So the story goes that Tierre del Fuego gets its namesake not because it is the literal land of fire and ice, but because when Magellen sails the ocean blue five hundred or so years ago, he sees flickers of flames licking the night sky from the sea.
Turns out, he witnesses the Yamana people’s evening fires, native to this Patagonian land.
Today, few indigenous people remain in Tierre del Fuego, even in Patagonia proper, but their hallmarks are everywhere, the least of which is in the center of Ushuaia, a symbolic circle, the coming together of all native people of the Americas, from the Inuits up north to the Abya Yala down south.
Covered in furs and skins, photographs of the local people show them braving winter after winter, expert sea-farers, canoe-makers. It’s a flashback to the Hale Sciences building, anthropological debates and theories and inquiries into the American migration–from where, by whom, when, why–and how, last I checked, the leading hypothesis posits two main migrations, one Asian, one Caucasoid, which is why native Americans seem to bridge the ocean with their facial features.
Here, only 1,000 miles from Antarctica, I recognize attributes from the North Pole, all the while, this particular sub-group has a look unique to them. Just looking at the symbolism associated to this Ushuaian structure, it recalls the four elements of Hopi design, the four corners, the four spirits, and to see this lexicon unite the Americas is rather striking.
Fascinating, these human migrations, especially as I round my final lap up the American continent to connect the dots, reminiscent of my Asian exploits, all so far away now.