The Lake District Feature
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Hier ist alles so Deutsch
You'll meet people in the Lake District with names like María Schmidt or Pablo Gudenschwager. At first, such juxtapositions sound odd, but, remember, this melting pot of a country was liberated by a man, good Irishman that he was, named Bernardo O'Higgins.
The Lake District's Germanic origins can be traced to one Vicente Pérez Rosales. (Every town and city in the region names a street for him, and one of Puerto Montt's more fabulous lodgings carries his name.) Armed with photos of the region, Don Vicente, as everyone knew him in his day, made several trips on behalf of the Chilean government to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria in the mid-19th century. His mission? To recruit waves of European immigrants to settle the Lake District and end 300 years of Mapuche domination in the region once and for all.
Thousands signed on the dotted line and made the long journey to start a new life in southern Chile. It was a giant leap of faith for the original settlers, but it didn't hurt that the region looked just like the parts of Central Europe that they'd come from. The result was küchen, sausage, and a good old-fashioned work ethic mixed with a Latin-spirited, oom-pah-pah gemütlichkeit. But don't bother to dust off that high-school German for your trip here; few people speak it these days.
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