This award-winning short film about 73-year-old Don Germán explores the way global tourism shapes local lives in wild places like Patagonia. Germán has lived on a remote tract of land in Tierra del Fuego all his life, and, as he and his wife Mariela aged and their children left home, they began opening their home to visitors. Germán is profoundly aware of the risks tourism poses to the fragile environment of Tierra del Fuego, and, thanks to his concern for the landscape he calls home, the filmmakers decided he “would be the best character to help tell the story of the emerging destination of Tierra del Fuego and the delicate balance of bringing tourism to a sacred landscape.”
Green Living Project Films first heard about Don Germán through Jorge Rodriguez (who works with a travel company called Deep in Patagonia.) According to a spokesperson for GLP films, Rodriguez had “heard about a man in Tierra del Fuego who had fought development, industry, and construction in the name of preserving the environment. He had a bit of a reputation in Punta Arenas for being somewhat of an eccentric hermit. It wasn’t until a cold, snowy night that Jorge had the good fortune of meeting the man himself. While in search of a campsite, Jorge and his expedition crew stumbled into the friendly embrace of Germán and his wife Mariela sitting down for a cup of tea in their kitchen. Albeit shocked to have company, Germán and his wife were extremely down to earth and accommodating, going as far as to offer Jorge and his team their lodge for rent and helping them fire up the stove. They all talked at length about their common goals for protecting the environment and not allowing mass tourism to overrun this private reserve, a place that Germán and Mariela solely preserve and protect. They really are true pioneers in bringing the first tourists to this little-visited part of the world and showing them its natural wonder.”
The challenges of Germán and Mariela’s rural life are many: from long, harsh winters (during which Mariela leaves for more hospitable climes, leaving Germán to weather the dark and cold alone) to the incredible solitude. The region of Tierra del Fuego they call home is remote, with no transportation infrastructure or amenities. They travel once a month to the nearest major city, Punta Arenas, to buy necessities.
Germán’s day-to-day life revolves around the maintenance and upkeep of their family property in Tierra del Fuego, which includes repairing equipment, renovating or building cabins, maintaining the greenhouse, and caring for their sheep and cattle—among countless other tasks, from building fences to, more recently, prepping their property for visitors. The last “white earthquake”—harsh winter—was hard on Germán. He lost many cattle, and the event led Germán to realize he needed to diversify his revenue streams to ensure the future of his property and his family’s well-being.
Now, Germán and his wife host about 100 visitors per year, preparing them a traditional Patagonian asado, telling stories, and helping organize activities like hiking and kayaking. Their adult daughters plan to keep the area open to tourists in the decades to come.