Viva El Instituto Forestal!!
Tomorrow, May 5, 2011, in Santiago, Chile, there will be an event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Instituto Forestal, the Chilean government’s forests, forest products, and forest industries research center. 1961, as it turns out, was truly a year filled with optimism and “Big Ideas”. Visionary Chileans created the Instituto Forestal that year, and an equally progressive US President established the Peace Corps. Both institutions and the many fine people who have worked within these organizations have made transformational changes to our world, providing noteworthy benefits to the fine people of both countries.
During the 1960s, several very fortunate young foresters from the United States were chosen to participate in both enterprises, and were sent to Chile as Peace Corps Volunteers to work along side Chilean professionals at the Instituto Forestal. I was one of those fortunate few, whose lives were changed by that experience. We established intimate friendships that have lasted to this day. We contributed our small part to the growth of Chile’s forestry and wood products sectors, and consequently we share with our Chilean friends and colleagues a sense of deep pride that this sector has now become a mainstay in Chile’s vibrant economy. We have not always kept in contact with the Chileans with whom we lived and worked during those heady years of our youth, but because of our experience at the Instituto Forestal we have rejoiced in Chile’s successes, and suffered along at least in spirit during the difficult years.
For me, the Instituto Forestal occupies a special place because it was while I was working there that I first saw Ximena (now my partner of 41 years), in a photograph shown me by my colleague at the time, Joaquin (now married to Ximena’s sister Veronica). In fact, it was not just that picture, but the undercover work of Ximena’s aunt, Silvia, who worked in the library at the Instituto Forestal, that determined that Ximena’s and my path should converge.
The work I did at the Instituto Forestal as a Peace Corps Volunteer on ways to preserve Chilean wood for use in construction not only led to more and better research at the Instituto itself, but also served as the basic research for my Master of Science Degree at the State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry after Ximena and I returned to the US in 1970.
For many Peace Corps Volunteers, our time at the Instituto Forestal, under the memorable guiding hand of Don Manuel Munoz, together with Don Mario Han, Don Moises Yudelevich, and Don Manuel Ortiz, was one of the best times of our lives. For this, and for the many fond memories of time we spent in Chile’s forests, laboratories, training centers and green and white “Instituto” vehicles travelling the spectacularly beautiful roads of Chile, we all join our Chilean colleagues today in celebrating the 50-year Anniversary of the Instituto Forestal.
Viva el bosque Chileno!
Viva el Instituto Forestal!
Written on May 4, 2011, in Leesburg, Virginia.