29 October 2007

Desert Memories: Journeys Through the Chilean North

“All of us, living in ghost towns though we do not know it.
With the illusion that what we leave behind will not be swept away by the wind, that something will remain against the corrosion of time.
Hand by hand, hand in hand
Gloriously making believe we will outlast the desert”

Ariel Dorfman, Chilean novelist, playwright, poet and human rights activist writes about his journey through northern Chile through San Pedro de Atacama, along the Panamerican highway and the nitrate corridor, and up to Arica. Along the way he stops in Pisagua to remember his close friend Freddy Taberna who was executed there by firing squad after the 1973 military coup. He provides a fascinating picture of this unique landscape, drawing on astronomy, anthropology, geology, politics, and Chilean industrial history, along with his own personal narrative. To know the desert, he explains, you must cross through it. “You can immerse yourself in the sea or be welcomed by a forest, but the desert is incessantly reminding you of distances–between yourself and the rocks, between yourself and the next faraway community, between yourself and your own endurance. The desert does not offer the illusion that you will ever be anything other than an intruder.”


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