In the southern part of Chile much is owed to the carpenters of banks and tejueleros, cultists of a trade that with their craftsmanship keep alive the epic of wood that has allowed to sail seas and inhabit the territories of an area marked by the inclement conditions of a harsh climate and geographical isolation.
These are two trades of extraordinary relevance in the history and development of the southern south of our country, because thanks to the wooden boats the south of Chile was populated. «The impact it had on the economy, communications and trade is really significant. It should not be forgotten even that thanks to these trades the national territory was expanded, as the case of the role of riverside carpenters in the construction of the Goleta Ancud (which took effective possession of the Strait of Magellan) and vessels that allowed the colonization of the area of Aysén», explained the rector of the U. Austral, Oscar Galindo on this project.
Marcela González Ríos, anthropologist and researcher of the U. Austral, who coordinates the research team, explained that both trades are knowledge that they have a long tradition, but that in each historical period they have been able to adapt to the contexts without losing validity. «The riverside carpentry has been in place since it reaches the south of the country,» he said.
«It is relevant to see how those knowledges that are not official and that are not learned in any academic space have endured in time by oral transmission but that also have a tremendous place in the history of the country like many of the knowledge that are popular and that are not official or that are not part of the academic world. This approach through our research makes visible a group of people who have been able to maintain, improve and adapt over time to productive conditions, but bring those learned knowledges to the present time,» the anthropologist added.
The research arises as part of an agreement between the U. Austral of Chile and the National Cultural Heritage Service, which resulted in the team of the Studies and Audience Unit of the Directorate of Linkage with the Middle of the UACh toured the regions of Los Ríos, Los Lagos, Aysén and Magallanes implementing a working methodology that has generated results that open up prospects of safeguarding the heritage recognizing cults and communities that give context and social significance to the process.
According to the Doctor of Ethnohistory Leonor Adam, research director of the agreement on Ribera and Tejuelería carpentry in Southern Chile, in the development of the activities worked specifically in the Region of Los Ríos with 4 riverside carpenters, in the Region of Los Lagos with 53, in the region of Aysén with 14 riverside carpenters and 8 tejueleros , and in the Magellan Region with 15 waterfront carpenters.
«The ultimate goal of this initiative is to preserve, preserve and make these cultural manifestations of our identity long lived with all the modifications and transformations they have to have over time. Chile has commitments on the conservation of intangible heritage and important steps have now been taken with the proposal in the new law to include intangible heritage,» said Adam, who is also the Director of Linkage with the Environment of the Universidad Austral de Chile.
Marcela González Ríos, anthropologist and coordinator of the research team, explained that the team set off mapping existing riverside carpenters in the four regions and then went on the ground to do interviews with each of them in order to evaluate the state in which the demonstration is located.
«We wanted to come to define the trade of riverside carpenter, from the eyes of the cultists themselves and also what riverside carpentry does, that is, when we are talking about riverside carpentry, what the trade itself refers to,» he said.
At the same time, the researcher stressed that riverside carpenters recognize and validate each other. «They know that they carry specialized knowledge, in fact they recognize and validate each other for the same reason, for the quality and expertise in the construction of boats. It’s a life apprenticeship, years of dedicated to the subject. Many learned by oral transmission from their families, but others also out of interest from a young age, from connecting with people from nearby sectors who areand taught them. Many were left on the road because it’s a very complex job.»
In the case of the tejueleros, the anthropologist Marcela González pointed out that this is a scarcer trade today, since the use of cypress and ally, the raw materials with which this work was historically carried out, are currently penalized. The report was only from the Aysén Region where the case of cultists who had never been investigated, such as Those of Tortel, is visible.
«Today we work with lenga, which has another form of treatment, is not used sawmill but a macette that cracks the wood and generates a surface that is waterproof, which lends a lot of utility for the construction of homes,» said the RESEARCHER at UACh.
González also relieved the historical importance of tejuelería, which, like riverside carpentry, is associated with the population. «The traditional way of building in the south was with badgers and today many of the properties that are becoming heritage indicate that the badger becomes an object of luxury and cypress, it is something that is currently very difficult to find,» he said.
Preserving and preserving cultural manifestations
The work was around two types of wood technologies where it was possible to find the collusion of the two trades, as for example in Tortel, where someone who was a tejuelero, also knew how to build boats.
«They are knowledge related to the wood that allowed them to inhabit a territory, know that they are active to this day and if a person knows how to build a boat, chances are that the same person will also know how to make badgers. Both trades consist of ways of inhabiting the southern territories allowing to occupy uninhabited sectors permanently through the strict relationship with wood,» explained the anthropologist who coordinated the research.
It is not only a tradition that is now cultivated in a folkloric way, since riverside carpenters still exist as the case of a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering Sciences, the naval engineer Hugo Almonacid, who assumes this trade with a perspective and knowledge typical of the academic world, but also with an unofficial knowledge acquired.
Almonacid (from Calbuco), is the fourth generation of riverside carpenters and alumni of the UACh, who is part of a group of 14 cultists, some of whom are under 40 years old. «We are young and we are learning this trade and pushing for this not to be lost, stay afloat and look beyond,» he said.
Hugo Almonacid, Calbuco’s riverside carpenter, mentioned that they require a workplace (a shed). «The maritime authority demands rules and to follow them you need money. There are no differences between a craft shipyard and a large one,» he said. Like his colleagues, «it’s getting harder and harder to get wood and it makes it more expensive.» In addition, they must compete with vessels built of fiberglass and steel.