Fernando Rojas is holding up a photograph of a pocket of countryside, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, that has been his home, his livelihood, and his passion for all of his 74 years.
His picture shows a lake, brimming with water, in front of a range of hills that are silhouetted by the sun. In the foreground, by the water’s edge, there’s a small boat, ready to set sail. Next to that, there’s a wooden jetty, jutting out into the waves.
You would hardly know that this image, taken in Chile just a few years ago, is of the same depleted landscape on which Rojas is now standing, grim-faced, puzzled and — he says — full of sadness.
What water is left in the lake is in the hazy distance — about half of a mile away, a languid puddle, less than 3 feet deep, fringed by weeds and white egrets.
The Laguna de Aculeo — as this lake’s known — used to be a favorite retreat for many of the 7 million citizens of Chile’s capital, Santiago, 45 miles to the north.
A dock rests in a dry waterbed in central Chile.