Los Primeros Pobladores en Chile. (Inicio).

Los primeros pobladores en Chile.

Trilogía alimenticia.

Los pescadores del litoral que "jalonaron las costas de Arica a Coquimbo", se presume que fueron los primeros habitantes de nuestro territorio.
Existe la creencia, según el historiador Jaime Eyzaguirre, de que ellos llegaron hace 45 mil años más o menos: venían de Asia y pasaron a América por Alaska, cruzando el estrecho de Behring, "angosto paso de agua separador de estos continentes que en buena parte del año permanece cubierto de hielo y puede transitarse a pie sin dificultad mayor."

Estos "nómades de agua", a los que más tarde se les denominaría changos, encontraron en las playas nortinas una inmensa cantidad de peces y moluscos, "congrios, tollos, jureles, atunes y pulpos, que podían extraer sin mayores esfuerzos de entre las rocas en las bajas mareas."

Este potencial alimenticio y el clima templado, sobre todo para quienes venían de las frías estepas siberianas, ciertamente los indujo a establecerse en aquel lugar. Es presumible advertir además que se trataba de seres osados e inquietos, ya que no vegetaron plácidamente alimentados por la generosa naturaleza que tenían a la vista: fueron más allá.

Con la caza de lobos marinos obtuvieron, gracias a la extraordinaria calidad, elasticidad y resistencia de sus cueros, techo para construir "las chozas para hacerse sombra y defenderse del sol" y, también, unas embarcaciones sobre dos flotadores inflados de las que Jerónimo de Vivar describe con detalle "la arcaica técnica" de su fabricación y asegura que "este navio va tan recio con lo que lleva adentro como si le dieran vela".

Con estas embarcaciones, los changos se dedicaron a la pesca de ballenas. Su carne la utilizaron como alimento, bebieron su aceite y con la grasa de estos cetáceos se untaron el cuerpo.

Cuando en el siglo XVI llegaron a Chile los españoles
, sólo encontraron vestigios de los changos. Con el desentierro de utensilios provenientes de las tumbas, como arpones, flechas, hachas y anzuelos hechos con conchas y algunos con incrustaciones de cobre, junto a pieles de llamas y alpacas, se supone con exactitud que estos primeros pescadores del litoral, después de varios siglos, tomaron contacto con la civilización del interior.

Esta se hallaba formada por indígenas llegados del este por el Altiplano y que establecieron su centro de actividad alrededor de San Pedro de Atacama.

Estos indígenas los denominamos atácamenos, y aparte de haber desarrollado a través de los siglos "un proceso cultural de extraordinaria importancia", dice Jaime Eyzaguirre en su Historia de Chile, "alcanzaron un alto nivel de desarrollo agrícola.

Utilizaron el regadío artificial por medio de canales, para suplir la falta de lluvias de la región y emplearon el sistema de terrazas y andenes a fin de aprovechar mejor el agua. Cultivaron el maíz, la papa, los fréjoles, la calabaza y una especie de tabaco. Domesticaron la llama y la alpaca desde tiempos remotos.
Con la lana tejían frazadas, camisas y ponchos. La llama como animal de carga les permitió hacer largos viajes para canjear productos. Iban a la costa en busca de pescado y del guano y al Altiplano tras las hojas de coca y a uno y otro sitio llevaban lana y frutos."

Pero fueron los mapuche, que poblaban toda la zona central, con quienes tuvo su decisivo encuentro Pedro de Valdivia, al llegar a las orillas del Mapocho. Mapuche significa gente de la tierra. Según Eyzaguirre, carecía de un sentido genérico "y sirvió únicamente para distinguir a los radicados en un sitio de los que eran forasteros", porque la civilización extendida entre el Choapa y Reloncaví careció de denominación propia.

A los indígenas que habitaban al norte del Bío-Bío se les dio el nombre de picunches y a los del sur huilliches, pero ambas denominaciones tuvieron un alcance meramente geográfico.
En el siglo XVI los españoles llamaron araucanos a los aborígenes que resistían a su dominio, lo cual se aplicó inicialmente a los habitantes de la región de Rauco o Arauco, pero con el tiempo alcanzó amplia vigencia. "Quien ayudó como nadie —afirma Jaime Eyzaguirre— a universalizar esta denominación, fue el vate Alonso de Ercilla a través de su poema La Araucana."

