Gaucho Americano: Cultural shocks of Chilean muleteers working as seasonal workers in the US

Joaquín (54) and Víctor (28) are two muleteers or gauchos from Chilean Patagonia. Hired to work to take care of thousands of sheep in the United States, they seek to save. Cultural contrasts will be an extra difficulty.

The documentary premieres this Thursday, September 8 in theaters.

american gaucho

The documentary directed by Nicolás Molina (Director of the award-winning documentaries Los cas-tores and Flow) follows the two gauchos of Chilean Patagonia. They go to a remote part of the United States to work at what they know: Taking care of thousands of sheep for months.

For this work there are no longer many interested. It is a very sacrificed life, full of loneliness and precariousness. Add to that coyotes, cougars and bears attacking sheep (the loss of which affects their profits).

It is a task where many have already failed. But in the extreme south of Chile there are gauchos used to these extreme conditions. Except for the bears (Grizzly bears, very aggressive, are protected and cannot be killed).

Added to all of the above is the fact that they do not speak English, the cultural differences and that what they earn, in the United States, is very little. If they want to save, they must be very austere.

Western Beauty and Aesthetics

“This film proposes a journey that plays with the codes of the documentary and western films, offering a work that borders the limits of fiction, exposing a Chilean labor phenomenon about which little is known,” says the director.

Gaucho Americano presents images and scenes of great beauty. Some, due to the theme and the landscapes, refer to those westerns with riders inserted in large open spaces, with many animals and extraordinary skies.

It is no coincidence that Joaquín and Víctor were attracted by the possibility of saving. They also dream of experiencing being “cowboys”.

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Chilean gauchos

Nicolás Molina, together with Antonio Luco, made Los castores. A documentary about the plague of Canadian beavers that are causing a great ecological disaster in Tierra del Fuego.

From that experience, the director enters an unknown world, which attracts.

“I was immediately fascinated with the gauchos. They possess a deep knowledge of livestock and territory, as well as supernatural abilities to deal with extreme weather conditions and loneliness. When I found out through Paula López Wood’s report about these Chileans who were leaving for the United States to work as muleteers, I saw a cinematographic potential in this great human adventure,” says Molina.

“During our research trips in Patagonia and the United States, I discovered the dreams that led the gauchos to leave their lives behind to try their luck in North America. I wanted to tell with this film the destiny of these men in a land that they believe they can dominate, but from a profoundly different culture”, he complements.

A diverse, unknown Chile. Being a migrant

Gaucho Americano has great values. On the one hand, the story itself, its beauty. The protagonists of it, with their customs, particular language, the knowledge of the trade.

On the other hand, Gaucho Americano puts contingent themes. As it is to know and value the cultural diversity of the country, especially of isolated sectors and groups. Erased from the official culture. Show the precariousness. Being an immigrant in a country with a very different culture and language, where communicating becomes complex. A place where the money they earn is not enough, and if they want to save, they must be very austere.

These are issues that refer us to our identities and to the immigration phenomena that Chile has today, with Haitians, Venezuelans, Colombians, Peruvians, etc.

In this sense, Gaucho Americano allows us to understand some aspects of phenomena such as globalization, migration and precariousness. And he does it in a sensitive, direct way, from two simple Chileans, who only want to dream and save.

Among the highlights is the music of Ángel Parra.

American Gaucho Poster
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american gaucho

Directed by: Nicolas Molina
Script: Paula López Wood and Valentina Arango.
Production; Josephine Schroeder.
Executive producer: Marcela Santibanez
Editing: Camila Mercadal

Gaucho Americano: Cultural shocks of Chilean muleteers working as seasonal workers in the US