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Local Transformations and New Economic Functionalities Generated by Amenity Migration in Northern Chilean Patagonia

Exploring Malalcahuello, a Small Mountain Village
Carla Marchant et Fernanda Rojas
Traduction(s) :
Transformaciones locales y nuevas funcionalidades económicas vinculadas a las migraciones por amenidad en la Patagonia chilena


La migration d’agrément vers les régions montagneuses du sud du Chili est un phénomène qui s’est largement étendu ces dernières décennies et qui contribue notoirement au changement de ces espaces ruraux, espaces qui ont été encore peu étudiés par les chercheurs. Dans cet article, nous présentons le résultat de nos observations sur les transformations économiques et sociales à Malalcahuello, village montagneux de la Patagonie du nord. Ce village se trouve précisément à un stade émergent de ce processus de migration. L’arrivée de nouveaux acteurs économiques et la migration d’agrément vers cet espace rural, traditionnellement marginalisé par rapport aux circuits économiques nationaux, ont créé un renouveau pour ce village et développé de nouvelles fonctions économiques au service du développement résidentiel et touristique. Ces nouvelles activités représentent une opportunité et à la fois un défi pour le futur développement de ce village de montagne en tant que destination touristique. De même, nous avons observé des changements dans les dynamiques sociales, spécialement influencées par l’arrivée des nouveaux habitants qui possèdent les outils nécessaires au développement d’activités liées à la protection de l’environnement et du territoire, ce qui implique la réévaluation de celui-ci par les habitants traditionnels.

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1The effects of economic and cultural globalisation are clearly present in the Chilean mountain territories. They are manifested by the phenomena of productive-economic transformations and an increase in the mobility of goods, services and persons. Since the advent of the country’s neoliberal system, in the mid-1970s, the adoption of market-friendly policies and programmes has permitted the liberalisation of many traditional markets based on natural resources extractivism (Quitral 2012). Most of these resources, including water, mineral (copper, gold) and biological (wood) resources, come from the mountain areas. In recent decades, these traditional markets have been affected by the landscape’s use as a basic resource for the tourism and real estate industry. The commodification of specific environmental services is associated with the development of new tourism and residences; for example, cultural services, according to Pickett & Cadenasso (2002), are intangible benefits obtained from ecosystems, including recreation and privileged landscapes. The latter constitute the new economic uses of the Chilean mountain areas. According to Hidalgo et al. (2014), the increase in amenity migration over the past two decades may be seen as a logical continuation of this kind of development in which foreigners and wealthy Chileans look for new residences outside urban areas in the countryside. In many cases, these residences on new constructible land, which in Chile are usually called parcelas de agrado (pleasure lots), trigger the urbanisation of rural spaces. In Chile, this international trend has also encouraged the reorientation of the investment plans of some transnational companies to accelerate the search for new but undeveloped territories with these amenities, which have some of these comparative advantages, in order to incorporate them into their business models.

2In this context of neoliberal openness, the arrival of new global players, represented by international companies and migrants, triggers a series of effects, including profound changes in traditional territorial vocations, the emergence of socio-territorial conflicts and the development of new kinds of relationships between traditional and new inhabitants. It also leads to the creation of new ways to generate development and local policies in which ecological issues become relevant (Janoschka 2009). This occurs because these new actors are more educated (they have formal education), more active in the community and possess agency capacity to influence decisions and local development paths of such places, hence changing the customs of traditional lifestyles.

3This article aims to describe how the overall phenomena of globalisation and amenity migration are leading to positive and negative changes in both socio-economic and cultural respects – not only in large, traditional amenity migration and tourist destinations but also in mountainous regions traditionally considered peripheral in Chile, where these processes are already observable and were not documented in the past. Previous research describes how these phenomena have changed the urban contexts of small and medium-sized cities of Argentinean Patagonia, e.g. San Martín de los Andes (González 2009) and San Carlos de Bariloche (Otero et al. 2006). In the case of Chile, similar changes have been observed in consolidated tourist destinations like Villarrica and Pucón (Zunino & Hidalgo 2010). According to Marchant & Sánchez (2011), these municipalities are different from other Chilean mountain areas because they exhibit positive rates of population growth, a high degree of outsourcing of production activities and a good level of access to services. Typical Chilean mountain areas are characterised by their rural structure, depopulation and high marginalisation (Valdés 2007). Small rural settlements of northern Chilean Patagonia – such as Malalcahuello (2,000 inhabitants), located one and a half hours from the regional capital – are facing the described process in its initial stage and have not yet been analysed in detail. This self-declared ‘mountain village’ is facing new challenges as it copes with changes to its traditional economic base, which is now oriented towards and strongly dependent on tourism activities.

4While there is a significant difference between tourism (short-term circular mobility with changing destinations) and amenity migration (definitive migration or multilocality with only one target destination), in this article and according to the findings of our case study we will consider the definition of Perlik (2011), who described “amenity-led migration” as a kind of migration restricted to those cases in which people change their centre of everyday life for a constant period. In the same line, even though Moss (2006) excludes tourism from the definition of the amenity migration phenomenon, in many cases and specifically in southern Chile, existing touristic infrastructure is an attractive factor for amenity migrants that contributes to their decision to migrate and stay in the new place for a long time. As we can see in this case, it is difficult to separate the tourism and residence functions. Bourdeau (2009) describes this phenomenon as a hybridisation of functions.

