The spark of mutual understanding was lit when the tsunami estauaried the coast. In Constitución, the industrial history engendered a loss of understanding with risk that temporarily fragmented a community unacquainted with tsunami force and acclimatized to the lies of seawalls. The spark was reignited when waves overwhelmed Constitución and stayed active as municipal recovery efforts were delayed, and urban planning commissions stalled. Urban dwellers, typically better connected politically, began recovery almost im- mediately, aided by governmental and non-governmental agencies. For primarily landlocked urban centers, the movement of the earth was devastating but predictable enough. A certain resistance to earthquakes is built into regional architecture and state governance through improved standards and policy guidance that is available to communities across the country. But the characteristics of tsunami lie logistically and biophysically outside of Chilean experience in this century. The malfunctions of coordinated relief laid bare the failures of regulation, instigating the community to take matters into their own hands. The fundamental absence of aid was the first provocation, followed shortly after by the clear distortions of policy that left the community unaware of their vulnerable position. The search to rectify the terms of settlement by taking into account and respecting estuary dynamics ignites the landscape of retreat.
Despite the lag in relief, the residents of Constitución demon- strated agility and acumen, pivoting from personal distress to community support. An organizing spirit continued after the event, a coalition of neighbors advocated to protect the land that was left behind, imagining a future where the riverside could be shared as a publicly accessible parkland. The community of Constitución self-organized to both overcome the neglect of emergency aid in the short- term, and resist standard rebuild in-situ in the long-term. It was a long and trying process, but in the end a small group of survivors advocated for the land left behind at the estuary.
During an interview, local resident Alejandro Hormazábal explained, “The land in general was not affected. If it had just been the movement of the earth, my parents’ house would have been fine. The damage in Constitución came from the light materials of the houses, vehicles, and other objects that crashed against the buildings with the tremendous force of the water.” In other words, it was not the earthquake preparedness that had failed—the architecture was built to withstand earthquakes; it was the lack of preparation for the tsunami that was devastating.
The Maule River rises in the Andes and runs 240 kilometers through the landscape until it mingles with the Pacific. Along its course, it is diverted incessantly to irrigate farmlands, vineyards, and plantations. It also supplies numerous dams, notably the Colbún- Machicura hydroelectric complex, where its nascent energy feeds one of Chile’s largest hydroelectric power plants. Such a massive diversion at the headwaters undermines water rights, but more subtle conflicts also arise along the length of the river, across the planted territory.
The resistance to rebuilding is an overlooked feature of adapta- tion and offers an opportunity to weave together two themes: The first of these I borrow from Chilean activist Violeta Parra, and I refer to as “creative research,” a practice that imagines critical inquiry not only as retrospective, but prospective. Creative research is related to practice, because enquiry is conducted to drive material outcomes, but does not require the assumptions of scientific normativity, and allows that the object of the research is immaterial, acoustic, oral,
or otherwise difficult to objectify. Therein lies the unique process of research common to design disciplines: a share in the lineage of both the humanities and the sciences that combines as a propositional— rather than purely reflective—model. Another way to describe cre- ative research is that the endeavor appreciates non-material influences in order to inspire material outcomes, a feature of landscape thinking. The second theme pertains to the absence of non-material practices in creative research. A gap is often created when an object cannot be confirmed, for instance when seasonal ritual or daily maintenance is left out of land-based design and planning. Such absence is often filled by the profits of extractive land management, such as forestry. Leaving out non-material exchange is akin to studying the tree without considering its relationship to the forest community. I will refer to this procedure as objectification, drawing upon a lineage of many scholars in the history of science. The procedures of objectification help us explore the road to progress that replaces relationships with resources. It culminates in how the response to the tsunami allocated aid as a static feature, offering only a product such as a concrete footing or a seawall. And, it stretches across time as an indicator of industrial gain through plantation forestry, as plant life is exploited by leaving out non-material claims, as lands are stolen from Indigenous nations.
A very long war once broke out when the countries did not yet have names and only the most powerful owned them. That is why the Sun got angry and said to his wife:
“Moon, I who take care of so many men during the day, I see that they are less and less. Are you a good guardian? Or do you fall asleep? Every morning I miss many men.”
The Moon replied: “Sun, I count the humans who are in my care and I don't do it like you, who also count the shadow, you make everything bigger or smaller and you never count correctly. I only ask you: are you in favor of those men who are dark-skinned or light-skinned?”
The Sun said: “Only those with dark skin, because they love me. But whose supporter are you? Maybe you only count the light-skinned ones. Are you a supporter of them?”
“Me? Yes, I'm a light-skinned person. But let's ask Earth.”
“Earth, do not the men in your care constantly decrease? Are they diminished by the war that devours men?”
“It's true, they decrease. Due to the war my children are less and less.”
Moon and Sun: “Are you a fan of dark-skinned or light-skinned?”
Earth: “I am in favor of the dark ones as well as the light ones, because they are all my children.”
