Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2018 05:26:55 +0200
By Ana FERNANDEZ

Atacama, Chile, July 31, 2018 (AFP) - Open air rock paintings in the world's driest desert pay testament to the importance of the llama to millennia-old cultures that traversed the inhospitable terrain.   Conservationists working in Chile's Atacama Desert want UNESCO to recognize the Taira Valley drawings as a heritage site so they can develop sustainable tourism in the region.

Taira is "a celebration of life," said archeologist Jose Bereguer, describing the site as "the most complex in South America" because of its astronomical importance as well as the significance to local shepherds.   The rock art was a "shepherd's rite" needed to ask the "deities that governed the skies and the earth" to increase their llama flocks.   First rediscovered by Swedish archeologist Stig Ryden in 1944, the Taira rock art is between 2,400 and 2,800 years old.   It is made up of a gallery of 16 paintings more than 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) above sea level on the banks of the Loa River that traverses the desert.

The jewel in the crown are the Alero Taira drawings some 30 meters from the Loa in a natural shelter, in which the importance of the llama becomes abundantly clear.   Not just the principal source of wealth for desert dwellers over thousands of years, the llama has been used in ritual ceremonies throughout the Andes for just as long, such as in the "Wilancha," or sacrifice to "Pacha Mama," or Mother Earth.

- 'Possible to delve' -
"No one can understand the things done 18,000 years ago because the cultures that did them have disappeared," said Berenguer, curator at Santiago's Museum of Pre-Columbian Art.   "Here, it's possible to delve into the meaning because we have ethnography and because there are still people living in practically the same way as in the past."

According to Rumualda Galleguillos, one of around 15 indigenous people still raising llamas in the Atacama Desert like their ancestors, these pictures are a "testament" to forefathers who could neither read nor write.   Around 90 precent of the engravings, painted mainly in red but also ochre yellow and white, depict llamas of various sizes, some pregnant, others suckling their young.   But the remaining 10 percent depict the desert's diversity, such as foxes, snakes, ostriches, partridges and dogs.

The few human figures that appear are tiny, as if those painting them "wanted to go unnoticed in front of the greatness of animals that were so important to their economy," said Berenguer.   What the paintings also demonstrate is that 2,500 years ago, people were already studying the stars in an area that has more recently become the astronomy capital of the world with some of the most powerful telescopes ever built.   A book written in conjunction with the Atacama observatory called "The Universe of our Grandparents," claims that the ancient inhabitants of this area studied the stars to help learn how to domesticate the inhospitable desert and survive its dangers.

- Seeing llamas -
In this vision, the universe is made up of the skies and Earth as one whole, with the skies forming the horizon of life. What is seen in the skies is a reflection of what there is on Earth.   Unlike the Greeks, though, ancient Atacama astrologists didn't see Orion, Gemini or Cancer.

They saw llamas, their eyes, corrals, a loaded slingshot and a shepherd standing with his legs spread wide and arms in the air, worrying about foxes, said Silvia Lisoni, a professor of history and amateur astronomer.   Taira is located on an axis that aligns the sacred Sirawe "sandy eye" quicksand from where locals would pray for rain, the San Pedro volcano, the Colorado hill, and the Cuestecilla pampas, another sacred spot.

Volcanoes, like springs, were considered deities by the Atacama natives, while llamas were thought to have been born of springs.   The Alero Taira is positioned so that it is completely illuminated by the sun on both the winter and summer solstices.   "There's evidence that this site was built here for specific reasons," said Berenguer.

Taira is not the oldest example of rock art in this part of Chile, though. To the north in the copper mining Antofagasta region lies Kalina, around 1,000-1,200 years older than Taira, and Milla.   This style of art has been found also in the Puna de Atacama plateau in neighbouring Argentina, but Taira "has few equals in terms of beauty and complexity," said Berenguer.   One day, he hopes that Taira will be afforded UNESCO World Heritage Site status like the rock art in the Cave of Altamira in Spain or France's Lascaux caves.
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2018 03:58:38 +0200
By Paulina ABRAMOVICH

Santiago, July 30, 2018 (AFP) - Easter Island is known for its unique Moai monumental statues carved by the Rapa Nui people, believed to have arrived on the remote landmass in the southeastern Pacific Ocean in around the 12th century.

Despite its isolated location some 3,500 kilometers (2,000 miles) from the coast of Chile, the island is a popular tourist destination, not least due to its remarkable collection of around 900 tall human figures with distinctive features and standing up to 10 meters (32 feet) tall.   However, it is those very tourists, alongside mainland migrants, who have become a threat to the island's well-being. Chile, which annexed the territory in 1888, has decided to act.

In 2007, Easter Island was designated a special territory while back in March, congress voted to limit the number of tourists and foreign or mainland residents allowed on the island, and the time they're allowed to stay.   As of Wednesday, new rules will come into effect that reduce the time tourists -- Chileans not part of the Rapa Nui people and foreigners -- can stay on the island from 90 to 30 days.   "Foreigners are already taking over the island," Mayor Pedro Edmunds told AFP.

