it was likely held at the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium. Years later, I would be drawn to the Telus World of Science to volunteer for the Body Worlds Exhibit (2008). They are now in the process of restoring this neglected sit to its former glory and it will serve other purposes.

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Strange, isn’t it, how somethings we encounter in our early lives keep cropping up over time.

You are problably wondering why I am writing about this topic. Well, yesterday I was couch surfing and came across the DTOUR Channel which was showing  Expeditions Unknown. Josh Gates was checking into the mysteries of the Nazca Lines and talking about  some of the modern theories as to the reasons for their exisitence. Having just flown over the Lines on a trip I made to Peru in March 2017, I was intrigued by what the show might have to say and if it would enhance my understanding of what I saw  on the plane ride over the lines.

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Airport at Nazca

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Sandra and Jubo getting read for the flight

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So much to take in…lines, spirals, animal glyphs..

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What is it I am seeing?

The following is an article by Jason Golomb in National Geographic…he says it better then I ever could to provide an explanation.

“As a plane soars over the high desert of southern Peru, the dull pale sameness of the rocks and sand organize and change form. Distinct white lines gradually evolve from tan and rust-red. Strips of white crisscross a desert so dry that it rains less than an inch every year. The landscape changes as lines take shape to form simple geometric designs: trapezoids, straight lines, rectangles, triangles, and swirls. Some of the swirls and zigzags start to form more distinct shapes: a hummingbird, a spider, a monkey.

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These are the renowned Nasca Lines, subject of mystery for over 80 years. How were they formed? What purpose could they have served? Were aliens involved?

The lines are found in a region of Peru just over 200 miles southeast of Lima, near the modern town of Nasca. In total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs, also called biomorphs. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1200 feet in length (as large as the Empire State Building).

THE LINES REVEALED

Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe  was the first to systematically study the lines in 1926. However, since the lines are virtually impossible to identify from ground level, they were only first brought to public awareness with the advent of flight—by pilots flying commercial planes over Peru in the 1930s. American professor Paul Kosok investigated and found himself at the foot of a line on June 22, 1941—just one day after the winter solstice. At the end of a full day studying the lines, Kosok looked up from his work to catch the sunset in direct alignment with the line. Kosok called the 310 square mile stretch of high desert “the largest astronomy book in the world”.

Kosok was followed by the German Maria Reiche, who became known as the Lady of the Lines. Reiche studied the lines for 40 years and fought unyieldingly for her theories on the lines’ astronomical and calendrical purpose (she received a National Geographic grant in 1974 for her work). Reiche battled single-handedly to protect the site; she even lived in a small house near the desert so she could personally protect the lines from reckless visitors.

WHAT ARE THE LINES?

The lines are known as geoglyphs – drawings on the ground made by removing rocks and earth to create a “negative” image. The rocks which cover the desert have oxidized and weathered to a deep rust color, and when the top 12-15 inches of rock is removed, a light-colored, high contrasting sand is exposed. Because there’s so little rain, wind and erosion, the exposed designs have stayed largely intact for 500 to 2000 years.

Scientists believe that the majority of lines were made by the Nasca people, who flourished from around A.D. 1 to 700.

Certain areas of the pampa look like a well-used chalk board, with lines overlapping other lines, and designs cut through with straight lines of both ancient and more modern origin.

THE THEORIES

The Kosok-Reiche astronomy theories held true until the 1970s when a group of American researchers arrived in Peru to study the glyphs. This new wave of research started to poke holes in the archeo-astronomy view of the lines (not to mention the radical theories in the ‘60s relating to aliens and ancient astronauts).

Johan Reinhard, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, brought a multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of the lines: “Look at the large ecological system, what’s around Nasca, where were the Nasca people located.” In a region that receives only about 20 minutes of rain per year, water was clearly an important factor.

“It seems likely that most of the lines did not point at anything on the geographical or celestial horizon, but rather and fertility of led to places where rituals were performed to obtain water crops,” wrote Reinhard in his book The Nasca Lines: A New Perspective on their Origin and Meanings.

Anthony Aveni, a former National Geographic grantee, agrees, “Our discoveries clearly showed that the straight lines and trapezoids are related to water … but not used to find water, but rather used in connection with rituals.”

 

“The trapezoids are big wide spaces where people can come in and out,” says Aveni. “The rituals were likely involved with the ancient need to propitiate or pay a debt to the gods…probably to plead for water.”

Reinhard points out that spiral designs and themes have also been found at other ancientPeruvian sites. Animal symbolism is common throughout the Andes and are found in the biomorphs drawn upon the Nasca plain: spiders are believed to be a sign of rain, hummingbirds are associated with fertility, and monkeys are found in the Amazon—an area with an abundance of water.

“No single evaluation proves a theory about the lines, but the combination of archeology, ethnohistory, and anthropology builds a solid case,” says Reinhard. Add new technological research to the mix, and there’s no doubt that the world’s understanding of the Nasca lines will continue to evolve.”

Another article available on the internet is from the Khan Academy website…

Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan with a goal of creating an accessible place for people to be educated. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and tools for educators. All resources are available to users of the website.

“Located in the desert on the South Coast of Peru, the Nasca Geoglyphs are among the world’s largest drawings. Also referred to as the Nasca Lines, they are more accurately called geoglyphs, which are designs formed on the earth. Geoglyphs are usually constructed from strong natural material, such as stone, and are notably large in scale.

Imagine encountering such a drawing. The hummingbird measures over 300 feet in length, and is one of the most famous Nasca Geoglyphs. Among the other celebrated geoglyphs of mammals, birds and insects are a monkey, killer whale, spider, and condor. Various plants, geometric shapes (spirals, zigzag lines and trapezoids), abstract patterns, and intersecting lines fill the desert plain, known as the Pampa, an area covering approximately 200 square miles near the foothills of the Andes. The zoomorphic geoglyphs are the oldest and most esteemed. Each appears to have been made with a single continuous line.

Today it is believed that the geoglyphs were created by the Nasca people, whose culture which flourished in Peru sometime between 1-700 C.E. They inhabited the river valleys of the Rio Grande de Nasca and the Ica Valley in the southern region of Peru, where they were able to farm, despite the desert environment—one of the driest regions in the world. The high Andes Mountains to the east prevent moisture from the Amazon from reaching the coast, so there is very little rainfall; water that does arrive, comes from mountain runoff.

Map showing the location of the Nasca geoglyphs, map © Google

The Nasca people are also famous for their polychrome pottery, which shares some of the same subjects that appear in the Nasca Geoglyphs. Remains of Nasca pottery left as offerings have been found in and near the geoglyphs, cementing the connection between the geoglyphs and the Nasca people. Because the quality of the ceramics produced in Nasca is very high, archaeologists deduce that specialists shaped and painted the pottery vessels. This suggests a society that, at its height, had a degree of wealth and a division of labor. However, the Nasca people had no writing. In cultures without writing, images often assume an increased level of importance. This may help explain why the Nasca came together to create vast images on the desert floor. 

Double-Spout and Bridge Vessel, c. 100-700 C.E., Nasca, Peru, polychrome ceramic, 12.07 x 10.16 cm (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

How were they made?

Since the Nasca geoglyphs are so large, it seems clear they were constructed by organized groups of people and that no single artist made them. The construction of the geoglyphs are thought to represent organized labor where a small group of individuals directed the design and creation of the lines, a process that may have strengthened the social unity of the community. Despite the impressive scale of the geoglyphs, these remarkable works did not require complex technology.

