LHD-10 Santiago, Chile December 15, 1966

Strollers along Santiago’s Alameda Bernardo O’Higgins had to stare last week: parked there under the sun of this inland capital was Noah’s Ark. Or so it seemed. The bulging wooden hull of a boat loomed up before landlubbers’ eyes. To ease the wonderment, someone had chalked on the tar -- “This is a boat of Chiloe.”

That only helped a little. Many of those who passed knew no more of Chiloe than that it is an island in Chile’s South somewhere. Some could name its capital, Ancud, and others could tell you that it rains most of the time there. But few had seen the place nor had many expected to visit in that vast vague zone known here as the South.

Later the boat was incorporated in a full-blown display propagandizing the South, and some of the Santiaguinos who tasted the seafood samples may venture down country for more of the same someday. Now the Queen of England has ruled on Palena border dispute between Argentina and Chile, and a few souls may decide to attempt a visit to those forlorn southern hectares for which Chile has protested vehemently. So the national interest is titillated occasionally.

And if the sail-powered fishing boat of Chiloe could have performed the ark function, the city folk would have seen a treat indeed. Chile generally is remarkable for its paucity of fauna. Even the flies die here in the summertime. But the South can offer a curious menagerie, especially the extreme South, where living conditions are brutal. The Patagonia cabin of the ark would contain penguins; ostriches; the guanaco, which is a stripped-down model of the llamas that are only found 2600 miles away in Chile’s northern tip; black-necked swans; jack rabbits; king crabs, and most importantly, sheep.

The far South is as inaccessible and forbidding in its own way as is the Atacama Desert in the North of Chile. These regional perversities of geography compound the difficulties that the nation’s drawn-out shape present for political unity. But the airplane is extending the government’s writ in the area now, and before long Telstar and the hydrofoil will do their bit. Gradually more Chileans will come to know the zone to the south and to realize that it --like the northern desert -- has its merits.

The area deserves a closer look because it offers both a potential and a challenge to this nation bent on modernizing. It is a striking arena for the traditional Latin American struggle between centralized and local-initiative forms of government. Furthermore, the zone contains much of interest to the world traveler -- the hardier world traveler. A fraction of the section already knows tourists, though some of the terrain probably never has been explored and much of it is rarely, seen by man.

As in most cases Chilean, much of the tale is told in the geography. The country offers a north-south slice of nature so neat that physical change with latitude can be observed almost clinically. Internally, Chileans rarely find use for the words “east” and “west.” North and south emanate from Santiago, perhaps partially in reflection of the country’s political centralization. In any case, Santiago is approximately in the geographic center, if Chile’s great land mass claimed in Antarctica is not considered. A worker from down on the farm just 50 miles below Santiago will say that his home is in the South.

Of Chile’s 25 provinces, 18 lie south of Santiago. In an uneven pattern, they contain under 4 million of the 9 million estimated total population. For the first 400 miles south of the capital, where most of those 4 million live, the country’s basic geographic pattern remains little changed -- the relatively low coastal mountain range and the high Andean cordillera about 100 miles inland forming the boundaries for the populated and intensively farmed Central Valley. The chief variable is water. Santiago is dry except in the winter. Though irrigation is still necessary through most of the valley south of the capital during part of the year, the zone is traversed by an increasing number of rivers running from the Andes watershed.

The one national highway, along with the railroad, follows the valley in an endless crossing of river bridges and dirt feeder roads. Around Temuco, about 400 miles south of Santiago, the pattern changes dramatically. It is the South below that point that will be the concern of this report. (See map, Pages 10-11.)

The Lakes

Below Temuco the Central Valley gives way partially to lakes -- deep blue and green lakes fed in some cases by glaciers and in all cases by cold and clear water tumbling over mountain rock. The snow-covered cordillera, occasional volcanoes and hilly, forested Mores put the system of nine major lakes in a setting that requires only one more item for perfection -- the sun. Residents say that clear weather is a possibility from late November through February, an improbability the rest of the year. But this zone, which is the dairy of Chile, is so picturesque that development of a tourist industry seems inevitable. Some area politicians have realized the potential of this source of income, and the recent display in Santiago is just one of the results. Another will be construction of a gambling casino, which Chile rightly or wrongly seems to believe is a necessity in attracting foreigners.

There are ethnic changes at Temuco, too. Concentrated near that town are the last of Chile’s Indians that choose to live apart. But the Araucanians have dwindled to a shadow tribe. The lake region is home to most of the considerable German immigrants. The bigger Part of the immigration occurred generations ago, but there is still a definite German community. There has not been much flux either of new faces or of class standings. Intermarriage is reported to be common and a doctor in the zone reports a high incidence of Mongoloid births.