At the last census in 2017, there were 7,750 people living on Easter Island, almost double the population of a few decades ago, before the island was hit by a tourism boom and the real estate development that accompanied it.   Edmunds says that number is 3,000 "too many."   "They're damaging the local idiosyncrasy, the thousand-year culture is changing and not for the good," he added, saying that "customs from the continent" were infiltrating the island and "that's not positive."

Crime and domestic violence figures are also rising.   It's not just obnoxious people from the mainland causing problems, though -- the increase in tourism is harming the environment.   All basic services are straining under the pressure, not least waste management, Ana Maria Gutierrez, the local government's environmental adviser told AFP.   A decade ago the island generated 1.4 metric tons (1.5 US tons) of waste per year per inhabitant, but that figure has almost doubled to 2.5 tons today, with a population that recycles very little.   "Environmentally the island is very fragile," said Gutierrez.

The new laws, however, impose stricter rules on those who wish to live on the island, amongst them a requirement to be related to someone from the Rapa Nui people: either a parent, partner or child.   Others who will be allowed to stay are public servants, employees of organizations that provide services to the government, and those who develop an independent economic activity alongside their families.   On arrival, tourists must present their hotel reservation or an invitation from a resident.   The rules will also establish a yet-to-be-decided maximum capacity.

But Edmunds isn't happy, as he feels the rules don't go far enough to protect the island's culture, heritage and singularity.   "I don't agree with these rules, it's not enough because it doesn't reflect all the aspirations of the island," he said, admitting that like "many other Rapa Nui" he favors a "total" ban on the arrival of new residents.   However, he said the legislation was at least "a good start."   Rapa Nui are a Polynesian people closely related to those on Tahiti, whereas the majority of Chileans have European ancestry, with a minority of indigenous peoples.
Date: Thu, 31 May 2018 12:23:44 +0200
By Paulina ABRAMOVICH

Santiago, May 31, 2018 (AFP) - The winds of change are blowing through Chile where a youthful sexual revolution is shattering taboos -- but also sparking an explosion of HIV cases that has set off alarm bells in the traditionally conservative Latin American country.   Chile has the highest rate of HIV cases in the region -- some 5,816 new cases were registered last year, a jump of 96 percent since 2010.

Young people aged 15 to 29 are the most exposed, say authorities, who are poised to unveil a new prevention plan for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.   "There has been a change in sexual behavior among young Chileans, linked to new ways of experimenting with their sexuality," said Claudia Dides of the Miles Corporation, a non-governmental organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive rights.   "It is no longer about feelings or passion, it's just about hooking up," said Dr Carlos Beltran, an expert in infectious diseases and member of the commission putting together the new plan.   "Now, young people have sexual encounters," he says, with many of them blurring the lines between gay and heterosexual relations.

- 'Public policy 30 years behind' -
This evolution in sexual mores among young people has troubled much of the rest of the largely conservative Chilean society, particularly politicians.   "There is a complete discrepancy between official discourse, and today's reality: neither the government nor lawmakers want to see this, and public policy is 30 years behind" on this, said Dides.   Sex education disappeared from Chilean high schools about 10 years ago, largely due to opposition by conservative groups.   Among young Chileans aged 15 to 29, 71 percent say they are sexually active, but only 30 percent have ever been tested for HIV.

Just 20 percent know what constitutes risky sexual behavior, according to figures from the National Youth Institute.   And the use of condoms among people aged 15-24 plunged from 30 to 22 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to figures from the health ministry.   That is largely, experts say, because of a perception that there is little risk.   "The way HIV is seen in society is very different from a few years ago," said Carlos Passarelli, the representative in Chile for the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).   "Young Chileans no longer fear AIDS," agreed Beltran. "In fact, they are ready to expose themselves voluntarily to the virus by having sexual relations with infected people."

- Living with HIV -
Carolina del Real, 37, discovered she was HIV-positive seven years ago, and now devotes her time to teaching people about prevention.   She herself was only diagnosed after a bout of pneumonia left her close to death.   "Nobody thought that I ought to have a test. And me neither. I did not even know what it was called," she told AFP.   So she decided to share her experience.   "When I came out of the clinic I started telling what had happened to me to my friends, to friends of friends. I needed to tell them: Please take the test. This could happen to you."   "From day to day everything is normal... But I feel vulnerable," said del Real, who every evening takes antiretroviral drugs supplied by Chile's health authorities.

And while young people may no longer fear HIV/AIDS as they once did -- prejudice towards carriers of the virus remains entrenched in Chilean society at large.   For del Real, it means she can no longer find a stable job, get credit or take out insurance.   "What happens if I die old and alone? If at 37 a fever leaves me immobilized, how is my old age going to be?" she asked.   "I never imagined that HIV would represent for me the possibility of finding more sense in my life, to make the world a little better that I found it. I transformed my illness into an opportunity but... obviously I would have preferred not to have caught HIV."
Date: Thu, 31 May 2018 05:28:48 +0200
By Paulina ABRAMOVICH

Santiago, May 31, 2018 (AFP) - The winds of change are blowing through Chile where a youthful sexual revolution is shattering taboos -- but also sparking an explosion of HIV cases that has set off alarm bells in the traditionally conservative Latin American country.   Chile has the highest rate of HIV cases in the region -- some 5,816 new cases were registered last year, a jump of 96 percent since 2010.