Most geoglyphs were formed by removing weathered stones from the desert floor, stones that had developed a dark patina known as “desert varnish” on their surface. Once removed, the lighter stones below became visible, forming the famous Nasca Lines. The extracted darker stones were placed at the edges of the lines, forming a border that accented the lighter lines within. Straight lines could be created by extending cords, one on each side of the line, between two wooden stakes (some of which have been recovered) that guided workers and allowed for the creation of sight lines.

For larger geometric shapes, such as trapezoids, borders were marked and then all the stones on the interior were removed and placed along edges or heaped in piles at the edges of the geoglyph. Broken pottery has been found mixed with the piles of stones. Spirals and animal shapes were made in a similar manner. Spirals, for example, would be formed by releasing slack in a cord as workers moved around in a circular path, moving further and further from the center where the spiraling line begins. For animal forms, such as monkeys, whales, or hummingbirds, portions of the figures might be made in the same manner as the spiral in the monkey’s tail, or the image might be based on a gridded drawing or textile model that was enlarged on the desert floor where lines were staked out to create the figure.

When were they made?

The oldest of the Nasca Geoglyphs is more than 2000 years of old, but, as a group, the Nasca geoglyphs were created over several centuries, with some later lines or shapes intersecting or overlapping with previously created lines (Likely the Paracas Culture). This is just one of the unusual features of these geoglyphs. Even more curious, the drawings are best observed from the air, which is why they did not become widely known until the 1920s after the development of flight. Although it is possible to observe some of the lines from the adjacent Andean foothills or the modern mirador (viewing platform), the best way to see the lines today remains a flight in a small plane over the Pampa (lowlands). These amazing images are so large that they cannot be truly appreciated from the ground. This, of course, raises the question: for whom were the lines made? And, what was their purpose?

Monkey with Spiral Tail, Nasca Geoglyph, approximately 2000 years old (photo: Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0)

What was their purpose and meaning?

Archaeologists are not certain of the purpose of the lines, or even of the audience for whom the lines were intended since they can only be seen clearly from the air (This is now particularly true of the older animal designs). Were they made to be seen by deities looking down from the heavens or from distant mountain tops? Perhaps the numerous theories that have been proposed will eventually be clarified as our understanding of the cultures of ancient Peru increases.

Celestial alignments?

Shortly after the geoglyphs were first investigated, researchers sought an astronomical interpretation, suggesting that the geoglyphs might be aligned with the heavens, and perhaps represented constellations or marked the solstices or planetary trajectories. While some geoglyphs seem connected to celestial events, such as marking the summer solstice (in December) when mountain waters flow to the coast, it is difficult to find celestial alignments for most of the geoglyphs. As far as we know, Andean peoples did not form pictures by connecting the stars in the night sky as we do; rather they looked at the black spaces between stars and saw shapes that they converted into their own reverse “constellations.” It is important to note that these constellations do not seem to match the Nasca geoglyphs.

Deities or ceremonial walkways?

Many other reasonable theories have been proposed. Some scholars have suggested that the geoglyphs represent Nasca deities, or formed a calendar for farming, or represented ceremonial walkways. Because some of the lines do seem to direct people to Cahuachi, a Nasca religious center and pilgrimage destination, it seems possible that ancient Nasca people walked the lines. It is also possible that Nasca people ritually danced on the lines, perhaps in connection with shamanism and the use of hallucinogens. The geoglyphs, particularly the early animals which are clearly spaced apart from each other, may also have strengthened group identity and reinforced social interaction patterns as individual groups of people may each have tended or “owned” one of the geoglyphs, perhaps ritually cleaning (sweeping) the pathways as part of the responsibility of ownership.

Spider, Nasca Geoglyph, over 300 feet in length, formed approximately 2000 years ago (photo: Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0)

A discredited theory proposed that the geoglyphs are the result of alien contact. While this is sensationalist and helped to secure the popular fame of the Nasca geoglyphs, there is no evidence to support this assertion. Archaeologists and scientists have rejected this proposal and it is important to recognize the implication of this theory is that the Nasca people needed the influence of aliens peoples to create their geoglyphs. We know that the technology to manufacture the geoglyphs was available to the Nasca people and that they had a social system that was fully capable of organizing and producing large geoglyphs. We also know that the designs are consistent with other art forms native to Nasca culture.

Getting back to the TV show, it is the following explanation on which they were focusing.

Farming, fertility, and water?

Among the most promising recent theories, archaeologists have begun to secure a link between the geoglyphs and farming, which sustained the Nasca people. Some geoglyphs may deal with fertility for crops; others may be associated with the water needed to raise the crops. In a desert, water is the most important commodity. In Andean mythology the mountains are revered as the home of the gods. It has been suggested that the lines were intended to be visible to the gods in the mountains. Some lines also seem to point in the direction of the mountains—the origin of fresh water for the desert South Coast of Peru. Snow pack melts high in the mountains and becomes runoff and a vital source of water for the coast. In fact, ancient underground water channels are sometimes marked on the surface by Nasca geoglyphs, particularly at the points of intersection. These have been dubbed “ray centers,” spots where lines converge. Offerings have been found at these points, including conch shells. The spirals on the desert floor, in the monkey’s tail, and as independent abstract designs, may refer to the spirals found in conch shells and thus may reference water. This same shape appears in Nasca puquios—gradually descending tunnels that tap ancient subterranean aquifers and water channels. Puquios have been described as wells, and formed part of this ancient irrigation system. Puquios, found in Nasca (and elsewhere in Peru), allowed people to reach water in times of drought. Geoglyphs other than spirals may also be directly associated with water.

Puquio, South Coast of Peru

In the end, it is likely that the Nasca Geoglyphs served more than one purpose, and these purposes may have changed over the centuries, especially given that new lines often “erased” older ones by “drawing” over them. It does appear that many geoglyphs made reference to water and agricultural fertility, and were used to promote the welfare of the Nasca people. The geoglyphs were also a place where people gathered, perhaps for pilgrimage, perhaps to walk or dance on the lines in a ritual pattern. As a gathering place, the Nasca geoglyphs may additionally have turned the Pampa into a map of social divisions, where different families or clans tended different geoglyphs. Although we do not know exact details, we can surmise that the geoglyphs represent a community investment meant to serve this ancient people.

TV show also referenced the fact that the Nazca people likely were adding to designs and glyphs that had been put on the plain by an earlier people in the area, the Paracas Culture.

Paracas Culture

Paracas comes from the Quechua word para-ako meaning “sand falling like rain.” The Paracas culture flourished on the south Pacific coast of the central Andes in what is now Peru in around 600-150 B.C.E. and is one of the earliest known complex societies in South America. They were defeatedby the Nazca people and their culture integrated into that of the Nazca.

The Great Paracas Necropolis was discovered by archaeologists during the 1920s on the south Pacific Coast of the Central Andes. It is a vast communal burial site holding 420 bodies, which dates to around 300-200 B.C.E.

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Saw the Candelabra on the way to the Ballestas Islands.

The Paracas Candelabra, also called the Candelabra of the Andes, is a well-known prehistoric geoglyph found on the northern face of the Paracas Penninsula    in Pisco Bay. Pottery found nearby has been radio carboned dated to 210BC, the time of the Paracas Culture. The design is cut two feet into the soil, with stones possibly from a later date placed around it. The figure is 595 feet tall, large enough to be seen 12 miles at sea.