The German language still is very current as well as the discipline, more German than Chilean, of hard work at high standards. And yet, though the German-Chileans and the Swiss -- Chileans fatten cows on valley farms as neat and preen as billiard tables, dairy production has long since fallen behind demand. The children of Santiago are weaned on reconstituted milk from abroad, even though the South is thought to have a very high potential for production.

A small sampling with whom I talked seems to bear out the often-heard generalization that the German-Chileans tend to stand to the far right of the country’s political spectrum. A guide who left Germany in the late ‘30s offered the unsolicited observation to a busload of U.S. tourists that Chile narrowly avoided a Communist government in the last election, that with the present government it seems to have about the same thing, and that the next government probably will be decidedly Communist, Among the farmers, the line of argument usually went something like this: “The Chileans are backward because they will not work as we have always done. Yes, it’s true that our dairy production is down, but the leftwing government’s price policies are to blame for that.”

There would seem to be a non sequitur of sorts in posing work as a cultural attribute and then blaming economic policies for low output. In some cases it is said that the hard work is going into slipping capital abroad through Chile’s tight exchange restrictions. Some Chileans feel that the “Germans,” after getting a controlling hand on property, have denied others the means to development. These charges could apply only to the minority’s minority, as does the allegation of refusal to fraternize. The many German-derived Chileans who have assimilated thoroughly are thereby inconspicuous.

Whatever the composite causes of the low dairy-product output, one factor must be transportation. The north-south highway touches all four of the Lake region’s cities of over 50,000, and there is considerable good farmland easily within reach of road and rail. But other good dairy land is being farmed at sites reachable only by lake boat. In fact, powdered milk factories are locating on the biggest lake. One would hope for a cheese industry, but it comes too little. Powdered milk cans, domestic or imported, are an unfortunately apt symbol of the state of Chilean dairying today.

The transit problems within the zone are incidentally demonstrated along the one beaten tourist path through the lakes. This begins, on the Chilean side of the Andes, in the city that is really the last stop in continental Chile -- although it is only 550 miles (675 by road) down the 1500 miles of terrain south of Santiago. The city is Puerto Montt, where the railroad dead-ends. The highway goes only a few miles further on before halting as well.

But unless the weather interferes, Puerto Montt is an easy plane ride from Santiago. So the tourists who are tired of Hilton hotels and who hear of the lake tour while in Santiago, or those who have a daring and well-informed tourist agency in the United States, may well get a chance at the bus-boat southern lake crossing and Andes climb. (The more usual, dependable and duller method of switching from the West Coast to the East, or reverse, is to fly between Santiago and Buenos Aires.)

Not a particularly large number choose to make the swing, but it is enough to strain the limited tourist facilities on the Chilean side. Still, the scenery offsets any detractions in what is usually a tranquil but sometimes a violent terrain. The buses leave daily if the traffic demands, and follow a crude but passable dirt road along the southern shore of Chile’s largest and doubtless bluest lake, Llanquihue. There once was steamer service on the lake but the last boat sank at the -pier in one of the more recent earthquakes. U.S. AID helped rebuild the pier, but no one has come up with new steamers, and in fact the old hull rusts there yet.

Llanquihue Lake and Province are dominated by two volcanoes; the 8000-foot Osorno, formed in a perfect cone, that has been calm for years; and the lower Calbuco, which erupted five years ago in streams of lava that have cut lifeless swaths through the forests of the foothills. The peaks are snow-crusted; they form the perfect backdrop for the zone’s churches and farmhouses in weathered shingle. The roar of the motorboat is not heard in the land, nor is there anything particular to rush off to -- all points in the lake are pretty.

Soon after the bus departs the big lake it begins to parallel a foamy green river that flows from another lake just to the east called Todos los Santos or Esmeralda. The lake is thought by many to be Chile’s most beautiful. It is nearly as green as a lime, fed by the glacier of the zone’s dominant peak, El Trondador, which at nearly 11,000 feet is one of the high points from which the Argentine-Chilean border was drawn. The emerald lake is long, twisted and irregular, the only means of transportation other than horse through the woods and mountains that surround it. At its western shore, the tourists take lunch then board the four-car ferry-passenger launch for an afternoon of unabated spectacular mountain scenery. The boat makes no stops but does slow to a crawl several times to accommodate rowboats from shore -- from the perhaps two dozen farms that depend on that launch to bring them mail and the supplies for which they placed an order several trips ago, and to take aboard and deliver to market their butter or berries or pigskins. It rains too much, they say, for sheep.

