by Jeff Johnson
During such dire times as we are in now, I would like to pass on this story I wrote in 2008. It is an outtake from the book 180° South. It has never been published. During the making of the film I spent a few months down in Chile hanging out with fishermen and gauchos and land conservationists. I was honored to have heard their stories told around campfires, sitting beneath the stars with the sound of rivers flowing nearby. I saw with my own eyes where the dams are to be built and the land and livelihoods that are threatened. Along with this story I’ve attached photographs I’ve taken of people who are on the front lines and who have much at stake. Some of these photographs have been published and some haven’t. I want to thank them and all of you who have risen to the occasion. The fight is not over.
[Gaucho Eduardo Castro. Valle Chacabuco, Chile. All photos © Jeff Johnson]
It was early. The sun was still behind the mountains. I was stuffing my sleeping bag into my backpack when one of the gauchos approached me.
“Café?” he suggested as he handed me a leather bota bag. “Es bueno.”
“Sure,” I said as I offered one of the three Spanish words I know. “Gracias.”
I lifted the bladder up high, tilted the nozzle over my mouth and squeezed. I coughed, spat and bent over, rolling the liquid around in my mouth. I wasn’t expecting red wine.
“Café?” I asked, wiping my mouth off.
“Si,” he said with a laugh, “Café rojo.”
I took another mouthful. “Si,” I said, “Bueno.”