Province of Neuquén
The Nahuel Huapi Lake area, in the western Patagonian province of Neuquén, is inhabited by a few, small Mapuche communities, despite the genocide perpetrated by the Spaniards during the Colonial Age that led this indigenous group on the edge of the extinction. The Mapuche were killed, displaced and persecuted though the past three centuries. Their original language was for a long time forbidden — however, new settlers never completely managed to subjugate this group.
Between the 18th and 19th centuries the natives spread into the Pampas and the Patagonian plains, a vast new territory where they were allowed to control a substantial part of the salt and cattle trade in the Southern Cone. During the 1870s, Argentina conducted a genocidal, military campaign directed by General Julio Argentino Roca, with the intent to establish Argentine dominance over Patagonia, which was inhabited by indigenous people.
The Mapuche gradually mixed with European descendants but their traditions, language and beliefs survived, especially in the most remote areas of western Patagonia, bordering with Chile. Some of these groups live today in the Nahuel Huapi Lake and National Park area, in constant conflict with the State due to the ongoing claim for ancestral lands. Through the past decade, however, the situation slowly improved.
Villa la Angostura — which is Nahuel Huapi Lake’s main town and one of Patagonia’s most exclusive touristic sites — is home to the Andreau and Quintriqueo communities. The first group lives in the woods, in the outskirts of the town, in need of water and power supplies and marginalized from the society. The lands inhabited have been illegally occupied, causing reiterated clashes with the Police. In similar conditions, the Quintriqueo community lives on the hills surrounding the shore of the Nahuel Huapi lake, about 30 km from Villa la Angostura. Both communities struggle for a survivalist economy, growing a few sheep and goat that are source of wool, meat and milk.
BIOPHILIA will launch the Patagonia Program later in 2015, with the goal to create an interprovincial, dynamic network of Patagonian rural farmers, with different level of development. Within this frame, a selection of Mapuche communities will be actively involved in the creation of new, local eco-tourism and indigenous-tourism opportunities. Where possible, BIOPHILIA will create a positive synergy contributing to create inter-communitarian links and mediate with the local administrations.
The Nahuel Huapi Lake and National Park can be visited through different times of the year. During winter, Villa la Angostura is an ideal site for winter-sports, offering one of Patagonia’s best network of ski runs. In the summer season, the area become an enchanted land, thanks to the dramatic landscapes and the amazing variety of biodiversity. More information about the Nahuel Huapi area can be found on the National Park’s
PHOTOGRAPHS by Marco Vernaschi