By now the tourist is sunburned or wet, depending on his fortunes, and he spends the night at a tolerable hotel in a Swiss setting, with a waterfall. The next day he makes his peace with Chile’s customs man. Chile must be one of the few countries in the world that sometimes searches travelers’ luggage when they are leaving. He then goes by bus straight up to the Andean pass and the border. Actually this is one of the lower crossings, at 3000 feet. The woods are wild and free and contain many trees little seen elsewhere, such as the lightly brunette Arayan. As usual in Chile, the fauna is sparse, though imported trout thrive in the lakes and salmon grow fat in the rivers.

No sooner has the bus descended on the Argentine side than the passengers change back to boats, again the area’s sole means of transit. The boats, the Nahuel Huapi Lake, and finally the resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche, are all on a bigger scale and there is a general air of sophistication in comparison with Chile. But the scenery in Chile is more immediate, the mountains leaning over the lakes. Both sides have much to offer. Argentina has made its tone into a national park, whereas much of the land and facilities on the Chilean side are still owned by one family.

Such tourism really begins and ends in Bariloche, which also has a growing community of summer home dwellers from the rich families of Buenos Aires. That grand city is a quick flight away, and Chile hopes to share in some of the benefits. Last year Chile counted only 117,000 tourists, and 46,000 of them came from Argentina. The next biggest bloc was from the United States, then Peru. To increase the flow through the lakes, Chile will institute daily flights in season between Bariloche and Puerto Montt. It will use one of its few Caravelle jets, for some reason. Thereupon the trip that otherwise can be made only by boat and bits of road, will be reduced from two days to 15 minutes. Progress of a sort, then, though it will be interesting to see how many Bariloche tourists buy roundtrip air tickets to the new casino an the Chilean seaside.

The Maritimes

The reason that all land transportation ends at Puerto Montt is that the sea inundates the central valley there. It also gives the town an inland, protected port for sea-going ships. From that point south Chile is islands, which are an extension of the coastal mountain range further north, or fiord-lacerated mainland, which is the Andes’ foothills rising from the water, and then the cordillera itself.

Only a handful of roads are found on continental Chile below Puerto Montt, and in so far as they lead anywhere, they lead to Argentina. The only people who seriously argue that Chile ought to build a road down that fractured confusion of hill and water are the residents of the isolated communities themselves.

As for the islands, scarcely any are inhabited, or even named. Many are said to be unexplored, though they have been carefully charted for centuries by navigators who hid behind them to avoid the fury of the South Pacific just beyond.


Chiloe Island is the one big chunk of seaside real estate. At its northern tip, Chiloe is separated from the mainland only by a narrow channel, but that was sufficient for centuries to isolate completely the Chilotes, as the people are known. In recent years national funds have begun to close the gap of investment in roads, schools and ports, and students of the University of Chile spend part of their summer vacation in peace-corps-style proselyting for development. But the island’s principal export is still its wonderfully fecund Chilotes, who have provided much of the labor force not only for Chile’s oil fields and sheep ranches further south but also for the coal mines of southern Argentina, the restaurants of Bariloche and the low-wage services of Santiago.

The crowded island’s other exports are shellfish and potatoes. By the favored accounts here, the potato is native only to Chiloe, where the Spaniards discovered it over 400 years ago. They are said to have transplanted it to Peru, from whence the potato conquered the world and eventually even Ireland. At present Chiloe is not growing enough potatoes to feed Chile, a situation that is affected by, and also causes, import and price complications under the government of President Eduardo Frei. It rains so much in Chiloe that crops apparently are washed out with some regularity.

Chiloe’s cold waters produce much of the shellfish that, with modern marketing, could make a food center of Chile in the international league. For some reason Chileans in general seem never to have taken to fish with enthusiasm, and to have favored the delightful shellfish only tepidly. Somewhere in the priorities of Frei’s Revolution in Liberty is a reordering of the meat-and-starches diet. In markets, a few changes are underway already. A U.S.-Chilean firm in Chiloe’s provincial capital of Ancud will export to the United States frozen abalone, known here as locos and served as an everyday appetizer. Most North Americans’ first reaction to them has been, “Why doesn’t Chile export locos?” Another plant in Castro, Chiloe’s other town, is putting up chorros in cans. This is a sort of clammy oyster, with a mustache, that is eaten raw, cooked or smoked, but is best in a steamy soup.

Despite the surprising indifference of many Chileans to the sea, Chilotes often literally live upon it, housing their families in their distinctive fishing sailboats. Chiloe contributes a large share of the pilots who know the channel isles.

The latest hope for Chilote industry is coming in on the beset but unbent shoulders of those international idealists, the fishmeal advocates. What with algae and that ilk, southern Chile has protein potential that should engage reformers for centuries. The present hope is the fish that are individually unappealing yet collectively the basis for a ground meal that experimentally has been on the threshold of palatability for some time. A goodly proportion of Chile’s population is protein deficient, ‘out it remains to be seen whether it will take to fishmeal more readily than it has taken to fish.