Los mapuche eran esencialmente agricultores. Sus conocimientos los habían adquirido de los indígenas peruanos que los convertían, según Vicuña Mackenna, en "colonos de primera utilidad". Poseían en ese entonces sementeras que denominaban cajis, y cultivaban maíz, porotos y papas, "tres producciones indígenas de América —agrega Vicuña Mackenna— y la última con especialidad de Chile, donde todavía crece salvaje."

Sin embargo esta paternidad chilena nunca ha sido reconocida por los naturalistas europeos, quienes siguen atribuyendo su origen al Perú.

Existe una razón circunstancial para que así lo consideren, porque en 1524 Pedro Ciessa, compañero de Francisco Pizarro, llevó desde el Perú varios ejemplares de papa a España que, aunque no gustaron a los peninsulares, Felipe II las utilizó como "vigoroso alimento" para sus tropas acantonadas en Flandes. Los monjes de un hospicio en Sevilla adquirieron un cargamento para saciar el hambre de sus famélicos protegidos.

La curiosidad que despertó
el exótico tubérculo motivó el envío de varias muestras al Papa, quien encargó que las analizara al botánico vienes Charles de L'Ecluse. Este calificó en 1588 el producto como "pequeña trufa" (tartufoli), que etiquetó Pappa peruviana, con lo cual adquiere a perpetuidad la equivocada nacionalidad peruana.


 El abate Molina, sabio jesuita chileno, fue el primero, en el siglo XVIII, en proclamar la papa como auténticamente chilena.

A mediados
del siglo pasado el naturalista francés Claudio Gay, con abundantes pruebas científicas, se encargó de confirmarlo.

Gay asevera, en un artículo publicado en El Araucano el 25 de junio de 1831, que los investigadores que afirmaron que la papa era peruana "se contentaron con hacer sus investigaciones solamente en los alrededores de las ciudades y dedujeron consecuencias generales de algunos hechos que no eran debidos más que a circunstancias locales y accidentales.

 Una planta cultivada en abundancia,
continúa Gay, puede fácilmente escaparse de los jardines como lo manifiestan ejemplos numerosos y para admitir esta suposición sería preciso probar su existencia no solamente en los alrededores de las campiñas, sino en esos lugares solitarios distantes de toda habitación y que sólo visitan aquellos a quienes un gusto decidido conduce al estudio y a la contemplación de la naturaleza."

Siguiendo esa huella propia de investigadores "extremadamente escrupulosos", el intrépido Gay se dio el trabajo tesonero y perseverante, que él califica de "placer", de buscar la papa en estado salvaje, y logra localizarla "en muchos lugares incultos de las cercanías de Santiago y hasta al pie de la cordillera en la Dehesa".

Pero no contento con ello, continuó sin descanso su labor investigadora, y "tuvo la dicha de encontrarla en el centro de las cordilleras de Colchagua, en la cumbre de esas rocas que sólo habitan las águilas y los buitres", en el cajón de los Cipreses, el cual está rodeado de cerros tan inaccesibles que "es preciso ser botánico o geólogo para poderlos escalar."

"¿Cómo han podido estas papas llegar a estas alturas, que mortal alguno habían visitado antes?", se pregunta Gay. Y, aunque reconoce que la naturaleza "tiene medios propios para dispersar sus producciones", afirma que la papa ha sido favorecida "permaneciendo siempre en el lugar que la ve nacer, sin alas ni instrumentos capaces de hacerlas salir de él".

Termina afirmando
que no sólo en el cajón de los Cipreses hay papas, sino "casi todas las cordilleras chilenas que he podido visitar me la han presentado en más o menos cantidad."

La producción de papa, maíz y porotos, que servía básicamente para la nutrición de los mapuches, fue a la postre la trilogía alimenticia, como lo señalan Vicuña Mackenna y Pereira Salas, que unida a otras vituallas aportadas por los conquistadores, se convertiría antes de finalizar el siglo XVI en la que hasta hoy perdura como cocina chilena.

Fotografías: 1) Chango en embarcación. 2) Canoa de los changos, con la piel de los lobos marinos. 3) Atacameños. 4) Mapuche. 5) Ruca mapuche. 6) Papa originaria de Chile. 7) Cultivo de papa en el altiplano. 8) Maíz o choclo. 9) Porotos.

Bibliografía: "Sabor y saber de la cocina chilena", capítulo 1, autor Hernán Eyzaguirre Lyon. Editorial Andrés Bello.

(Ir a "Los Primeros Pobladores en Chile. Parte 2).

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