 From Wikipedia

“The reason for the Candelabra’s creation is also unknown, although it is most likely a representation of the trident, a lightning rod of the god Viracoche who was seen in mythology throughout South America. It has been suggested that the Candelabra was built as a sign to sailors, or even as a symbolic representation of a hallucinogenic plant called Jimsonweed!

On a closing note, I realize as I age how much I am like my Dad in many respects. I never really got to know him as he died when I was only 33 and how many 33 year olds are having lenghty discussions with their Dad….how I wish he had remained in my life for a much longer time. He did however instill in me a life long passion for learning anout everything and anything and doing it anywhere.

I also have to thank my Anthropology 100 Professor at the University of Alberta…Dr. Bryant….who first introduced me to Indigenous People and their cultures in a course entitled “North America Indians”….doubt it would be called that today….I never missed his class and in those days classes were.. held Tues/Thurs/Sat at 9:00AM. I grew up in times when there were limited occupations open to women and never pursued my developing interest in Anthropology and Archaeology, very broad fields of study as I would come to learn…..years later much of what I leaned in those course have fostered continual learning and world travel, to enable me to see things first hand.

Back to those early connections I referenced in my opening…“Strange, isn’t it, how somethings we encounter in our early lives keep cropping up over time.” In retirement it has been the Royal Alberta Museum and the Telus World of Science that have brought me some of the best times in my volunteer career……not bad for an ARTS GRADUATE who celebrates her 50th Anniversary…..graduated University of Alberta in June 1967.

Connecting Past and Present in Coquimbo and La Serena …Conectando el pasado y el presente en Coquimbo y La Serena….Agnes Irvine MacMillan Perkins

14 Jun
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Plaza de Armas, Coquimbo, Chile    1920’s

The morning skies were overcast, but for a day long tour, it was likely better than frying under a burning sun. Our tour guide arrived at 8:00 and we were off. He had just one other passenger on the tour that day, a young woman student from Germany, Zora, who was working at one of the other hostels and had the morning off. We had already met another young woman from Europe who was on a year long tour of South America. She had run out of money and was working at the Terazza Restaurant.

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Jubo and Murchie were so excited..they were telling their new friends all about the tour..

We wound our way through the narrow streets of La Serena on the way out of town. Because the sreets are so narrow, in a effort to deal with vehicle traffic, many have become one way.

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The area where La Serena is located was once  inhabited by the pre-Hispanic village called Viluma or Vilumanque (Mapudungin)….. Snakes and Condors.

The origin of the Diaguita culture is traced back to an archaeological culture known as El Molle Compolex which existed from 300 to 700 CE. Later this culture was replaced in Chile by las Animas Complex that developed between 800 and 1000 CE. It is from this last culture that the Archaeological Diaguita culture emerged around 1000 CE. The classical Diaguita period was characterized by advanced irrigation systems and by Pottery painted in black, white and red.

Replica of a Diaguita ceramic bowl from northern Chile.

“It is generally accepted that Diaguita incorporation into the Inca Empire was through

warfare which caused a severe depopulation in the Transverse Valleys of Norte

Chico. According to scholar Ana María Lorandi the Diaguitas, and specially the Calchaqui

Diagui9tas, would not have been conquered easily by the Inca Empire. Once conquered

the eastern Diaguitas did not unanimously accepted Inca rule. The Incas appointed

Kurakas and established mitmas in the Chilean Diaguita lands.] The Incas did also

influence the Diaguitas who adopted pottery designs from Cuzco and Inca techniques in

agriculture and metalworking.” From Wikipedia

Map of the city in 1717.

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La Serena was first founded on the orders of Spanish Pedro de Valdiva in order to provide a sea link to maintain permanent contact between Santiago and Lima in the Viceroyalty de Peru.  For this he would need a place for his troops to rest and eat. The village was first founded by captain Juan Bohon with the name “Villanueva de La Serena”. Although the exact date is disputed, probable dates include 15 November or 30 December 1543 and 4 September 1544. Many historians simply say that it was founded in 1544. Five years later, from the night of 11 January 1549 until the following day, an uprising of local Indians totally destroyed and burned the village, killing nearly every Spaniard. It was later that same year, Pedro de Valdivia gave orders to Captain Francisco de Aguirrer to found a new city under the name of San Bartolome de La Serena, now Patron Saint of the city……in the same place where today the Plaza de Armas stands. 

During the 17th century, the city suffered continuous attacks from pirates, including Sir Francis Drake, who opened the Pacific route to pirates in 1578.

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Suberbs

We passed by the university and suberbs…YES SUBERBS…and they look just like the ones back in Edmonton. Row on row of cloned houses…

We were heading to a place called Las Rojas in the Elqui Valley. The Tour Guide said this was where the Rojas name originated…true or not who knows! It was my grandmother’s name …Juana Rojas MacMillan.

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Entering Las Rojas

The Elqui Valley, formerly known  as Valle de Coquimbo , is a watershed located in the Coquimbo Region.   There are numerous reservoirs located here and the valley benefits from these water resources, as well as the long periods of sun, both of which are excellent for production of fruits, vegetables and especialy the cultivation of grapes.  Having one of the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere, several international organizations have installed astronomical observatories on the peaks of the Pachón and Tololo hills. This area is said to have an energy pole and has been associated with various arts.

Gabriela Mistral, Chilean Poet and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature in 1947, was born at Vicuna, here in the valley. Mistral’s meteoric rise in Chile’s national school system plays out against the complex politics of Chile in the first two decades of the 20th century. In her adolescence, the need for teachers was so great, and the number of trained teachers was so small, especially in the rural areas, that anyone who was willing could find work as a teacher. Access to good schools was difficult, however, and the young woman lacked the political and social connections necessary to attend the Normal School. She was turned down, without explanation, in 1907. She later identified the obstacle to her entry as the school’s chaplain, Father Ignacio Munizaga, who was aware of her publications in the local newspapers, her advocacy of liberalizing education and giving greater aceess to all schools for all social classes.

Although her formal education had ended by 1900, she was able to get work as a teacher thanks to her older sister, Emelina, who had likewise begun as a teacher’s aide and was responsible for much of the poet’s early education. The poet was able to rise from one post to another because of her publications in local and national newspapers and magazines. Her willingness to move was also a factor. Between the years 1906 and 1912 she had taught, successively, in three schools near La Serena and in Antofagasta in the desert north, in 1912.

Mistral may be most widely quoted in English for Su Nombre es Hoy (His Name is Today):

“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’ his name is today.”

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The Gabriela Mistral – 41 CH International Route links this Region of Coquimbo with the Province of San Juan in Argentina, and seeks to be a complement to the future tunnel in the Agua Negra pass, which will also link both countries. Since July 2014, they have been working on the design for the expansion and replacement of this road. In the first stage they will begin construction between the urban boundary of La Serena and the locality of Las Rojas. It is a 15.8 kilometer stretch.

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The road to Las Rojas

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Small village

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AdTech AdWe stopped at the church for a photo op.

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They really like Blue in the village

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Looking back towards the highway we came in on and towards the hills

Then we headed back into La Serena to the local market.

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Not much water in the river bad at this time of year.