Chiloe Island’s once plentiful forests have pretty well been cut away by the pressure of the population, but the continental Portion of the province is largely uninhabited and heavily forested. What may turn out to be one of the more important contributions of the present government is its effort to arrest public apathy toward destruction of forests. Frei has goaded a replanting effort that is having visible results, but it is not clear yet whether more acreage is being planted than is being cleared or butchered for one-time lumbering profits. Properly maintained forests are foreseen as a foreign currency earner. Chile already exports newsprint. A pine tree that is native to California and which requires 50 years to mature there is said to grow in 20 years in southern Chile.

Government-built hostel for Chiloe Island port of Castro -- at last, capital investment for the periphery.

Soon what is perhaps the most attractively designed addition to the government hostel chain will open in the Chilote port of Castro, a fit symbol of new interest in the island. Scheduled airline service to the city barely preceded the inn. Another effort at amelioration of privation involves a modified free-port status that only succeeds in bringing Castro’s shops up close to the drear national standard of spare offerings. Chiloe Island’s tie to the mainland by surface travel is via ferryboat, which crosses the channel when the weather and the tides allow. In the old days that channel protected the last Spanish loyalists to the crown after Chile’s independence. They holed up on the island for a while, and the place has more than its share of forts and cannon accordingly. Today a bridge across that strait would seem imperative, to incorporate the last large population group reachable by land.

One last site demanding mention in Chiloe Province is Palena in the southwest corner on the mainland. This has been the most hotly disputed of the numerous Chile-Argentina boundary differences. The spot can be reached only through great persistence from either side, and those who have achieved it say there is nothing but woods and a lake, very pretty to be sure, anyway. Involved was the position of the line connecting stones 16 and 17 of the border, plus a great quantity of national pride. Under the provisions of a treaty in. 1902 the dispute was submitted to queen Elizabeth (translated Isabel in Spanish), who has just pronounced the result of two years’ study. It seems to have been a-workable ruling: Chile was able to say that it received the lowland, all that was worth having; Argentina could say that it received the majority of the land in dispute. The affair does show the states’ predilection for peaceful settlements, and it will draw continental Chiloe briefly to the attention of Santiago, which otherwise is not very interested.

In a less placid encounter last November a Chilean Carabinero, national policeman, was shot dead some 300 miles further south from Palena at Laguna del Desierto. Both countries raised high the national banners and later scurried to their maps to see what they were shouting about.


The conflict then turned on whether the Carabineros had crossed the Argentine frontier from the next province below Chiloe, called Aysen. It is the third largest province in area. Its 40,000 or so people if spread out would come to .6 of a person per square mile. But most of them are concentrated in the capital of Puerto Aysen or nearby, at the end of a road from Argentina. These people are pressing the central government for plans and funds for the provincial development. Their fondest hope is for a highway from Puerto Montt, but it would surely be one of the world’s most expensive roads to one of its least likely spots.
More promising are new means of using the area’s natural transportation medium, the water. The high-speed hydrofoil could perhaps offer what the airplane has not quite achieved, fast, inexpensive and nearly all-weather travel. The national maritime agency plans to buy a couple of hydrofoils soon (the machines have proven quite popular on a run between Buenos Aires and Colonia, Uruguay, in a privately-financed venture that reportedly is near breaking even, using big Italian craft. A Bolivian company has put a smaller aliscafo on Lake Titicaca. In these cases the lure was the tourist, who is a long way from being a major factor in Chile’s channel islands).

Aysen is at latitude 46 degrees and is said to have considerable snow in a long winter. The southern reaches of the province pertain to the rather vague zone that, before its division between Argentina and Chile, was known solely as Patagonia. Parts of this section of Aysen are described simply as being glaciers or ice fields. However, other land thought apt for grazing is said to be awaiting use.

The relative bigness of Aysen, and its scant chances of self-development with so few and such isolated people, illustrate the failure of Chile’s political subdivision system to lend itself to the Frei government’s proclaimed desire for decentralization. The citizens’ call to Santiago is inevitable with so few local resources. The national planning agency has therefore worked out its projections by regrouping the provinces into larger regional units. For example, the provinces of Llanquihue (Puerto Montt), Chiloe (Ancud) and Aysen would pool their population, reaching something over 300,000, and pursue their basically similar aims as a unit.

Although the agency’s statistics seem remarkably complete, its plans have little to do with reality yet. Perhaps for lack of time, the Frei government has done little so far to offset the terrific centripetal force of custom here. In fact, in Aysen, where that force eddies, the daily routines of provision, medical care, even birth registry are as likely in some cases to pull the people toward Argentina, where the leads.


