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From Shepherd to Park Ranger in Patagonia

Daniel Velásquez
Holiday 2007

In the early ’30s, my father came to the Aysén region of Chile from the island of Chiloé looking for land and work. He met my mother in Valle Colonia, and I and 11 brothers were born in this stark and beautiful land on the edge of the northern ice cap in Patagonia.

Our family has always survived on the natural lands, forests, livestock, wildlife, rivers and isolation of the Aysén region. For these reasons, at age 12 I quit school to work in the farmlands to help my family.

As an adult I came to work in a beautiful place: the Estancia Valle Chacabuco, a huge ranch with over 150,000 acres and thousands of sheep and cattle. I was hired as an ovejero (shepherd) to take care of 5,000 sheep. Pumas, foxes and birds of prey were the main threats to the sheep. We frequently hunted these predators and were rewarded when we killed one. During those days, I sometimes worked as a leonero, tracking and killing pumas in the mountains.

About the Author
Daniel Velásquez grew up south of Valle Chacabuco before moving there in early adulthood. As a shepherd he experienced firsthand the demise of sheep and cattle ranching. He couldn’t continue as a shepherd, yet he couldn’t leave this land that was in his blood. Instead, he learned a new profession: park ranger. This is his account.