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Colorful cafe

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Local Market in La Serena

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Chickens roasting

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Wall Hangings

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Flowers

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Bookstall

A quick bite to eat and were were once again on the road to Coquimbo. It has been 98 years since my Mom left the place of her birth.

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During the tourist season, this beach at La Serena would have been packed….this is how I like it….empty

Along the coast road we came to the fishing port.

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Beach Hotels of la Serena in the Background

I never expected to visit  Coquimbo because it was so far away and South America had never been on my “Must See List”. I had googled pictures of the Port and the Plaza de Armas. In recent years it is the port where many of the Big Cruise Ships make a stop. We drove along the shoreline of the Habour which connects the two cities..La Serena and Coquimbo.    Finally we were in Coquimbo proper. My eyes were looking for that distinctive church on the Plaza de Armas that I had seen in so many pictures and the suddenly..there it was.

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Plaza de Armas Coquimbo

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Plaza de Armas Now with Same Hotel?

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Plaza de Armas Then (1929) with Hotel

We continued along the one way to come back directly in front of the church where we would park.

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Many more houses than on the hill  back when…

The Church of San Pedro is a parish located in the Chilean city of Coquimbo. It is the main Catholic religious center in the community, and is located in front of the Plaza de Armas de Coquimbo. The church was built in the middle of the nineteenth century on the land donated by Buenaventura Argandoña. The 19 of November of 1857 it was designated a parish by the bishop of La Serena.

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And here I am in Coquimbo…

Coquimbo is a town ll kms from La Serena. Its population is 188 thousand inhabitants and it is the main port of the region. Unlike the striking  churches of La Serena, in Coquimbo, it is the fishing industry, distilleries, tanneries and construction that stand out. In recent years, tourism has also had an increase.

The natural harbor in Coquimbo was taken over by Pedro de Valdiva in 1550. The gold and copper industry in the region led to the city’s importance as a port around 1840 and many Europeans especially from England settled in Coquimbo. In 1879 it was recognized as a town.

Mining and agricultural activities account for the location of various places in and around the region. Originally this organization was structured according to the location of Indian villages of the DiaguitasA high percentage (70-75%) of inhabitants are of Mestizo(Euro-Amerindian) background, higher than any other region in Chile. Other indigenous peoples include the Aymara, Atacamenoc, Mapuche, and Quechua who were immigrants themselves from Peru and Boliva.

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San Pedro Church

We continued driving through the gritty port of Coquimbo. You could  see the difference in the structures from La Serena.

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Driving through the Barrio de Ingles

The pictures are from Post Cards

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Houses on the hill above the port

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Colorful houses heading to the Fortress on the Penninsula

Fort Lambert (also known as Fort Coquimbo) is a nineteenth century fortification situated on the “Castillo del Carmen” hill at the southern end of Coquimbo Bay. This part of the city is known as “Punta Pelícanos” (“Pelican Promontory”) because just off the coast there is a small island inhabited by pelicans. Fort Lambert no longer has an operational role militarily, but it is a popular tourist destination because of the views it provides across the Bay of Coquimbo. The fortress was constructed here by a entrepreneur Carlos Lambert in order to protect the port of Coquimbo from possible attacks by Peruvian ships during the War of the Pacific. A 150-pound muzzle loading cannon from the British Armstrong munitions company was installed on 10 July 1879 by soldiers of the Municipal Artillery Brigade. It had been brought to this site by Joseph Lambert.

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For more than a century the fort was maintained in its original state, with the canon positioned at its center. Due to structural deterioration, in 2003, the municipality launched a rescue plan which involved investing 68 Million Pesos. The structure was both restored and expanded, with the addition of three additional stone-built low lookout towers with lighting and benches. The restored Fort Lambert was officially inaugurated in 2005.

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Looking down toward the small fort

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Wonderful rock formations

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Wild dogs

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Looking across the bay towards the beach hotels of Coquimbo

We spent some time here checking out the views and the wonderful rock piles as we had the entire site to ourselves. ….only a couple of old dogs lying around..NO OTHER PEOPLE.

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You don’t appreciate the size of the cross till youn get there…

I had seen a number of pictures of this structure, but I had no idea what it was for nor did I realize the views from up there.

I copied an article  from the internet. It explains the entire site…I will put it at the end of this Blog. Meanwhile here are some of my pictures.IMG_20170404_131520 (3)

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Our next stop was to be at the grounds where the Pampilla de Coquimbo (local Festival) is held every year. I have pictures of my Mom at this very place some hundred years later.

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Mom is one of three girls with their heads together near the bottom

The Pampilla de Coquimbo , or simply La Pampilla , is a festival that takes place between September 18-20  each year – although it usually extends two days before or two days after those dates – in the esplanade of the same name, located in the city of Coquimbo. During that time, even weeks before the activity starts, hundreds of families settle into tents and vehicles in the hills.

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Likely my grandfather and grandmother are in the photo..???

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Pampilla Grounds

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Harbour at Guayacan

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Guayacan Church

 

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Agnes Irvine MacMillan Perkins  age 10

Our final stop was the Cementerio de Ingles at Guayacan  where my Grandfather was buried in 1917. The family left for England in 1919, leaving behind their beloved Husband and Father. They were going to Kent England to join their son/brother who had gone over in 1917 to fight in WW1.

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We were not able to find his exact gravesite, but it was comforting to know that he was being well cared for in this beautiful location. He had been alone for so long….but I am sure he knew that a family member had come to say “Hello Grandfather and Goodbye Grandfather…..you are not forgotten!”

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Thomas MacMillan  c.1850 to 1917

And after a day like none other……… the most fitting thing to do would be to celebrate at the Terraza Restaurant with local Food and Drink…so I did!IMG_20170404_145138

Third Millennium and its life-size ‘Via Crucis’ SPECIAL

BY IGOR I. SOLAR     JUL 17, 2013

IN WORLD

Coquimbo – The Cross of the Third Millennium of Coquimbo, Chile, is the largest religious monument in South America. It was built for the Jubilee of the Year 2000 of the Catholic Church. It has a high-tech bell tower and a Way of Sorrows with life-size sculptures.

In the 90s, the civic authorities of Coquimbo came up with the idea of building a monument to commemorate the Jubilee of Year 2000 of the Catholic Church, celebrating 2000 years since the birth of Christ, and the introduction of the Church into the third millennium. The project, appropriately called “The Cross of the Third Millennium,” gained great support from local church authorities and the Vatican.

The site chosen for the construction of the structure was the summit of Cerro El Vigía (Lookout Hill), located at 157 meters above sea level. The hill overlooking Coquimbo Bay has historically been home for the city’s poorest residents. With funding from the community, businesses and the support of local and national political and religious authorities, the construction of the structural work of the impressive cross was completed in a record period of 10 months, in May 2000.

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile.

Igor I. Solar

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile. Station X – Jesus’ clothes are taken away.

Igor I. Solar

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile.

Igor I. Solar

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile.

Igor I. Solar

In 2004, efforts began to construct a large Via Crucis comprising the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross with scenes extending from “Jesus is Condemned to Death” to “Jesus is Laid in the Tomb”, plus a 15th station representing the “Resurrection of Jesus”. The complete set was made in bronze by Italian sculptors Giuseppe Alambrese and Pasquale Nava. It consists of 53 sculptures of human figures measuring from two to 2.2 meters in height plus eleven 3.5-meter-high crosses.