Most of Chile’s share of Vie old Patagonia is contained in the biggest of the provinces, Magallanes, which comprises all of the southern tip of the continent with the exception of the Argentine portion of the island Tierra del Fuego. It thus includes the Strait of Magellan, enclosed by continental Patagonia and the island of Tierra del Fuego along with some lesser islands; most of the Beagle Channel, formed by the island Tierra del Fuego on the north and scattered islands on the south; Cape Horn, the last point of land before Drake’s Pass, which in turn is bordered on the south by Antarctica.

Magallanes, then, is a wet province. It is kept afloat economically by oil and sheep. And the oil is running out. It is in touch with the rest of the country by radio, ship and airplane. But the radio is unsure, the ships slow and the planes at the mercy of a merciless weather pattern.

The capital of Punta Arenas claims to be the world’s southernmost city. Competition isn’t very keen. At about 52 degrees, it has no peers, though at the equivalent latitude in the northern hemisphere there would be some challengers. In any case, it gets cold. The summers are short and the winter nights long. There is snow, not often excessive for in the Strait section of the province there is not really that much precipitation of any kind. Parts of Tierra del Fuego are virtually desert and require irrigation. Parts of Patagonia to the north also are near desert.

The feature of the weather that seems to depress the people of the Strait zone is the wind. It blows most of the time, until the few trees that survive grow with a permanent lean. Several times a year Tierra del Fuego records winds of over 100 miles per hour. The land lies low along the Strait; the only windbreakers are man-made. Yet for all this, Punta Arenas does not seem like the last city on earth. In many respects the population of something over 75,000 in the city measures up more comfortably -- in statistics anyway -- than the rest of the country. The provincial population is said to be over 95 percent literate, considerably higher than whatever disputed figure is used for nationwide comparison. The birthrate is far lower, as is the illegitimacy rate. Salaries are high and unemployment generally low. Output and earnings per head are higher than the national average.

The equalizer is the cost of living. Magallanes is self-sufficient in practically nothing, and everything has to come a long way to Punta Arenas. Government workers receive a 60 per cent zonal allowance there. One other compensation has been the free port. Many goods come in duty free, though they must remain in Magallanes. As usual, this system introduces distortions. There is a high ratio of cars to people, although there is really no place to go in a car. It is theoretically possible to drive north through Argentina, but few have accomplished it. There are two Sunday ride routes and one weekender north to Puerto Natales and the glaciered and gothic mountains beyond at Paine. And beyond that, there is nowhere to go. Yet the streets are crowded with late-model autos so unusual in Chile. The living rooms have fancy imported radio-phonograph sets. When the weather is right, they say, some of the most surprising stations wander down.

Along the downtown streets are several gaunt mansions, showing few signs of life. They would not be noteworthy in any other middling city, nordo they seem so remarkable today even in Punta Arenas. But to have built so grandly there at the turn of the century was extraordinary. Before the Panama Canal opened, Punta Arenas was host to virtually every ship that sailed between the Atlantic and the Pacific. And in. the good old days, the city was the shopping center for all the Patagonians, not just Chile’s. New England sea captains built second homes there, in the style to which they were accustomed. And wool barons built mansions.

The one survivor from that past is the sheep growing gargantuan, the Tierra del Fuego Company. It is said to graze 2.7 million sheep in all of Patagonia -- 1 million of them in Magallanes on 1.1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) of land. At one time it also operated giant ranches on Tierra del Fuego Island under contract to Chile’s government. Only one ranch remains on the island. Those contracts were cancelled in the ‘30s and the ranches have been subdivided into family units -- still quite large. The prevailing standard, whether in big holdings or small, seems to be one sheep per hectare of grazing land. Natural pasture is the norm. It is felt that improved pasture could produce four animals and more. But apparently there just is not yet sufficient demand for Magallanes land to make expenditure on artificial pasture practical or desirable. One native of the zone put it this way: No man is going to invest heavily in improving Patagonian land when for the same outlay he can buy a good farm up in the rich -- and warmer -- central valley.

Some changes are coming in the sheep business. Rather than concentrating just on the wool, the growers are producing for meat. Big refrigerating plants are now in operation. Artificial insemination is improving the breed at a fraction of the cost of importing rams. And whereas formerly all the wool went unwashed to England, now some of it is going north in Chile for processing. Punta Arenas is trying to get into the washing business, an elaboration that the big companies never introduced to the zone despite the fact that unwashed wool is far heavier and bulkier than washed, and the shipping costs are thus kept needlessly high.