The Sun and the Moon got angered by the reply, and the Sun withdrew sorrowfully because the Earth had considered men solely and exclusively as her children.
The Sun no longer shone but hid and everything became dark. It only kept shining on the Moon. However, the Earth was also furious because both the Sun and the Moon considered men as their children, when in reality the mother was the Earth.
Later the Moon also darkened and no longer wanted to do its job. The three of them insulted each other and then there was a terrible battle of the nobles, a lonkotun. One adversary would grab the other by the forelock and pull on it and shake it until it almost ripped it off. They held each other tight, tugging at their locks. Hair flew everywhere. The Moon and the Earth fought savagely. Since it was dark in the meantime and the Earth shuddered and thrashed to defeat the Moon, the humans could no longer fight. When it dawned, the dark-skinned ones saw that they had defeated the hordes that had assaulted them, the light-skinned ones. The Moon and the Earth, for their part, were reconciled. But no one knew if the dark ones had achieved victory thanks to the help of the Moon or the Earth. Anyway, the light-skinned ones didn't dare to approach the dark-skinned ones for long and the peace lasted quite a while. Where locks of hair had fallen during the pompadour fight, there, forests grew and where isolated hairs fell, individual trees grew.
In the cosmology of the American Indigenous peoples, as among the Mapuche people, water is considered a living entity such that trees emerge as the connection between the skies (rain) and humans (soil). Mapuche traditional knowledge depends on storytelling to express devotion to the universe of meaning. This translation is from the Argentinian folklorist Bertha Kössler-Ilg (1881–1965), of a fable entitled Where do trees come from?
Landscape is an active medium that enlarges with time. To para- phrase J.B. Jackson, landscape is the speeding up or slowing down of time, a description that embraces change. Another way to approach landscape is to consider resourcefulness: landscape is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the local Earth to the human in- habitants, but from the human community back to the local Earth. As I noted in my introduction, landscape is a process whose origins are not only human. Thus, the flow off nourishment enlarges landscape when it is considered both cultural and ecological. For instance, the care and upkeep of a verdurous public park in a dense urban neigh- borhood nourishes its community. The local earth enlarges landscape when the ground under our feet is appreciated for hosting millions of other species that are dormant, itinerant, and often find themselves labeled “local” despite having traveled great distances. For instance, the concealed roots of milkweed (Asclepias Sp.) emerge aboveground to court Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), seemingly calling each butterfly north from their wintering grounds in high mountains of central Mexico. There is something deeply temporal in the manifold connections of a local plant.
Therefore, time is essential to the practice of landscape; it helps produce liveliness, reconfiguration between seen and unseen influ- ences, between the human community and the larger ecological field. According to philosopher David Abram, “The traditional or tribal shaman, I came to discern, acts as an intermediary between the human community and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the landscape to the human inhabitants, but from the human community back to the local earth.”
4The moment landscape is forced into a single image, it stalls—forcing ecological, hydrological, and biotic processes into a static frame.
David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than- Human World (New York: Vintage, 1997), 15.
In Chile, the search for landscapes of retreat found expression because of collaboration. We studied maps, read articles, books and conducted some archival work in advance of our trip, but fieldwork was the means for linking the present post-tsunami reconstruction to the lingering history of extractive forestry. We sought discussion with residents, community members, kayakers, activists, and foresters in order to take a variety of angles on the history of Mapuche displacement through plantation forestry, and the effects of post-reconstruction on the company town of Constitución. Our work was not to contrast the two scenarios, but to reconcile them through creative research.
As I noted above, I borrow the term “creative research” from Violeta Para, an important figure in Chilean history. Parra was an activist, a musician, a textile artist and an archivist who proposed to reconstruct a cultural and acoustic map of Chile.
5She took stock of oral tradition by “digging up” folklore across the country at a time when plantations were wiping out the countryside and claiming the lands of the Mapuche. She did so to rescue, to preserve, and to reseed thousands of years of human habitation and adaptation. Parra explains the desire to “hunt for music,” because oral traditions shape life and create spirit for Mapuche.
Paula Miranda, “Violeta Parra, Creative Researcher,” in Violeta Parra: Life and Work, ed. Lorna Dillon (Rochester: Boydell & Bewer, 2017), 83–104.
Parra was a multitalented composer, ethnographer, and artist in many media, but it was her dedication to embroidery that create a novel practice between Mapuche tradition and political activism. Parra worked as a cultural ecologist, weaving and stitching sensory perceptions between the animate and the inanimate, and inspiring the next generations.
Mapuche are “people of the land”;
mapu = land; che = people
In her scholarship, Svetlana Boym defines nostalgia as a superimposition that is not always retrospective nor individual; rather, it is broadly symptomatic of a new understanding of our time: “Modern nostalgia is paradoxical in the sense that the universality of longing can make us more empathetic toward fellow humans, yet the moment we try to repair ‘longing’ with a particular ‘belonging’—the ap- prehension of loss with a rediscovery of identity and especially of a national community and a unique and pure homeland—we often part ways and put an end to mutual understanding.”