Young people aged 15 to 29 are the most exposed, say authorities, who are poised to unveil a new prevention plan for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.   "There has been a change in sexual behavior among young Chileans, linked to new ways of experimenting with their sexuality," said Claudia Dides of the Miles Corporation, a non-governmental organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive rights.   "It is no longer about feelings or passion, it's just about hooking up," said Dr Carlos Beltran, an expert in infectious diseases and member of the commission putting together the new plan.   "Now, young people have sexual encounters," he says, with many of them blurring the lines between gay and heterosexual relations.

- 'Public policy 30 years behind' -
This evolution in sexual mores among young people has troubled much of the rest of the largely conservative Chilean society, particularly politicians.   "There is a complete discrepancy between official discourse, and today's reality: neither the government nor lawmakers want to see this, and public policy is 30 years behind" on this, said Dides.   Sex education disappeared from Chilean high schools about 10 years ago, largely due to opposition by conservative groups.   Among young Chileans aged 15 to 29, 71 percent say they are sexually active, but only 30 percent have ever been tested for HIV.

Just 20 percent know what constitutes risky sexual behavior, according to figures from the National Youth Institute.   And the use of condoms among people aged 15-24 plunged from 30 to 22 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to figures from the health ministry.   That is largely, experts say, because of a perception that there is little risk.   "The way HIV is seen in society is very different from a few years ago," said Carlos Passarelli, the representative in Chile for the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).   "Young Chileans no longer fear AIDS," agreed Beltran. "In fact, they are ready to expose themselves voluntarily to the virus by having sexual relations
with infected people."

- Living with HIV -
Carolina del Real, 37, discovered she was HIV-positive seven years ago, and now devotes her time to teaching people about prevention.   She herself was only diagnosed after a bout of pneumonia left her close to death.   "Nobody thought that I ought to have a test. And me neither. I did not even know what it was called," she told AFP.   So she decided to share her experience.

"When I came out of the clinic I started telling what had happened to me to my friends, to friends of friends. I needed to tell them: Please take the test. This could happen to you."   "From day to day everything is normal... But I feel vulnerable," said del Real, who every evening takes antiretroviral drugs supplied by Chile's health authorities.   And while young people may no longer fear HIV/AIDS as they once did -- prejudice towards carriers of the virus remains entrenched in Chilean society at large.

For del Real, it means she can no longer find a stable job, get credit or take out insurance.   "What happens if I die old and alone? If at 37 a fever leaves me immobilized, how is my old age going to be?" she asked.   "I never imagined that HIV would represent for me the possibility of finding more sense in my life, to make the world a little better that I found it. I transformed my illness into an opportunity but... obviously I would have preferred not to have caught HIV."
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2018 17:00:45 +0200

Chill├ín, Chile, April 7, 2018 (AFP) - A column of white smoke and a string of tremors at the Nevados de Chillan have prompted officials to raise the level of alert ahead of a possible eruption at one of the most active volcanoes in Chile.   Surrounded by dense forest and rivers, this volcanic complex, which comprises 17 craters, is located some 550 kilometers (300 miles) south of Santiago in the Bio Bio region of the Chilean Andes.    Since 2015, the alert level has remained at yellow -- the second lowest of four levels -- but since December, several eruptions of ash have suggested increased activity, prompting officials to raise the alert by one level, to orange. 

- Unusual lava flows -
On Friday, teams of police and experts from the state-run National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) deployed to the site -- which reaches an altitude of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) -- saw a huge column of white smoke rising from one of the craters.    Sernageomin also detected an unusual flow of lava in the crater which could spill over at any time, and data from 10 monitoring stations, which track the situation by the minute, registered some 4,000 tremors and around 800 explosions.

- 10 eruptions since 1861 -
Given the likelihood of "a major explosive, eruptive event like we've seen in recent months," the decision was taken to raise the alert level to orange, just below the highest level, said Alvaro Amigo, head of Sernageomin's volcanic surveillance network.    Unable to determine exactly when an eruption is likely, experts are constantly monitoring the situation from the volcanic observatory in Temuco, a city in the southern Andes, some 600 kilometers south of Santiago.    Between 1861 and 2003, Chillan erupted around 10 times, with varying magnitudes on the Volcanic Explosivity Index.

- Luxury ski resorts -
The last recorded instance was in 1973, although the eruption caused no deaths or major damage.   Several ski resorts dot the slopes of Chillan, a popular tourist destination which boasts a clutch of luxury hotels. There are no major urban centers in the area.    Chile has about 90 active volcanoes.
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