The Tierra del Fuego company has shown itself to be adaptable and it proclaims willingness to cooperate in efforts to further develop the province. The company owns one of the two newspapers, a radio station, and the building that houses the only good hotel in Punta Arenas. Its relations with the other giant of the area, the government oil monopoly, seem close and cordial. Nevertheless, the company is obviously concerned about the potential effects of the government’s land reform project even though the proposal would seem to give wide latitude to big, efficient sheep ranchers.

Oddly enough, it is the government- owned ENAP (Empresa Nacional de Petroleo) that is in decisive conflict with its labor force in Magallanes. A united command of diverse union groups of various colorations is demanding that the industry be completely restructured. The causes are complex and as in virtually every conflict over petroleum, a major factor is the international oil oligopoly. But the dominating concern is the lack of new reserves in ENAP’s fields, on continental Patagonia and on Tierra del Fuego.

Although prospectors drilled on Tierra del Fuego years ago, the first oil in commercial quantity was not found until 1945. The task had been given to a government agency charged with fomenting development. This group hired U.S. firms, which helped in finding the oil and bringing it out of the ground.

ENAP was then charged with all responsibilities regarding oil in Chile, but naturally it continued to draw on foreign experts in a field for which Chileans had no preparation. More surprising was the decision to place the distribution and retailing of petroleum products in the hands of private companies -- ESSO and Shell from abroad and a Chilean firm called Copec. The Chilean experience is thus distinct from a pattern observed elsewhere in the underdeveloped world -- where the international oil interests on occasion have agreed to search for oil in the contracting state, even when the likelihood of finding it seemed nil, in order to wrest the more lucrative distribution-service station contracts.

In Chile, these distribution networks have been candidates for nationalization at leftwing political rallies for years. But the call has become more insistent as the future of the extractive industry has come on gloomy days. No new wells have been discovered in over a year. Exploration is becoming more expensive as the more accessible sites prove devoid. ENAP people suggest that with present reserves they can continue to produce oil for about six years. At present the company says it produces 65 per cent of the national needs.

The one brighter side to all this is the coincident discoveries of gas, enough to supply Chile for perhaps 100 years. It is already being liquefied and shipped north in increasing quantities, and the government in general and ENAP in specific are dedicated to creation of a petrochemical industry based partly on that gas. ENAP already has two refineries up in the central zone and is now building a $26-million petrochemical complex next to one of them. Investments totaling $120 million are foreseen.

But the Workers’ Unified Command -- which actually includes several engineers and middle-level company section chiefs taking the initiative -- declares that the present ENAP top directorate is under the influence of private oil firms that do not have the national interest paramount.

The workers would require that any ENAP contracts with foreign firms would have to be with state-owned companies -- apparently this clause they hope to tie up with the Italian state firm. The workers’ Command calls for more rapid development of the petrochemical industry. And they would give four seats, on an ENAP directorate of eleven, to the workers themselves.

If the workers’ campaign evolves into importance, as seems likely, it will probably be heavily supported by the Marxists. But it does not appear to be a Marxist-initiated effort. One Christian Democratic advocate says that the reason for the demand for exclusion of private oil companies derives simply from the fact that experience has shown ENAP is incapable of wresting agreements as beneficial to Chile as to the contractor. U.S. and French firms have been used.

The motor for the campaign will be the desire to redirect ENAP workers into jobs in distribution as jobs in extraction dry up. Of ENAP’s 3700 total employment, 2000 are in MaIlagallanes. The private companies are not publicizing their concern, but they no doubt rightly feel that the government is in no position to buy out their considerable investment in pipelines, trucks and stations (to say nothing of maps -- ESSO offers the only decent and available road map of Chile). Expropriation seems unlikely in the current political climate.

Another factor that is always present in Chilean extractive industry is simply geography. The best way to understand it in the case of ENAP is to visit Tierra del Fuego. ENAP contracts DC-3 flights from its headquarters in Punta Arenas to the center of its island oil fields, Cerro Sombrero. The company has built a workers’ town there. The cost was great because of its isolation. The ferry service to the island is a World War II landing craft. The town is reasonably attractive if the site isn’t. The wind blows wild and free across the fairly flat northern third of the island -- the only part inhabited by man or sheep and the only part, apparently that contains oil. At this time of year, should the wind cease the mosquitos’ swarm. Since roads are easily improvised by scraping away the scrub groundcover, they wander in and out among the drilling sites, storage tanks and two gasoline refineries, all scattered widely and intermingled with grazing sheep herds.

Cerro Sombrero is home to about 1000 people, but many of the workers live both on the island and in Punta Arenas; they work 21 days straight through, then get seven days off. The plants run three shifts a day. After hours, families swim in the indoor community pool, sit in the hothouse community garden, watch the movie, or listen to the wind blow.

