Pucheguin: The estate of "los miserables"

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By Mauricio Fierro
Fierro is director of Geoaustral.
According to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, the word "miserable," derived from the Latin miserabĭlis, means worthy of compassion, or pitiful. Alternatively, as an adjective it can also be defined as wretched or scoundrel, which in this case describes well the players in the history of the lands in question here.
In mid-2022, some press and financial media briefly mentioned the conflict and concern among the inhabitants of the Chile-Argentine border community of Cochamo in the Los Lagos region, due to the for sale notice of a supposed property of 131,000 hectares that was published for many months on the website of Christie's International Real Estate. The individual responsible for this controversy? Roberto Hagemann Gertsmann, principal owner of the defunct Mediterranean hydroelectric power plant project, a massive fiasco that was planned for the Manso River inside the binational Puelo River watershed.
Close friends and advisors of former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera also participated financially in the aforementioned energy business in a scandalous influence peddling scheme involving the environmental authorities of the Los Lagos region.
After their frustrated attempt to build the hydroelectric power plant, Hagemann has decided to put up for sale the "shares and rights" he acquired on an ambiguous property called "Fundo Puchegüín," which covers an imaginary 30 percent of the entire land area of the Cochamo municipality.
To understand the historical origins of this territorial conflict, we must go back to the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. At that time, the issue of land ownership in southern Chile was one of the biggest territorial problems for the governments then. A black market for land was created in those years out of corrupt public authorities and courts, and in complicity with businessmen, false settlers, and speculators. This led to repeated land dispossessions of native communities and ethnic groups through usurpations, land seizures for fictitious debts, and the use of public notaries as real factories of property titles, and it gave rise to imaginary land estates of immense size. All of these illicit actions have been well documented by historians and academics, and which confirm what I state in this article.
Specifically, the "Fundo Pucheguin" is a classic example of that corrupt time. The title deed for it was first recorded on paper in a notary's office in Puerto Montt in 1913, listing Rosario Huidobro and José Rubelindo Gutiérrez as owners, and indicating the boundaries of the property, which I copy verbatim "from the Concha or Cochamó River on the North, to the Puelu or Puelo River on the South, the Marina or mouth of Reloncavi on the West and its centers to the Nevada mountain range on the East." It should be noted that these property boundaries were probably obtained directly from an ambiguous map of the province of Llanquihue, elaborated by F.A. Fuentes L., and inserted with the N°32 in the work titled "Descriptive Geography of the Republic of Chile" by Enrique Espinoza," published in 1897.
Later, in 1924, after repeated transfers of ownership in percentages or quotas according to this registry, six individuals proceeded to "cook" again in a public notary office of Puerto Montt a new title of ownership, but this time in the name of an agricultural paper company called Puchegüín, composed by the partners Enrique Miquel R., Alfredo Goycolea Walton, Alberto Manselli Martínez, Bernardino Cárdenas, Jilberto Monje and Belarmino Henríquez.
Although this agricultural society copied and reiterated the boundaries of the farm that had been obtained directly from the aforementioned map of the province of Llanquihue, this time they introduced changes in the form, but not in the substance of the boundaries, being definitively registered as follows: "North, Concha or Cochamo River; South, Puelu or Puelo River; East, the snowy mountain range; and West, the marina or Boca de Reloncavi."
Subsequently, in 1947, the Ministry of Lands and Colonization of the time, by official decree, tried to challenge this title registration since it did not comply with the requirements of the Southern Law (DFL N°1600 of 1931 and its modifications), but in 1953, as a result of an unusual judicial decision not exempt of corruption, the Chilean Treasury was forced to recognize this fraudulent property registration, which unfortunately is still in force today.
The ambiguity of the boundaries demonstrates an evident geographical ignorance of the place as this agricultural society never actually carried out material occupation of the estate, neither before or after the notarial registration of 1924, as demonstrated by the early explorations and technical testimonies of Francisco Vidal Gormaz (1872) and Hans Steffens (1895) in their logs and maps, as well as other expeditions carried out by the Chilean government in the search for the origins of the waters of the Puelo River, its geology and especially the delimitation of the national borders, all of which never mentioned the existence of human occupation inside the Puelo River basin.
Moreover, between 1910 and 1933, there was a process of colonization of the upper Puelo River basin, carried out by Chileans and foreigners, who entered from Argentina through the Puelo - El Bolsón Pass, due to the aggressive expulsion carried out by the authorities of Argentina, as a consequence of the controversial process of establishing the borders between Chile and Argentina. To legitimize this land occupation, the Ministry of Lands and Colonization, from 1933 until the mid-1950s, began an intense process of assigning titles of ownership to the interior of the basin, as it was always public lands, a process that is still in force today under new laws and the Ministry of National Property.
Most recently, the subject, Roberto Hagemann, from 2010 onwards, undertook repeated processes of purchase of inheritance rights on this property, in order to ensure the construction of the Mediterranean hydroelectric plant and its power line, but failing in his attempt due to environmental and financial issues, and being an outspoken opponent to ecotourism development in this area, he has opted to sell the title rights of this imaginary property, following in the footsteps of the miserable subjects who created this problem almost 100 years ago, and that still affects current generations, fulfilling an old ethical rule "the greatest wealth of a ‘miserable" is greed, and his greatest poverty is generosity" (anonymous). 

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