The Huaso Life

Matthew Osche
July 7, 2017
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“Writing and travel broaden your buttocks if not your mind and I like to write standing up.” – Ernest Hemingway

So I’m done now. I’m back home in the cumbersome Pennsylvanian suburbs. My epic Latin American adventure has come to a close. It’s good to be back, though. Despite the fact that my life here might not be as thrilling as my life spent exploring the vast metropolis of Santiago, I’ve missed home, and I’ve missed my friends and family. Although before I said arrivederci to my South American life, I had one last adventure that’s definitely one for the books.

In my first couple blogs, I mentioned that the reason that I had come to Chile was because I had gained an interest for the culture after learning about it from one of my all-time closest friends, a Chilean teen named Nicolas who studied abroad with me in Europe in high school. For my last (and what I consider to be the best) weekend I had in Chile, I went to visit the family of my friend in the Chilean countryside.

So on Friday morning of that weekend, I took a bus with Nicolás’ girlfriend, Javiera, to Santa Cruz, Chile (the hometown of Javiera), located about 40 minutes from Nicolás’ hometown. After the 3 hour bus ride, Javiera took me to her house where we met and ate lunch with her family. Following lunch, Javiera and I took a trip to Chile’s largest privately owned museum located in Santa Cruz where we got a lesson on Latin American history spanning from the dawn of the universe to the wave of revolutions following the age of Spanish conquest. The content of the museum was surprisingly diverse, though, and in addition to the museum’s collection of Latin American artifacts, it possessed a gargantuan collection of arms and armor from across the globe that ranged from a pristine samurai suit to Nazi MP 40s. We could have spent days observing the expansive collections of the museum but simply had to be content with a mere 3 hours as we needed to make our way Nicolás’ house that evening. After the museum, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the sushi shop owned by her parents and then hopped in Javiera’s car to meet Nicolás’ family.

Nicolás’ town is the complete antithesis of Santiago. Situated deep in the midst of Chile’s top winemaking region, the small farming village of Población (this odd name for a town translates to Population in English) is encompassed by dozens of sprawling vineyards. According to Nicolás’ father, the sleepy town consists of about 1,500 inhabitants. Over the course of the weekend, we encountered multiple people who were using horseback or a horse drawn carriage as a means of transportation to the local grocery store. It’s not as if the people of Población are impoverished, though, many of them have high quality vehicles that could take them where they need to go, they simply choose to utilize their horses because it’s environmentally friendly and because the town is so small that horses are an effective means of transportation.

We arrived at Nicolás’ quaint house around 9 o’clock Friday evening and were welcomed by the warm smiles and embraces of his amicable parents and ten-year-old sister. His family ushered us inside where we had tea and cake and simply conversed for over two hours. Javiera departed for Santa Cruz after a while and then the rest of us called it a day. The following day, we started the morning off with a tour of Población given to me by Nicolás’ dad and sister. They guided me to the local rodeo stadium (rodeo is apparently quite popular in rural Chile) that unfortunately was quite forlorn as the people of Población had begun using the rodeo stadium in the next town over some years back. We walked past the elementary and middle school (there aren’t any high schools in the town), the town center that consisted of a quiet park with a playground and some epic palmettos, and then made our way to the butcher shop to buy the beef we would barbecue outside. I was quite impressed by the tight-knit nature of the town as we walked into the butcher shop, because inside the shop there was a cluster of random Poblaciónites holding a conversation that Nicolás’ father swiftly joined, and the butcher even asked us about Nicolás’ wellbeing.

As we were making our way back to the house after our town tour, we passed multiple people in the street riding horses. I noticed that some of the riders even wore large straw hats and possessed boots with ornate spurs. According to Nicolás’ parents, there is a name for these hat-wearing horse riders that are apparently characteristic to this region of Chile, the huaso. Huaso is a Chilean term that refers to a countryman or any skilled horseman and is basically the Chilean term for cowboy.

After stopping to talk to one of the huasos, we arrived back at the house and began our barbecue with the fresh beef which, when cooked, was some of the most succulent meat I have ever tasted. Once we were finished with the barbecue, the four of us piled into the family Corolla and went to Nicolás’ grandparent’s house located about 10 minutes from Nicolás’ house. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Spanish colonial style home, walking throughout the expansive property exploring the vineyard that Nicolás’ grandfather tended as well as looking at the horses, dogs, cows, goats, and chickens in his stables.

We returned to Nicolás’ home in the evening where we ended the day going through old family photo albums where Nicolás’ mom showed me pictures of him as a kid on a horse wearing his poncho and the classic huaso hat.

On my last day in Población, before Nicolás’ family took me back to Santa Cruz to meet Javiera and take the bus back to Santiago, with the help of Nicolás’ aunt, all of us made a massive batch of empanadas that we cooked in the family’s outdoor oven. I’m not sure if I’m simply imagining it because I helped craft them myself, but those empanadas were probably the best empanadas I’ve ever eaten.

My final weekend in Chile was a weekend that provided me with an aspect of Chilean culture separate from that of the city culture that I had become accustomed too during my semester in Chile. This weekend gave me taste (no pun intended) of the quiet huaso life. Perhaps it was due to sentimental reasons because I finally was able to meet the family of one of my all-time best friends, or perhaps because I just truly enjoyed seeing the tranquil, rural side of Chile, but either way, my last weekend in Chile was undoubtedly my best weekend in Chile.

So with that, thanks to everyone who read my blog. It has been a pleasure writing this and I hope that with these blogs I might have created a will to travel in some of you that wasn’t there before. If there’s one thing that this semester abroad has taught me, or I suppose cemented in mind, it’s that this world is big. And it’s wonderful. And it’s calling your name.

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Matthew Osche

<p>Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Matt Osche and my two greatest passions are my writing and my travels! I&rsquo;m just your average 20-year old college student trying to &ldquo;carpe diem&rdquo; while balancing my studies and my passions. Having grown up in Penn Trafford, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, I&rsquo;ve come a long way from my humble beginnings as my semester in Santiago, Chile, is my second adventure after my junior year of high school spent in a small town outside of Oslo, Norway as a foreign exchange student. Take a look at my blog and read about my adventures here in South America!</p>

2017 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
International Relations
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