In 2006, the Coquimbo City Hall decided on the construction of a bell tower. Nine 1.5-meter-high bells were made by Rincker Bell Foundry in Sinn, Germany, and installed in May of 2013 in a 33-meter-tall tower next to the cross. The nine-bell system is computer-controlled and has 480 melodies in memory, including Chile’s national anthem.

The great cross is made up of three columns that emerge from an equilateral triangle representing the Holy Trinity. The structure is 93 meters tall and the arms measure 40 meters. The central column contains an elevator that brings visitors to the 40-meter-high arms where there are large windows allowing a 360-degree view around the cross.

At the base of the cross there is a museum and a prayer chapel with an altar whose facade has a large embossed brass image of “The Last Supper”. On the second level there is a bronze statue, a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà, the famous work of art depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of Mary after the Crucifixion. On this level there is also a set of 10 cylindrical columns symbolizing the Ten Commandments. The 15 Stations of the Cross were installed in the gardens surrounding the giant cross and on the terraces of the second level.

The site chosen for the construction of the structure was the summit of Cerro El Vigía (Lookout Hil...

The site chosen for the construction of the structure was the summit of Cerro El Vigía (Lookout Hill), located at 157 meters above sea level. . On the left of the image is the bell tower with nine bells.

Igor I. Solar

View of part of the city and the port of Coquimbo from the arms of the Cross of the Third Millennium...

View of part of the city and the port of Coquimbo from the arms of the Cross of the Third Millennium.

Igor I. Solar

The Cross of the Third Millennium is the tallest religious monument in South America and the sequence of Stations of the Cross is the largest in the world. The monumental complex is motive of great devotion and pride for the people of the city of Coquimbo and has become a major tourist attraction for local and foreign visitors.

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Chile … Tierra de los Cielos Nocturnos (Land of the Night Skies)….A Chilean Lassie…Coquimbo, Chile

17 May
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Moon through the telescope at an Observatory in the Elqui Valley, Chile

In 2017, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit my Maternal Ancestral Homeland…..CHILE. My friend Sandra and I had planned a big trip to Peru and the Galapagos Islands. In due course, we learned that the Galapagos Cruise Tour did not fill up and they could not offer us alternate dates that would jive with the rest of the tour….. so we would end up with only our two week Peru Tour. I said “why don’t we go to Chile and see where my Mom lived and my Grandfather was buried”. She was game and so we did.

We landed in Santiago after a 2 hour flight from Lima. The Immigration and Custom’s line was long and it took us over an hour to snake our way through. We were stamped and given an Entry Document which we were required to carry in our passport. We located a taxi and at last we were on our way into Santiago and our hotel which was located in the Los Condos district. Once the taxi finally located the address for the hotel we had booked…our nightmare Check-in began. About 2 hours later after Sandra cried and I yelled…we finally had the manager escort us to our new hotel…The Rugendas..a lovely hotel, where she basically told the staff to treat us nicely for our entire stay. We will be forever grateful to this young woman, who had actually studied in Thunder Bay, Canada…maybe this was a Pay-it-Forward situation.

On Saturday morning, after a good nights sleep, we were picked up by a shuttle and taken to a central location where we joined our Day Tour to Valpariso and Vina del Mar. It was from this harbor that my Grandfather had sailed on his trips up and down the coast of Chile in the 1890’s and 1900’s while working for the Pacific Steamship Navigation Company.

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Looking towards Valpariso Port

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Valpariso…. the locals waiting for the bus after a day of Saturday Shopping

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Looking northwest to Vina del Mar

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Valpariso with its steep streets and quirky art

 

 

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Heading down to the port

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Transatlantic shipping now goes via the Panama Canal

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Buildings in Old Port

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Fishing Boats

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Container Shipping

 

 

 

 

 

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Built in 2015 and sailing under the Flag of Panama

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Chilean Navy training ships

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Salt

Monday morning we were off to La Serena and Coquimbo. I can’t tell you how excited I was as we stepped off the plane onto the tarmack at the tiny La Serena Airport…I was really here!

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La Serena, Chile Airport

We took a taxi to our Boutique Hostel….Terra Diaguita in central La Serena. What an amazing place… we were awed to say the least. The rooms were like cottages around a garden and there was art and artifacts everywhere.

 

 

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Terra Diaguita

The origin of the Diaguita culture is traced back to an archaeological culture known as El Molle Complex which existed from 300 to 700 CE. Later this culture was replaced in Chile by Las Animas Complex that developed between 800 and 1000 CE. It is from this last culture that the Archaeological Diaguita culture emerged around 1000 CE. The classical Diaguita period was characterized by advanced irrigation systems and by pottery painted in red/black and white. The Chilean Diaguitas were conquered by Spaniards coming from Peru.

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My room..which Murchie really enjoyed

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More decorations

We settled in and went looking for a place to eat…turned out to be a great place just across the street. Then I set out to explore the city. It was late in the afternoon and people and students were everywhere.

 

I walked a couple of blocks through the shopping streets, found the Cathedral, and one of the major pedestrian areas.

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Central La Serena

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Beautiful time of year – April in La Serena

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Sun sets  early at this latitude

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Kunza (extinct languages of Chile) He was my Spirit Cat and waited for me outside my room

 

 

 

 

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Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral on the Plaza De Armas

 

Tomorrow was the day I had really been looking forward to…I would be taking an all day private tour of the entire area and ending in up Coquimbo, the place where my mom had been born in 1908.  That Special Day deserves it own story in another Blog…..

Cu Chi Tunnels…. near Ho Chi Minh City….The Vietnam American War

17 Jan
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Intrepid Travelers…..Should I?

I had arrived in Saigon, or as they now call it, Ho Chi Minh City, on my tour of Cambodia and Vietnam. This was a dream trip for me. Growing up in the 60’s in North America, something was always happening in this period of rapid change. I was in High School when John. F Kennedy was shot in Dallas in 1963  and Lyndon Johnson was elected president of the United States in 1964. I was aware there was a war going on in Vietnam, but is seemed so far away, I didn’t give it much thought until the “Draft Dodgers” started arriving in Canada. I was in University at the time and realized that many of my profs and fellow students were newly  arrived young American males. Not everyone was a draft dodger, some had obtained deferments or exemptions.

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Picture in the Museum of the Revolution in Saigon

There had been some opposition to the draft in the USA prior to their involvement in Vietnam, but it was when the Baby Boomers, that well known group ( me included) born between 1946 and 1964,  became eligible for the draft, that there was a steep increase in these deferments and exemptions, especially for college and graduate students. For those that were not successful…..living in Canada was a possibility.

By the time I was able to afford to travel the world, the Vietnam War had been over for 40 years. For  most it was just part of history, but for me, it was the one war with which  I felt some connection…..so here I was in November 2015, hot, sweaty and almost dead from the heat and humidity I had experienced along the Mekong River, checking in to the Hyatt Hotel,

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A cold Beer!

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Hyatt Hotel Saigon

where all I wanted was a room where I could hole up in the cool. It was waiting for me and I didn’t care if I ever left. Well as you will know if you travel, this feeling passes quickly once you are revived with a local beer and a short rest. Thank goodness for Mini Bars, even if they cost a fortune! I was ready to take on SAIGON! I  discovered that our tour the next day would be to the Cu Chi Tunnels somewhere outside of Saigon and that it would take most of the day.

