Art Contests, Folk Dancing and Poetry: A Celebration of Autumn in Patagonia

By Dana De Greff

Our corner of Patagonia looks particularly picturesque in autumn, as poplar trees turn golden, lengas turn red, snow dusts the mountains and morning frost decorates the grasses. The season’s special beauty led Alejandra Bardavid, the head teacher at our project school at the future Patagonia National Park, to scheme up a new (and, we hope, long-lived) institution: the Valle Chacabuco family art competition.  Each family had to work together to create a scene of the valley in autumn and submit it to a panel of judges. As Ale explained, the goals included encouraging families to observe closely the natural world around them and teaching students the value of competition and the importance of winning or losing with dignity.

On Friday, April 19th, the school held a ceremony to announce the winners, and share dance, music, and poetry performances with the gathered community. Led by teachers Alejandra Bavarid, Carol Mesilla and Dana De Greff, the nine young scholars put on an impressive show in the large classroom, housed inside the historic former sheep-shearing shed. After the winners received their prizes, everyone discussed the paintings and took many photos—it turns out that all but one family depicted the scene out their window as their view of the park.

Second-grader Sara Allen Martínez Urra poses next to her family’s piece, which received an honorable mention for its use of crisp fall leaves and vivid coloring.

A close up!

Second place went to the Foitzick-Baigorria family, whose scene of ducks in a nearby lake drew attention.

Close up!

First place was awarded to the Rivera-Sepúlveda family for a realistic portrayal of guanacos munching on grass in front of the restaurant and kids pedaling furiously on bikes in the background.

Close up!

Young students and English teacher perform the song “I Have a Teddy Bear,” a new hit at the Valle Chacabuco school.

Older students recite a poem in their hand-crafted masks.

Teachers Carol Mansilla and Dana De Greff accompany the students in “Me Gusta La Vida” (“I Like Life”).

In traditional clothing from the island of Chiloé, boys (in wool hats and socks, jeans and flannel) and girls (in white blouses, long skirts and scarfs) perform a folk dance from the region. In the background, a scene depicting the famous multicolored stilt houses.

“Happy Martin,” one of the poems from the English poetry workshop conducted the week prior. English has been offered to local students for years, but until 2013 the position had never been full time. The crowd loved Martín Saucedo’s poem about preserving Patagonia and protecting it from ‘bad guys’ like HidroAysén.

The first Valle Chacabuco celebration of autumn proved a big success, a colorful way to mark the shortening of the days and the park’s quieting down for winter.  We hope the students and their families can create a new set of spectacular scenes the next time around!

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