Ranching Between Ice and Sky: Conservation of land and culture in the midst of change Cowboy. Vaquero. Gaucho. These words we romantically associate with men galloping horses and rounding up cattle, men who drink black coffee and whiskey, wearing cowboy hats and blue jeans. However, this description is not fitting of all who work with livestock. At the tip of South America, at the end of the world, there are also cowboys. But they gather their herds amongst the glaciers rather than out on the plains. Riding mixed breed criollo horses through dense calafate bushes, they drink green yerba mate tea, and receive the news by radio. These men brace the four seasons on horseback and are not just Chilean cowboys. They are called “baqueanos” or, “the knower of a place.” To be a “baqueano” in the truest sense is to have personal experience over time in the region. This type of knowledge is difficult to acquire, as Patagonia, in all its grandeur and natural glory, is full of peat bogs, quick sand, and uncrossable rivers. This long-‐term photography project, entitled “Ranching Between Ice and Sky,” blends images of the solitary lifestyle of baqueanos, contextualized within the natural beauty of the region. Stepping back in time gives context to the current tides of cultural and environmental change in Southern Chile. In the mid-‐1800s, Patagonia was colonized under the spirit of European adventurers in search of gold and riches. Later, Chile and Argentina disputed the territorial line dividing the two countries: who had right to the dry pampas, who would claim the glacial ice fields, and most highly contested, who would control the Magellan Straight. What appears on the surface to be a beautiful, limitless landscape is in actuality a region borne out of Indian massacres and a race to frontier domination. While Patagonia is as cloaked in mystery and grandeur today as it was thousands of years ago, the region is at a technological, cultural, and environmental crossroads. Remote ranches still have no WiFi, printed newspapers, nor even telephone service. The AM/FM radio remains the only trustworthy news source that reaches the corners of this land. Baqueanos live solitary lives in small huts, or puestos, for months at a time with this radio as the only human voice. In contrast, youngsters in nearby Puerto Natales are fluent in the ways of smartphones, videogames, and electronic tablets; the techno-‐revolution has reached even the “end of the world.” In addition to increased engagement in technology, Patagonia is seeing cultural shifts on several platforms. New job prospects in urban centers as well as in tourism give little reason for young people to work in the country, el campo. The region is experiencing a slow but steady increase in agricultural laborers from other regions in Chile as well as other countries. Tourism, a major economic draw for the region, has questionable sustainability practices. Patagonian experiences are often commoditized to satisfy touristic notions of an unconquered, limitless space – the iconic “end of the world” experience of wild frontiers. Overcrowding in National Park Torres del Paine during high season, coupled with limited waste disposal and bathroom facilities, should be of great ecological concern. Erosion from overgrazing has now become erosion from over-‐visiting. Luxury hotels have set up camp within the park’s borders, providing splendid views in comfort, but at what environmental cost? While innovation, technology, and tourism do have monetary benefits, the local people must decide at what risk and cost they will engage. Despite this broader circle of questions about how to modernize gracefully, there are still people whose lives are on the fringes of these global tangles. The baqueanos, steeped in local knowledge, are living daily what others are beginning to recall as tradition. Horses still “disappear.” People still fight with knives. Cattle are stolen and rebranded. Yes, there are brothels, and men can spend a month’s wage on an intimate night, or lose all the cash in their pocket in card game. Betrayals happen, family’s feud, and there are angry neighbors. However, you won’t learn about these stories in a day, a week, or even a month. Like the slow moving glaciers that shape this landscape, trust and friendship is built only over time and through shared experience. In the midst of all these changes, the baqueano remains an essential component of the rich cultural and historical tapestry of Patagonia. The job of moving difficult and unruly cattle through thick brush is a challenging vocation, but meat production has been and will continue to be economically significant to the region and the country. Nonetheless, the people and wild places in Patagonia are in crucial moments of change. My hope is to use photography to create awareness and appreciation for the region and the socio-‐cultural richness of the people by specifically documenting the baqueanos, the singular Chilean cowboy, and his work and influence in this raw and isolated land.