On the Chilean side of the island there is really only one other town, Porvenir – Future --across the Strait from Punta Arenas and just above Bahia Inutil -- Useless Bay. About 4500 people live there, left over from a gold rush that, like the oil, whet more appetites than it met. Today the bigger earner is the king crab. Three plants freeze the monsters that abound along the shores and provide Magallanes with a delicacy that alone justifies its existence.

In all, the island is depressing but not impossible, in a slumber only partially disturbed by the fad for oil, waiting for the day when population pressure will call into more intensive use such bypassed lands. Then the paper subdivision of the island may well come alive in fully exploited sheep ranches. Till then, the scrub growth, from which sheep miraculously find nourishment, will dominate. And from time to time the shaggy animals will fall victim to the ranchers’ peril -- the long ha-.r becomes entangled in the thorns, the more so as the animal struggles, and eventually it dies there bleating as the herd and the tending dogs move on.

Over on the mainland, patterns aren’t much different. Up along the easternmost stretch of the Strait of Magellan the Chile-Argentina boundary draws within few kilometers of the water. Today it almost seems as though Chile divined the oil there, for most of the continental discoveries have been within that very narrow band. This has not helped the always-strained frontier relations, since Argentina has oil problems as great as Chile’s. But recently a breakthrough was achieved. Argentine-discovered oil will be piped to the Chilean Strait port through Chilean lines. Ports are non-existent near the Argentine findings, which seem to be too small to warrant such an outlay were there a suitable location. Argentina will pay the transit costs in petroleum.

But as far as Chile is concerned, the drilling possibilities are almost exhausted on the continent as well. The Strait offers severe tidal problems for offshore drilling, but that too may come. If it does, the discontinuity of the boundary from the mainland to the island then will aggravate another pocket quarrel -- how to square off the boundary across the Strait (See map. Another frontier controversy further south involves the ownership of three islands in the eastern mouth of the Beagle Channel).

Another point of interest along the continental side of the Strait of Magellan, aside from a penguins’ ‘Island resort, is the wreck of a Mississippi River paddleboat. By the local telling of the tale, it was headed for California during the gold rush, which of course preceded the Panama Canal. The captain had enough of the open sea after half his journey and rammed her aground for the insurance money.

Today the Strait is still an important shipping lane, and if Latin America ever launches a common market the passage will become even more important. The Strait in conjunction with the channel formed by Chile’s coastal islands provide the favored route for all but the biggest ships calling at ports on both sides of South America. And even the biggest ships use the Strait of Magellan rather than brave the storms off Cape Horn.

This odyssey will conclude with some notes on the northern journey through the Strait and the channels.

Actually ships transiting from the East Coast initially head due south from Punta Arenas. They pick up a pilot there and keep him until Puerto Montt or Santiago’s port of Valparaiso. The section of the Strait of Magellan between Punta Arenas and the Atlantic does not require a Chilean pilot.

The one ship consistently available to passengers for northern Chile from Punta Arenas is the Osorno, a 13-year-old round bottom of the government-owned Maritime Enterprise. It runs between Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, carrying about 300 passengers plus a crew of 75. Going south it runs full of general cargo; going north it carries as little as 10 per cent of capacity. It once sailed the Mediterranean for a fancy French line, but has come on harder times. The Osorno takes four or five days to cover the 1000 miles. In the bad weather of winter it is often the only way to Santiago, and for the poor who cannot afford the airplane, it is always the only way. The cost per person in the none-too-stately first class staterooms is only about $40. All meals, ample if not grand, are included. Only 50 or so go first class, the cost and the service falling off headlong thereafter. All must pass through customs, though no border is crossed, because goods bought in the free port of Punta Arenas are liable for duty when they head north.

On the one trip in five that encounters good weather this boat ride must be as fine a visual treat as is available in the hemisphere. During my trip only the most immediate fiords, sheer rock foothills, forested island shores, bays, gulfs, inlets, mountains and waterfalls were visible. The clouds hang low in that murky archipelago, and the rain it raineth every day.

Still, the trip is necessary for even a partial understanding of the geographic incongruity of Chile. The Osorno pokes among big and little chunks of land that almost always are beautiful, almost always unused, and often perhaps unusable. Each offers the challenge: can the land be used at all, and how? Rarely except in its waist section has Chile the luxury of deciding upon the best of many potential uses.