Now I had never heard of the Cu Chi Tunnels and didn’t have a clue as to where I was going or what I would be seeing. I did a bit of research on my laptop and discovered that these tunnels, 40 km north of Saigon near the village of Cu Chi and covering some 400 square km, had originally been  dug in the 1940’s when the Communist led Viet  Minh were fighting French Colonialism. When the Vietnam War, or as the Vietnamese refer to it…the American War, began in the 60’s, the Viet Cong dug more tunnels and linked them together from one village to another. This area, a Viet Kong stronghold, was heavily defended and used as a base for attacks on Saigon. When the Americans built their base at Cu Chi in 1966, they were unaware that just below them were hundreds of miles of tunnels that reached as far as Saigon. It is impressive to note that these tunnels were dug  by hand…..they used a simple tool and a basket to take out the dirt!

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Basket used to remove dirt when building the tunnel

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Generally done by children and younger adults

The 75 mile long complex of tunnels at Cu Chi has been preserved by the government of Vietnam and turned into a destination for tourists, as well as a memorial park with two different tunnel display sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. Visitors are told about the tunnels with demonstrations by interpreters and  invited to crawl around in the safer parts of the tunnel system. These have been modified to allow larger people entry.

The tunnels contained living areas, storage depots, ordnance factories, hospitals, headquarters and a range of facilities than enabled people to live, and wage war from underground for years at a time.

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Building weapons using American leftovers

 

 

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Cooking and eating area

 

When United States and Australian troops began sweeps into the area they had no idea of the tunnels’ existence. Known as Operation Crimp (1966) and involving some 8,000 troops from the United States and Australia, this attempt to defeat the Viet Cong in the Cu Chi district was, to that date, the largest operation in Vietnam.

The Tet Offensive in January 1968 signaled the beginning of the end of the war. Although the communists suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of the Americans,  it had a profound effect on the US government and shocked the US public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the communists were being defeated and incapable of launching such a massive effort. What the World, saw thanks to Reporters,

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Saigon during the Tet Offensive   Cholon District

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Prize winning photo taken on the streets of Saigon during the Tet Offensive  “Saigon Execution” by (Eddie Adams)

 

 

Cameramen and Reporters in Saigon, was that the greatest power on earth had been humbled by the courage of the Vietnamese resistance. U.S. public support for the war declined and the U.S. sought negotiations to end the war. Nixon was elected president in November 1968 with his plan to end the war in Vietnam. It took him 5 years to do so.

 

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We arrived at the Cu Chi site and began our tour through the jungle. Don’t think it was  quite the same as during the war…..they now have paved paths, clean washrooms and a Refreshment and Souvenir area.

The brave, who could handle enclosed spaces in darkness and hot stale air, went down into the first 2 levels of the tunnels. The taller people had to crawl on the their knees..and these tunnels had been enlarged to accommodate westerners. Can you imagine what it would have been like to spend years in here along with the rats, ants, poisonous centipedes, scorpions and spiders ?

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U.S. 25th Infantry division troops check the entrance to a Vietcong tunnel complex they discovered on a sweep northwest of their division headquarters at Cu Chi on Sept. 7, 1968 in Vietnam. (AP Photo)

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The tour pointed out the use of camouflage to hide the tunnel entrances.

 

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Using Leaves for camouflage

 

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The passages were usually about 5 feet in diameter, but in some places they were much narrower. Everyone was involved in building these tunnels…the young were the diggers, even children were involved in collecting leaves to cover the trap doors.

We saw various examples of Booby Traps that were used to maim or kill the enemy.

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Punji Bo0by Trap

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We returned to Saigon later that afternoon. I decided to see what else I could find on the internet related to the War here in Saigon. I came across the following article which gave me something to think about following my visit to Cu Chi.

In remembering Saigon, we forget why the US lost

Sholto Byrnes is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Malaysia.

This piece is from The National OPINION published in Abu Dhabi….March 31, 2015

Some of the most iconic images of the last half century, reproduced endlessly in films, were taken in Saigon 40 years ago at the end of this month.

Who is not familiar with the photographs of helicopters taking off from what was then the capital of South Vietnam in April 1975, as American personnel and thousands of desperate Vietnamese attempted to evacuate while the armies of the north broke into the city? It marked the end of the Vietnam War, a conflict that cost the lives of at least one million Vietnamese, with one estimate putting the figure at over three million.

Given the enormous loss of life, the well-documented atrocities by US forces and the long-term devastation caused by the massive use of Agent Orange to deprive the Viet Cong of forest cover, it is quite remarkable just how friendly relations are now between the US and Vietnam. Diplomatic relations were established in 1995, and a “comprehensive partnership” was launched in 2013.

It is a measure of how close the two countries have become that Vietnamese diplomats would rather the old enemy was a more forceful presence in the region. They are hoping Washington will check China’s seemingly inexorable advance across the South China Sea, much of which it claims as its own territorial waters.

Much as the amity is to be welcomed, the 40th anniversary of the war should also remind us of how misguided much of America’s pushback against Communism was, over many decades – and to what catastrophes it led.

Vietnam was one example. For the leaders of the north, the war with the Americans was a continuation of the anti-colonial struggle against their former masters, the French. Indeed, it was General Giap, the victor of the battle of Dien Bien Phu (which led to France surrendering and withdrawing), who was in command of North Vietnam’s armies against the Americans.

The latter, however, couldn’t see beyond “the red threat” and preferred to support a series of corrupt and chaotic military dictatorships in South Vietnam.

It is not as though they were unaware of the popularity of Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese leader, throughout the whole country.

As Dwight D Eisenhower, the US president, wrote in his memoirs: “I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indo-Chinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting [in 1954], possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader.” And that, apparently, could not be allowed.

It was a similar calculation that led the US to support the 1973 coup against Chile’s president, Salvador Allende. That was followed by 17 years of rule by a military junta headed by the late General Augusto Pinochet. Allende had been democratically elected, but America preferred a dictatorship that became a byword for repression – all because Allende was a Marxist.

The list of dictators the US supported in Latin America alone is too long to list here, but the policy of favouring anyone on the right over politicians deemed too friendly to Communist powers was applied around the world, and often with disastrous results.

It is quite possible, if not likely, for instance, that if General Lon Nol had not overthrown Cambodian ruler Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970 – a coup in which CIA involvement was alleged – Cambodia might well have been spared the horrors of the Khmer Rouge.

For it was this act that precipitated a civil war in which the US backed Lon Nol, but who eventually fled after Communist troops, initially aligned with Sihanouk, surrounded the capital in 1975.

Sihanouk had tried to steer a course between “American imperialism and Asian Communism”. It was America’s man, Lon Nol, “Who obliged me to choose”, he said.

Sihanouk’s middle way could have saved Cambodia from a genocide in which one-fifth of the population perished. But it wasn’t sufficiently anti-Communist for his replacement’s backers.

The Cold War is long over, of course. But this aspect of it is one that should be remembered as the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War’s end is marked.

What a wasteful, pointless conflict that was, and so at odds with America’s continued commitment to spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

For either freedom or democracy to mean anything, a people’s ability to choose a government of whatever political stripe they want is a basic requirement, even when that government is not to the taste of America.

