The Whole Picture is Nothing But a Compilation of Details.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Destination Cajon del Maipo, Chile

One hour southwest of Santiago, capital of Chile, lays a valley cradled by snowcapped mountains that enjoys a Mediterranean climate, a rich history, and amazing natural resources, including glaciers, lakes, hot springs, volcanoes and rivers, ideal for all outdoor activities imaginable. It is hard to picture that millions of years ago this area was submerged, a discovery confirmed by the findings of marine fossils, still to this day.
Welcome to Cajón del Maipo, a historically rich Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.
The first humans to settle in the area were the hunting and hardy Chiquillanes Indians; there is also evidence of the presence of the Inca’s in the 1500’s. In the late 1800’s, the mining of silver and other minerals attracted new settlers. (Today the rich mineral content is much enjoyed in the numerous hot springs.). In more recent history, 1992 – 2002, the population grew by 14.9%, to a little over 13,000.
The proximity to Santiago and its almost five million inhabitants is a curse and a blessing. Cajón del Maipo is the perfect weekend destination, which means crowds but also revenue potential for the area.
Global awareness for responsible tourism has grown in recent years, as reports of diminishing and damaged natural and cultural resources make front page news almost on a daily basis. More and more legislation is put in place and local governments and tourism organizations around the world are designing programs to help protect their resources; natural, cultural, economical, historical etcetera. Chile is no exception. Below are examples specific to Cajón del Maipo.
  • In 2001, the town San Jose del Maipo, founded in 1792, was recognized as a zone of touristic interest, and its historic town  center of colonial buildings marked for preservation by Chile’s National Monuments Council.
  • A heritage guide for the area is expected to be released in March 2011.
  • Inaugurated on January 11, 2011, a new initiative and the first of its kind in the area, brings clean energy to Baños Morales, a small village situated at the confluence of rivers Morales and Volcán.
On January 13, 2011, the national tourism agency “Sernatur” launched Chile’s first official tourism site. Disappointingly, it is without any mention of ecological preservation or involvement of local cultures.
Should we be alarmed that the government is not placing enough emphasis on saving Chile’s resources?
  • Chile is a well developed nation, with a highly educated population, proud of their natural resources, eager and committed to preserve and educate on a grass roots level.
  • Efforts and investments made nationwide and in neighboring countries in the past ten to fifteen years by tourism industry professionals local governments, the park services and others is very encouraging. It may have been a trend slow to catch on, but it truly seems the floodgates are about to come down. Note the dates on the events listed above.
In an ideal world, current problems, results of exploitation of one kind or another should have never happened. Well, we all know that hindsight is 20/20, so what we can do now is to vote with our feet and change the way we travel, thereby halt and hopefully reverse some of the damage done.
Please do your share.

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