Friday (14-January-2011) — Chile

Gone to See Patagonia 2010/2011. Photography Workshop with Thom Hogan. Day 19: Detained as Political Prisoners in Puerto Natales.

Another day and nothing has changed much. The locals are still patrolling the town in cars with black flags (black garbage bags) or the local flag.  The vehicles range from old pickup trucks to high-end sports cars. We checked out of the hotel at noon, but will probably check in again in a bit. The locals tell us that we are not hostages since we can walk through the picket line and then walk 20-30 km with our luggage to the Argentine border (but don’t go off the road because of the minefields). They have not been letting ambulances through. There is a doctor here to do two kidney transplants in Punta Arenas that cannot get to the hospital. News has made it to the BBC, but we don’t see much if any coverage in the US press. There are several hundred tourists stranded here in Puerto Natales, many more in Punta Arenas, and 4000-5000 stranded in Torres del Paine National Park.  The protest is over the repeal of a fuel credit of ~$6/month for this region. All of the cars and trucks driving around for the last several days checking to see if each house has a black flag flying and making sure that we don’t try to sneak out have already burned through much more money.  This is going to devastate the economy in the region once the word gets out and tourist stop coming. The US Embassy in Santiago did finally issue a press release today to a Chile travel site (and not on the US State Dept site) — but no guidance or help getting out of the country.

Black Flag Protesters Patrol the streets of Puerto Natales (David J Mathre)
Black Flag Protesters Patrol the streets of Puerto Natales (David J Mathre)
Strikers on Patrol, Driving Through Puerto Natales. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 125, 5.3 mm, f/5, 1/500 sec). (David J Mathre)
Strikers on Patrol, Driving Through Puerto Natales. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 125, 5.3 mm, f/5, 1/500 sec).
Strikers on Patrol in Sports Car, Driving Through Puerto Natales. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 125, 5.3 mm, f/5, 1/500 sec). (David J Mathre)
Strikers on Patrol in Sports Car, Driving Through Puerto Natales. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 125, 5.3 mm, f/5, 1/500 sec).
Refuges Living Rough on the Street of Puerto Natales Cooking Lunch. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 80, 49.2 mm, f/4.9, 1/250 sec). (David J Mathre)
Refuges Living Rough on the Street of Puerto Natales Cooking Lunch. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 80, 49.2 mm, f/4.9, 1/250 sec).
Hotel and Rainbow. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 80, 5.1 mm, f/5.4, 1/1000 sec). (David J Mathre)
Hotel and Rainbow. Snapshot taken with a Leica V-Lux 20 camera (ISO 80, 5.1 mm, f/5.4, 1/1000 sec).

22-January-2011 edit: Check out Thom Hogan’s blog about being held hostage in southern Chile.

Author: David Mathre

I am a scientist by training (Eckerd College, BSc; Caltech, Ph.D.). I worked for 27 years as a Chemist in the Pharmaceutical Industry developing processes to manufacture medicines for human and animal health. I now spend my time as a photographer and world traveler. My interests in photography include the natural world, wildlife, landscapes, skyscapes, and seascapes. I have traveled to over 50 countries over the last 10 years, often on Semester at Sea voyages. While at home in New Jersey, I spend time on a home renovation project and expanding my wildflower garden/meadow.

7 thoughts on “Friday (14-January-2011) — Chile”

    1. Right now we want the word to get out to as many folks as possible. The American press so far is ignoring this story even though OOM 10K international tourists are caught up a pawns here.

      1. Wow. Laura just let Jeremy and I know of your situation. It’s hard for me to judge the seriousness or your level of concern. Please let me know.

        1. Got a note late last night to have bags ready to go by 9 AM. There was also word yesterday that the Red Cross would be organizing a bus caravan when the road blocks open. This won’t be the first time that we have had our bags ready to go.

  1. Wow, this is pretty exciting stuff! Not the kind of excitement you signed up for though. Hope it works out ok. Maybe you can sell your story to Time magazine 🙂

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