But for too long it appeared that American rhetoric was undermined by its actions: stolen elections were ignored, and when they were free, it was more a case of “you can vote for whoever you like – so long as we approve”. Such impressions have not been forgotten in many of the countries affected, and still fill the wells of suspicion about America’s eagerness for forceful interventionism abroad.

Rarely can there be a clearer example of muddled US thinking over democracy than the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas won that contest by a considerable margin, only to be told by the Bush administration that it would not deal with the group. Hamas was subsequently declared a terrorist organisation by the US.

It is a lesson worth bearing in mind when images of the fall of Saigon resurface, whether in print, on television news or in the numerous Vietnam films. Ask yourself: why did those millions die? If it wasn’t for democracy, then for what?

 

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Islington, London…..Then and Now….

14 Jul

DSCF7253 I first discovered Islington in 2010 when I went to London with the London Trippers, a group of diehard Family Historians, who think spending the day in the depths of the Archives is the only way to go. We were staying at Rosebery Hall, one of the Residences belonging to the London School of Economics. Many of the archives were within walking distance, which was why earlier groups recommended this as the place to stay.

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London Metropolitan Archives

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Room at Rosebery Hall

Also, even though it was not always clean and things didn’t always work, it was cheap and offered a Full English Breakfast and if you took a baggie, you would have enough food for lunch.

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Breakfast in the Cafeteria at Rosebery Hall

This spring was my 5th visit since 2010 and I think of the Hall as my London home away from home. The price was up to 45 Pounds a night, but it is still a steal in London. Until my visit in 2013, I wasn’t aware that Islington had been home to some of my Ancestors who, I thought, lived and died in Warwickshire. Since then I have learned otherwise…people MOVE…they have always MOVED and in 1776, they were no different. In 1965, the Borough of Islington was created by incorporating some of the old parishes where my Mason Family once lived. It now takes in Clerkenwell, St. Luke’s, Canonbury and Pentonville as well as others.

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St. Luke’s today

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St Luke’s Parish Church

If you begin your walk on Old Street, just a few steps from the SOG..Society of Genealogists, one of the other spots I hang out, you come across St. Luke’s Church. It has been decommissioned…and is used by the London Symphony Orchestra for their community and music education programs. In the late 1700’s,  Spencer and Martha Mason from Warwickshire had 10 children baptised there between 1777 and 1795.  The first was John,  christened in 1777 and the last Eliza, christened in 1795. The child that I have been able to trace is Daniel Spencer Mason, christened in 1793. Spencer Mason was a Baker, and as such was a member of the Mercer’s Guild. It was this organization that provided the funds for his youngest son, Daniel Spencer Mason, to attend St. Paul’s School.

Full text of “Admission registers of St. Paul’s school, from 1748 to 1876”……Daniel Spencer Mason, aged 11, son of the late Spencer M., baker, Old Street ….18o4] SCHOLARS OF ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL. 229

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Old Street today where Spencer Mason once had his bakery.

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Spencer Mason (1802) and his son Daniel Spencer Mason (1846) are buried here

Bunhill Fields Cemetery

Spencer died when Daniel was only 9.  He was  buried in the Bunhill Fields Cemetery on Dec 16, 1802…Piece 3989: Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, City Road. Bunhill was in use as a burial ground from 1665 until 1854, by which date approximately 123,000 interments were estimated to have taken place. Over 2,000 monuments remain. It was particularly favoured by Nonconformists and contains the graves of such notables as John Bunyan, Daniel Dafoe, William Blake  and Isaac Watts. Just across the street is John Wesley’s Chapel.

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John Wesley’s Chapel

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Rebuilt St. Mary’s Church

Daniel Spencer Mason went on to become a Draper and had a shop at #107 Shoreditch High Street. According to the 1841 Census he had a house he shared with his sisters Mary Ann Finch (widow) and Ann Mason at New Norfolk Street not far from St. Mary’s Parish Church in Islington. This area was destroyed by bombs in WW2 and the house is no longer standing. Islington is mentioned in an early Anglo-Saxon charter and was originally named Giseldone, then Gislandune. The name means ‘Gisla’s hill’ from an old Saxon personal name Gisla and dun meaning ‘hill’. According to one early writer, it was a savage place, a forest “full of the lairs of wild beasts”, where bears and wild bulls roamed. On the edges of the forest was a pasture for hogs. In The Domesday Book of 1086 the name had mutated to Isendone, and then Iseldone, which remained in use until the 17th century when it was replaced by the modern form.

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Poster is in St. Mary’s Church

In the Middle Ages, most of the land belonged to religious institutions. After the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1540), much of it was given to aristocratic families, often the friends of the Tudor monarchs. By the 17th century, Islington had grown from a hamlet into a village, spreading along Upper Street and Lower Road, which later became Essex Road; by the 18th century, the area had become became famous for its dairy herds, which supplied London with butter, cream and milk.

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Canonbury Square

London grew rapidly in the 19th century and brick terraced houses began to take over the agricultural land. Local farmers turned to manufacturing bricks and developing property. Canonbury Square  is an attractive square, developed between 1805 and 1830 and included a variety of distinct styles. In 1812, when few properties had been built, the New North Road turnpike, now known as Canonbury Road, was constructed and bisects the square. Many significant figures from the arts and literary worlds have lived on the square, including George Orwell (1944) and  Evelyn Waugh (1928). The Mason Family lived at New Norfolk Terrace, not from here.

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Mason House on Norfolk Street/New Norfolk Street near New North Road

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Finsbury Estate

With the advent of the railways came industrial development and corresponding social decline. Eventually, many big houses and once elegant squares fell into disrepair. For much of the 20th century, Islington was a poor, down-at-heel area. However, post-Second World War rebuilding and later gentrification improved both housing standards and the appearance of local streets. In recent decades, although some significant social problems remain, Islington has become a desirable residential area, as well as a place to head for leisure and entertainment. Run-down establishments have given way to smart restaurants, local theatres, galleries and shops, whilst new shopping centres have grown up at Angel and Nag’s Head. Properties now range in the 700,000 to 5.5 million pounds if they have been restored.

Finsbury Estate, one of a number of  large Public Housing Estates,  is next door to Rosebery Hall. When I first visited in 2010, I was kept up at night with noise made by the local teenage residents, gathered on the street corner under my window. Drug deals and fights went on all night. The area has been cleaned up in recent years with surveillance cameras and police patrols.  The development includes a library and the Islington Museum which opened in 2008 below the library.

Bob...The Street Cat who along with his owner James, Busked outside the Angel Station.

Bob…The Street Cat who along with his owner James, Busked outside the Angel Station.

Islington has had a host of noteworthy characters over the years. Bob and James, a man and his cat are only some of the latest. They became famous worldwide after their books “A Street Cat named Bob” and “The World  According to Bob” were published. Instead of keeping warm in Waterstone’s Book Store at the north end of Islington Green, they came to sign their books.  If you are not familiar with their story…it is one of love and how one stray cat helped a man who had spent 10 years on the London streets as an addict, begin a new life. James in  turn, had rescued Bob after he wandered into his flat, sick and worn.

The Sadler Wells Theatre is also a neighbour of Rosebery Hall. It is a performing arts venue and the 6th on the site since 1683. Patrons were gathered outside one April evening as I returned home, enjoying their drinks in the warm spring London weather. I laughed when I saw some patrons arriving on their bikes which they locked up against the lamp poles. This is not something that happens at such venues back home.