During the first night out the ship threaded the Strait of Magellan, which is wide compared to what came next among the channel islands. There the various navigators’ points are a potpourri of past international interests expressed in names: Sarmiento Channel, Nelson Strait, Hannover Island, Wellington Island.
On the second morning the Osorno stopped in the long and narrow Indian Pass at Puerto Eden, which consists of a Carabinero station, some scattered houses and a fishing fleet commanded by very Indian looking women. A pretty Eden, but the living isn’t easy. They loaded a big catch of chorros and clams for the cannery up north. They gambled that the shellfish would arrive fresh in Castro. It was not clear to me that they won. As it turned out, it took two and a half days to reach the Choloe port. The stormy Pacific was up to its worst. The one section of open sea comes in crossing the Golfo de Penas -- the Gulf of Torments -- and rounding the point to reenter the channel isles. All this could be eliminated by the cutting of one short canal, but as yet no part of the channel course is man-made. The open-ocean run which might have taken five hours required nearly two days, including a night of hiding in a cove after a wireless command from a land station apprised of the nearby storm. By the time the Osorno reached Castro, even the clams were seasick.

**The Osorno tacks in tight passage of Paso del Indio.

So crude are communications along the way that Puerto Eden fishermen cannot know when their ship will come in until they see it round the bend. Puerto Montt apparently is no better informed. That city and Punta Arenas are at the mercy of a wavering radio signal. At any point along the route a glance ashore suffices for proof that landline installation would be prohibitively expensive. This is why Chile is taking the first steps with hope toward establishment of a Telstar-type sate1lite communications system for the southern hemisphere.

At Castro, too, since it is in some percent a free port, there was the hint of customs. A Carabinero boat circled the Osorno until it left, apparently to guard against smuggling. Castro is a doughty town, picturesque by the waterside, but to conjecture on what would be worthy of smuggling out taxes the imagination. By next morning, our fifth, we were in Puerto Montt, where we suffered customs a last time.

If the surface of southern Chile could be balled like dough, and re-rolled, it would make a grand practical piecrust of a country, but a duller one. As it is, the South confronts problems seldom known to lands of less extravagant shape -- the communications; the borderline citizenry of Aysen who are closer to Argentina than to Chile; the migration of the Chilotes who find no work at home; the hard life of Magallanes folk who live in the freezer of the ‘’air-conditioned country.” The internal customs checks are a fit symbol of insularity.

In curious ways, Punta Arenas seems similar at its pole of the nation to Arica at the northern extreme. Much of the extreme South is nearly desert, though far from the order of the Atacama. Like Arica’s remembrance of the Great Nitrate Age and its wealth, Punta Arenas looks back on the days before the Panama Canal (one man said he sees another great day coming -- when the Canal is closed down for redigging to sea level). Each of Chile’s pole cities owes some of what affluence it exhibits to the privileged free-port status.

Punta Arenas, perhaps more markedly than Arica, seems to have realized the limited value of artificial inducements, and to have replaced the illusion with more practical attitudes toward future development.

For good measure, Magallanes turns out to be blessed with copper deposits, though on a lesser scale than in the Atacama. Some U.S. private capital is being used to get the production started. The discovery is the more surprising since there is little known mineral wealth in the South above Magallanes. Some lead is mined in Aysen, but attempts to find oil anywhere north of the Strait have turned up nothing commercially viable.

Politically, both extremes of the country’s geography tend to lean far to the left of the center. It is tempting to link this to the conditions of life in the North and the South, but a more thorough study than herein would be necessary -- and should be made. When Socialist Senator Salvador Allende visits Magallanes he tells the voters that Frei may rule north of Chiloe, but the South belongs to him. The voting record bears him out. He was presidential candidate for the Marxist Front of the Communists and his own, more leftwing, Socialists. The Socialist Party controls the municipal government of Punta Arenas -- which would seem to be a pretty well run town and other zonal municipalities.

President Frei has illustrated often in speeches down the shank of the land that he sees the problems of the country’s periphery, and their possible solutions -- decentralization of authority, injection of capital and leadership, which the old centralism has choked or frightened off, investment in transport and communication. Indeed, some funds are flowing, and schools seem to have been favored especially. In some respects, the Province of Magallanes may be able to offer ideas as well as absorb them. But with so many tasks confronting Frei’s government in its commitment to revolutionize a bogged-down society, provincial-regional-central relationships may have to wait a long time for their definitive resorting.

Probably what must come first is some consensus among Chileans on the question of whether they really want to change the traditional centralization for a perhaps more flexible but less predictable regionalism. As they look about them in the world, they see computer-age pressures working toward centralization in states that traditionally were federal. In Chile, the IBM-card decision is not yet dealt with. For now there will be more of the same that has served so far if imperfectly, a day-to-day response by the Congress and the executive to the loudest pleas -- a matter of keeping ends together.


Mr. Diuguid is a 1965 Alicia Patterson Fund fellowship award winner on leave from The Washington. Permission to publish this article may be sought from the Foreign Editor, The Washington Post.

Received in New York December 19, 1966.