The Southern Ice Field (Campo de Hielo Sur) is one of those extreme landscapes whose sovereignty is critical as the condition of a border dissolved [and dissolving] is part of its recognizable landscape: snow meets the sky, clouds blur high peaks and glaciers command the topography hiding its depth.
Speaking of national territories implies speaking of imaginary limits imposed on a diverse geography, where borders draw sovereignty, even when the area is unoccupied (1). Unlike the word ‘edge’ that implies a defined limit, independent of its thickness, the notion of ‘border’ brings together the ambiguity that implies the imaginary projection of a line without density imposed on a territory. When we think of continental Chile and its borders, we inevitably begin to talk about landscapes: the desert to the north, the mountain range to the east, the sea to the west and the southern pampas in the extreme South.
(1) “Soberanía ~ nacional: La que se reside en el pueblo y se ejerce por medio de sus órganos constitucionales representativos.” (“National ~ Sovereignty: what resides in the people and is exercised through its representative constitutional bodies. ” As defined by the Real Academia Española (2015).
After a series of conflicts with neighboring countries during the twentieth century, coupled with an abrupt topography mostly determined by the presence of the Andes Mountains, the way in which our country is drawn on current political maps emerges as a long and narrow. In practice this implies the convergence of multiple climates in the same nation and with it, the existence of remote and extreme landscapes almost impenetrable and uninhabitable.
One of these extreme landscapes whose sovereignty is critical is the southern ice field of Campo de Hielo Sur, which stands out as one of the largest freshwater reserves in the hemisphere after Antarctica. It is a territory of glaciers in the Patagonian Andean mountain range, between approximately 48 ° 15 ‘ and 51 ° 35′ S latitude and 73 ° 00′ and 74 ° 00’ W longitude. It covers an area of 13,900 km 2 of which more than three quarters belong to Chile and where there is still territorial litigation with Argentina (2). Indeed, Argentina has established multiple tourist and scientific activities there, which increases the weakness of the established border. In contraposition to the activities of our neighbor, the Instituto Chileno de Campos de Hielo (Chilean Institute of Ice Fields) has also played a fundamental role in developing infrastructure and tourist routes in the sector, not only as an act of sovereignty but also as a mechanism to promote the local economy through the development of activities to recognize a territory rich in untouched species and ecosystems, with exuberant microscopic life, sublime topography and imposing ice. As the Institute indicates, its work is defined as the construction of unknown Chile, by disseminating knowledge of the history and geography of an area of “superb nature:”
(2) Sebastián Zarhi D., Sistema Habitacional Prefabricado para Campo de Hielo Sur, ( Prefabricated Housing System for Southern Ice Field) Thesis for degree in architecture (Prof. Guía Javier del Río), School of Architecture, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (2012)..
Our work is conceived as a commitment to anonymously serve the country and its people. This implies reaching a level of deep geohistoric knowledge to understand that geohuman reality and be efficient and persevering actors in favor of the area’s Development and Security. This place challenges us to marvel at and engage in activities so that this formidable world of superb and untouched nature is respected and cared for. Faced with this world, we are modest organizers, with no pretensions to dominate anything or anyone, but to serve for love of our country (3).
(3) In Instituto Chileno Campos de Hielo (2015) <http://www.camposdehielo.cl/presentacion.html>
The interesting thing is that seeing photographs of this hidden wasteland (I have not yet had the pleasure − or the verve − of going in person) is that this condition of dissolved border is part of the landscape: in the Southern Ice Fields the snow meets the sky, the clouds blur the high peaks and the glaciers command the topography hiding its depth. In the photographic work of Martín Correa Fernández – ecotourist member of the expeditions of the Ice Fields Institute until 2011 – this condition is revealed, where what is above and below is lost in the reflections of light and the whites and blues of the sky reflected on the ice. It is the image of the border blurred by a sublime landscape that far exceeds political lines.
Then, I leave you with an invitation to get to know this national border, the Southern Ice Fields, and along with it to exercise an act of sovereignty through tourism, so as not to lose this abundant territory of natural beauty “old,” untouched and wild, that surprises in a world so modified by productivity and habitability as our world today.