Exmouth Market with outside seating for nearly every pub and restaurant

Exmouth Market with outside seating for nearly every pub and restaurant

Not far from Rosebery Hall is Exmouth Market..a pedestrian friendly street with Shops, Cafes, Restaurants and Pubs. On a Friday night it gets very busy as the young people come out to celebrate the end of another work week.  My favorite Cafe is Cafe Nero at the end of the street. It is here I usually have my final coffee as I head to catch the #63 bus which will take me to Kings Cross to begin my long journey back to Canada. I keep the Coffee Card in my wallet as I know it will be only a matter of time before I am there once again. 2013-09-09 16.52.55

Leicester: The King in the Cathedral…Richard lll

28 May

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Five hundred and thirty years after he was hurriedly buried in the Grey Friars Priory, Richard III was buried with full honor and dignity on March 26, 2015.

When I heard about the discovery of his remains under the car park in Leicester back in 2012, and the subsequent decision to have him reburied in Leicester Cathedral, I knew I had to be present. After all, my ancestors were living in Claybrooke Magna in the late 1500’s, according to Parish Records. If they were there then, it is likely that they were there in 1485 when Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth…… and the battle field was only a mere 9 miles up the road. I thought, “were they aware of what was going on at the time?”

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My picture taken in 2010.

Also, like Philippa Langley, the woman who lead the Looking for Richard Project, I too felt a connection to the car park. While visiting Leicester back in 2010 and wandering the backstreets of Leicester late one afternoon, I came across a gated site with brick buildings and interesting chamber pots silhouetted against a darkening sky. The place had a haunted feel to it, so I took a picture.

It was the same site !

It was the same site……August 2012.

Two years past and it wasn’t until August 2012, when I heard about the discovery of the remains of Richard III in the Car Park, that I took a look at my old pictures. I had a feeling that it was the same site I had photographed…..it was!

Once the date of the Reburial was announced, I made my reservations so as not to be left out. I even entered the lottery for seats at the cathedral…some 600 were going to be made available to the public.  I wasn’t successful, but wasn’t too upset as they had 14,000 applications for the draw.

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Friars outside Leicester Cathedral

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Aitone Concert at Holy Cross Priory

I arrived in Leicester on March 23, checked into my hotel at 3:30PM and hurried off to the Cathedral for the 5:00PM Vespers Service that was to be sung by the Dominican Friars. Later that evening, I attended a concert at their church, the Holy Ghost Priory on the New Walk, to hear Aitone, a choir based in the east Midlands town of Long Eaton. They were formed in the autumn of 2005 with the goal of exposing new audiences to Early Music. They are a mixed a capella group singing a range of music from the 11th to the 18th centuries, including Anglo-Saxon chant, West Gallery psalmody, medieval English discant and Renaissance music. They were simply amazing, especially in that venue.

Next day was all about attending Workshops on “Writing About Richard and His Times” sponsored by  Leicester Adult Education Centre and the Leicester Public Library. Shakespeare has portrayed Richard III as the archetypal villain, while others see him as a much maligned monarch. What are the facts and how have they been presented? The Historical Novel Society brought together authors from differing perspectives. They included Alison Weir, renowned author of many factual and fiction books on the period; Joanna Hickson, broadcaster, author of Red Rose, White Rose and writer on the genesis of Tudor England; Toby Clements, author of Kingmaker and writer on the Wars of the Roses; and Jenny Barden, Tudor era author and creative writing tutor. The English love their history and can be very vocal when defending their point of view. I was afraid a war might break out at one point in the afternoon when a member of the audience took one of the panelists to task!

In the evening there was a lively discussion at Leicester Central Library: Richard III in Fact and Fiction – Who should we believe? chaired by the Richard III Society chairman, Dr Phil Stone and panelists David Baldwin, adviser to the Richard III Visitor Centre; Peter Hammond, historian, author of Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign, broadcaster and historical novelist Joanna Hickson, and Toby Clements. Never knew the distinctions between History, Historical Non-Fiction and Historical Fiction. WOW…was I educated that night.

Dean Monteith and the Bishop of Leicester

Dean Monteith and the Bishop of Leicester

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My new Leicester friend, Diana (rear) watch the service on the Big Screen

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Philippa Langley and Dr. John Ashdown Hill

Thursday,March 26 was cold and wet. It did not deter hundreds of people from  coming out to line the streets around the cathedral and the 2 squares where BIG SCREENS had been set up. The Reburial Service took place in the cathedral before guests which included Sophie, Countess of Wessex, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Benedict Cumberbatch, religious leaders  and 200 members of the public. The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby, presided over the service during which, The Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, said: “People have come in their thousands from around the world to this place of honour, not to judge or condemn but to stand humble and reverent.  From car park to cathedral…Today we come to give this King, and these mortal remains the dignity and honour denied to them in death.”

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Dr. Jo Appleby (Osteologist) and Dr. Turi King, (Genetic Analysis) from Leicester University

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Cumberbatch going for TV interview

I watched the arrivals of the guests outside the cathedral and then saw the service broadcast on the Big Screen in Jubilee Square.

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Church of st James the Greater

Later that evening the Richard III Society sponsored The Middleham Requiem by Geoff Davidson, a “dramatic cantata which tells the story of Richard’s life using a narrator, three vocal soloists depicting Richard, Queen Anne, and King Edward IV, two choirs (adults and children), a twenty-piece orchestral ensemble and pipe organ”. Performed in St James the Greater Church, it was an appropriate closing to a “one of a kind day in history”.

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Clergy Procession after the Service of Reveal

On Friday there was a Service of Reveal to bless the new tomb. It was a warm spring day in contrast to the cold, wind and rain the day prior. In the evening Leicester was aglow with fires and fireworks. Over 8,000 flames were lit around Jubilee Square and Cathedral Gardens, illuminating the area  with a trail of fire sculptures lighting the sky to mark the reinterment of King Richard III.

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Richard’s Horse

Fireworks were lit from the cathedral area to end the day.

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Jubilee Square and the Fire Pots

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Fireworks from the cathedral roof

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Leicester Cathedral lit up

Sunday was Palm Sunday and in the morning I had returned to St James Church for the morning service.

In the afternoon, I decided that as I was leaving the next day, I would walk down to the cathedral for the Evensong Service at 3:00.

Our Private Service with Richard III

Our Private Service with Richard III

Either the Luck of the Irish or my “Guardian Ancestors” were with me….I had no expectations other than to hear the Choristers. The church was closed to visitors until the next day and I knew that if I wanted to view the tomb, I would have to return early in the morning and line up with the crowd.

At the end, Dean Monteith, who had taken the services all week, invited the 20 of us to visit Richard’s Tomb!!! Even those that had INVITATIONS to the THREE SERVICES this past week, would not have had such a moment….something I won’t soon forget….an English Cathedral with the afternoon sun streaming through the stained glass windows, the choir with wonderful voices  and a Private Evensong Service with Richard !!! now buried in his tomb! Pete’s Blog last week made the following comment about the work of a cathedral “the special just highlights the importance of the ordinary” referencing the Richard III Reburial events of the past week and the ongoing work of a cathedral…well today was just an ordinary Sunday Service and I was just an ordinary person….but somehow the ordinary became very special….. Farewell Leicester….until next time!

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Banner with the Boar

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Handmade Pall

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Crown

 

   

                                               

Rest easy……Richard III……..The King in the     Cathedral!          DSCF7122                  

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