“The Quixote of the Andes”

Family with eight kids

This is how they know Mauricio Alarcón Vidal at the other side of the Andes Mountains. The Customs officers talked to us about him after telling them about our project. Mauricio climbs the mountains to visit the houses of the most humble area of the region and the second most poor of Chile. The 3 officials contacted immediately the Carabineros (police) to get us the phone number of the Quixote. They even called him and he told us that he would be waiting for us at his home. We took a sinuous gravel road going down the mountain to meet him. We arrived there on a Friday night, he welcomed us with a smile, not understanding much why we were there, but with an open heart to talk and get to know each other. He welcomed us with a “mate” (traditional type of infusion from Argentina) that had a drawing of Buenos Aires, capital city of Argentina, and its typical dance, the Tango. This is how, after 2 hours of conversation without even noticing it, he told us about how it all started. Eleven years ago, when he was just 22 years old, he met all these people who live modestly up in the mountains, isolated and forgotten.

Mauricio is simple, straightforward and executes what he puts his mind on. He works at the Office of the Criminal Defender during the week and coordinates with friends, companies and followers of Facebook to obtain clothes, food, construction materials and medicine to cover the needs of each family. He receives the boxes from the “Godparents” and he manages to take them every weekend up the mountain. He not only manages to obtain all these donations, but also has on his side the police of Chile (Carabineros) to be of any help. The police took us in a truck from Cura Cautín to the community of Lonquimay, Galletue, Upper and Lower Pehuenco. Lost in an incredibly beautiful landscape, in a valley that has many kilometres, surrounded by mountains, rivers and lakes, accessible only by a gravel road; you can find these families attached to this land where their ancestors have lived.

Thanks to the Officer Gutiérrez who drove us, we could share with Mauricio, Paola, Pablo and Carlos the visits to these families. We were like their aunts and uncles for all of them! This is how they warmly called us; happy to see us they would open the door to their humble houses. Many of them with lots of kids, serious alcohol problems (in children and in adults) and abuse among themselves. This is, not considering the fight to survive winters with minus 37 centigrades, 3-4 metres of snow in precarious houses made of wood and metal with almost no insulation. Mauricio coordinates the volunteers to build new houses, insulate the ones these families already have or make the authorities aware of this situation and act accordingly. But not everyone wants to see this hidden Chile. They prefer to see a prosperous Chile, where these things do not happen. This is where our Quixote goes into action, exploring, finding and assisting the families he finds in his path. The big absentee is his steed “Rocinante”, because Mauricio doesn’t have a horse nor a vehicle that may take him, but it’s been 11 years since he has been visiting this area 150 km away from his home in Temuco. Providence is being called, or Somebody who pulls the strings around there. A vehicle always appears or someone always offers to take all the donations up to the mountain.

As part of all this effort, Mauricio tries to show the kids another reality so they may be able to grow healthy, get an education and a decent job in the future. To show them this parallel world that they cannot access by their own means, he organized with the help of many godfathers a visit to a big city, Temuco, so they would meet the firemen, policemen, a mall, the airport, a helicopter and even a Mc Donald’s. Things that may be obvious to many people like going up on an escalator or watching such a “big bird” as a helicopter taking off, for these kids meant the event of the year and helped expand their horizons.

After years of constant work, they are about to become an NGO “Amigos solidarios de Chile” (something like: Supportive Friends of Chile) so they may be able to do more and fulfill a dream they have: to open a good level school with open roads nevertheless the weather, where everybody may access a good education and have more opportunities, where all the Government subsidies and grants may reach their destiny and not become a business.

We know he will make it possible. Ant’s work generates results. Taking baby steps can get a lot accomplished, and Mauricio and the volunteers move earth and heaven to obtain what they want!

Thanks to Mauricio and all the volunteers that work for “Amigos Solidarios de Chile”!

For more information, please contact Mauricio Alarcón Vidal in Facebook; mauricio7001@hotmail.com; 09-93130007 – 09-61924636.

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