Patagonia in watercolor: Elby Huerta

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Rio Baker, by Elby Huerta
There are few people more passionate about Patagonia, both its people and the land, than Elby Huerta.
Recently, I viewed a selection from her Patagonia collection of watercolor paintings that is on sale and display at Café con Cuento in Santiago (Hernando de Aguirre 195-local102, a few blocks from Metro Tobalaba in Providencia) for the next three weeks. Elby’s award-winning art has been featured in expositions from Spain to Colombia. An artist since her youth, she has an art degree from Catholic University in Santiago. Showing the power and magic of wild Patagonia in an abstract explosion of colors, especially the magnificent tones of blue in the region’s rivers and skies, her paintings are awash in emotion.
An avid devotee of fly fishing, she has toured Patagonia every Austral summer going back more than two decades in a constant quest to know more of its beautiful, rivers, lakes, parks and coastline. But it was the summer of 1994 that solidified her connection to Patagonia.
Traveling with her then-young two children en route from Chubut, Argentina, Elby’s vehicle overturned on the road leading into Coyhaique. Her ex-husband suffered extensive injuries and was hospitalized. Still, the traumatic event was soon softened by the local community responding with an outpouring of support she will never forget. “In Coyhaique, we did not know anybody, and we did not have the means to deal with this emergency at that particular moment. Thanks to the marvelous welcoming from the people there, and without any of the technology that exists today, they put together assistance for us that was truly astounding. We had a place to stay and all kinds of other help,” she says.
Today, that experience continues to drive her to make Patagonia a main focus of her art -- and activism. She says her favorite place in Patagonia also happens to be the Baker River, which is threatened by the HidroAysen dam project. She thus actively campaigns, independently, against the project. In June 2011, she was beaten by a Chilean policeman during a march against HidroAysen in downtown Santiago. The fierce blows from the policemen caused her to fall and severely sprain her wrist. She could not paint for three months.
“This issue is simple,” says Elby, “HidroAysen has a campaign of omission about the negative impact that they will cause from building five big dams in Patagonia…. and I have seen how a land can die because of dams.”
Growing up in Talcahuano in southern Chile, she often would visit and camp in the Alto Bio Bio of Chile’s Eighth region. Along the Bio Bio River, she witnessed first-hand how dams can provoke major change. “The dams there dried up a river and destroyed the ecosystem. Today, the Pehuenche culture has been wiped out, all they have is unemployment and brutal poverty,” she said.
This is an artist who permanently wears Patagonia on her sleeve. More information on her work can be found at 



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