The Right to Write About Patagonia

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Recently, I received a letter from Humberto Merino, the editor of Enfoque, a regional magazine based in Puerto Montt, in which he angrily tells me at one point that because he was born and raised in Chile that he has more rights than me to write about Patagonia. “I believe, Mr. Langman, that I have more rights than you to write about my country.”
 
Patagonia engenders strong emotions. For Merino, it appears to be jealous possessiveness toward foreigners. For me, after my first trip down the length of the Carretera Austral in March 2001, like so many others from around the world the region’s immense natural beauty provoked inspiring awe.  My strong admiration for this region eventually led me to write several articles, start on a book and found this magazine.
 
Does Patagonia belong foremost to Chileans and Argentines? Of course. But many Chileans and Argentines also join me and others from around the world in proposing that Patagonia be considered a United Nations World Heritage Area. One Chilean, Peter Hartmann, who leads the Aysen Reserve of Life Coalition and is a columnist for Patagon Journal, has convinced several Chilean politicians such as Senator Antonio Horvath to give backing to the proposal.
 
What’s the significance of such a designation? At a United Nations convention in 1972 nations resolved that some natural and cultural areas around the world are of such “outstanding interest” that they ought to be “preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.” The UN strives to organize international assistance to aid sovereign states in protecting the sites included on this list of globally-important areas.
 
Actually, one of the most striking characteristics about this region is the eclectic culture that has sprung up from a diversity of settlers over the past two centuries from countries such as England, Croatia, Wales, Italy, Germany, and the United States. The true indigenous peoples are the Mapuches, Tehuelche, Selk’nam, Yamana, and Kaweskar.
 
From the perspective of tourism, rolling out the welcome mat to both Chileans and foreigners alike to the wilds of Patagonia helps strengthen the tourism economy, which is vital to creating a sustainable economy over the long-term in the region.
 
Patagon Journal believes everyone has the same right to write about this incredible part of the planet. We seek to unite Chileans with Argentines, Americans, Europeans and others in forming a truly international publication of writers, photographers, environmentalists, fly fishermen, climbers, and others who share with its readers a common love for Patagonia, want to celebrate its many treasures, and resolve to fight to protect it. 
 

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