Since the 1970’s, sheep herders from South America have been brought to work in the American West. GAUCHO DEL NORTE follows migrants
Eraldo Pacheco on his journey from Chile to Idaho and Peruvian Jhonny Quispe to fulfill a three-year work contract
Sofian Khan and Andrés Caballero’s documentary GAUCHO DEL NORTE has its national broadcast premiere on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 8 p.m. on WORLD as part of the third season of the AMERICA REFRAMED series. (Check local listings.) Audiences across the nation can also view the film FREE from January 28th to February 26th on http://worldchannel.org/.
In the quiet, bucolic Patagonian countryside in the town of Bahia Murta with 587 inhabitants we meet Eraldo Pacheco, a thoughtful man who has recently arrived at a momentous decision. “Things are worse here than ever,” Eraldo tells his father and family as he announces his plan to move to the United States. In this observational documentary of impressive beauty and painterly cinematic images the imbalance of economic forces is seen in high relief.
Determined to be fully present in those precious few days he has left in Chile, Eraldo enjoys the simplest of things — the company of his sons and loved ones. Consuming his thoughts, however, is his desire to provide an education for his two sons and hope that the sacrifice is worth it. He’s also deeply worried about making this decision now, when his parents are so old and becoming frail. Too soon, Eraldo leaves his wife and children behind in the provincial capital of Coyhaique to carry out his plan to fulfill his three-year contract tending sheep almost 6,000 miles away in rural Idaho.
With poetic subtlety the film speaks to the economic fragility of these remote and rural communities in South America as well as the precarious and fickle agricultural economy up north. Once in Salt Lake City, Utah, we meet Jhonny Quispe, from Peru, who also made the trek up north and who also left a wife and two children behind.
Peaceful, meditative scenes envelop the viewer – vast desert, steep mountains, winter’s terrain and thousands of sheep belie the angst of the economic woes that cause a separation between a man and his beloved, his elders, his children, and the spiritual majesty of his homeland. Jhonny is also deeply invested in being a provider for his family.
But what might seem like a pastoral, nomadic life is a lonely and tough existence. In a later scene, Eraldo explains that one needs to have a hermetic nature to do this work, and acknowledges that it can indeed be extremely boring. The salary is a meager $750 a month for first shepherds.
While Eraldo is up north, he continues to fret about not being in Chile tending to his family, especially his elderly parents. Did he make the right choice?
GAUCHO DEL NORTE airs Tuesday, January 27th at 8pm on WORLD (check local listings) and will stream for free online at worldchannel.org/americareframed.