5Real estate speculation, influenced by the extreme liberalisation of the land market in Chile, is another driver of the described transformations. It is facilitated as there are no laws that effectively regulate the atomisation of rural properties and the change from rural to urban use, often causing the fragmentation and environmental deterioration of these peri-urban areas (Hidalgo et al. 2014). These characteristics are a striking factor in the development process and demographic change observed in the mountain areas of Chile.

6This article will be structured as follows: After a literature review that considers the main topics related to globalisation and amenity migration, we will describe the methodological aspects and the key characteristics of the study area. In the fifth section, the results of our study will be presented with a focus on three thematic issues: (i) global players and new productive activities; (ii) real estate market and speculation; and (iii) long-term residents and migrants, their motivations, visions of the future, conflicts and overall changes in social dynamics. Finally, the conclusions are presented and discussed.

Literature review

Chilean mountains attract new economic developers

7Chilean mountain areas are territories that were traditionally unimportant and/or invisible (Nuñez 2013) and mostly characterised by their rural status, low levels of population and stagnation in terms of economic growth. However, in the past few decades, they have experienced a re-evaluation and achieved visibility due to their high strategic potential for the development of various investment initiatives in areas prioritised by the state, for example, the energy market. In the case of northern Chilean Patagonia, the high natural value of the area is expressed, for example, in the untapped capabilities of its rivers for hydroelectric power and the pristine quality of its landscape as a resource for the development of tourism (adventure tourism, skiing) and the real estate market, in which the upper-middle class purchases the ‘pleasure lots’, pays low prices and develops real estate businesses based on land speculation. Given the different interests of the actors involved (state versus private) and the scale of the impact of the projects that converge in these territories (works of infrastructure versus initiatives focused on local development), these territories are becoming contested areas.

8The insertion of these mountain areas, characterised by their remoteness from major economic centres, into global economic circuits triggers relevant territorial changes that require in-depth analysis. In this context, Gosnell & Abrams (2009) note that natural amenities have long played an important role in changing the geographic distribution of social and economic activity.

Amenity migration in mountain areas

9Globalisation is not only a factor that drives the mountain areas’ economy but also a phenomenon that fosters a number of changes on the socio-cultural characteristics, given the increased exchange of ideas and people involved in this process (Bender & Kanitscheider 2013). Amenity migration may be considered one of these agents of cultural change. Moss (2006) points out that, since the early 1990s, there has been an emerging and growing worldwide process of migrations towards mountain areas due to their particular natural, environmental and cultural values. Since then, scientific literature concerning this topic has been gaining importance. Amenity migration into mountain areas is considered a significant manifestation of a more flexible and mobile society.

10In recent decades, amenity migration in mountain areas of Europe and North America has been investigated in depth (Perlik 2006, on the Alps; Bartoš et al. 2008, on the Carpathians; Löffler & Steinicke 2007, on the Sierra Nevada in the USA; and Chipeniuk & Rapaport 2009, on Canada, among others). In the context of the Global South, amenity migration has gained importance as a topic of studies due to its considerable growth in recent years (Janoschka 2009 & 2013). Several authors have explored this matter. For example, Otero & González (2012) and Chaverri (2006) described the Argentine cases, Matarrita-Cascante and others (2014) studied the case of Costa Rica, and Borsdorf and others (2011) investigated the Chilean examples.

11Moss (2006) writes that this new kind of migration is not economically motivated but mainly aimed at reaching a higher quality of life in a privileged environmental landscape. Other authors state that it is also motivated by the search for paradise on earth (among others, Kuentzel & Mukudan 2005; Moore et al. 2006) or a natural, green utopia (Zunino & Hidalgo 2010). Similarly, Benson & O’Reilly (2009) consider amenity migration to be a mechanism to achieve an individualised self-realisation project and as a way to escape conventional modern society. Janoschka (2009) argues that lifestyle mobility implies the movement of people, as well as of capital and ideas, to implement the individual and social consequences of globalisation in a specific geographical setting. Moreover, this personal vision and decision to develop a new life in a new place is also a driving force that affects the community and local space, triggering not only socio-economic and cultural transformations but also landscape changes on a variety of spatial scales (Zunino et al. 2013). Bartoš et al. (2008) mention that amenity migration may also produce a range of impacts on the natural environment: (i) the fragmentation of undisturbed native ecosystems due to access roads, electricity cabling, fencing or clearance for houses and garden sites; (ii) an increase in freshwater consumption and sewage production; and (iii) an increase in noise disturbance and roadkill, among others. González (2009) considers these changes to be risks that host communities face as a result of such migration.


12Data used in this study, obtained between April and August 2014, are based on a mixed methodology consisting of secondary data review, participant observation (informal conversations with local actors and attendance at a local workshop with the leader of an environmental citizens’ movement, ‘Red Futuro’, which translates as ‘Network Future’) and semi-structured interviews with key informants (traditional inhabitants and migrants). These informants were selected according to a snowball procedure in the area of the case study. The total number of interviews was defined by the point of saturation (Guest et al. 2006) and, in this case, due to the small size of the village, was reached after 10 interviews (five migrants and five traditional inhabitants). Twelve open-ended questions, classified into four dimensions, were asked with a focus on: (i) livelihood; (ii) migration trajectory, including the motivation to migrate and to choose this place as a new home; (iii) local development vision for Malalcahuello; and (iv) new economic and cultural functionalities observed in the territory in the interviews with the local inhabitants. The interviews were recorded and transcribed, and the contents were subsequently analysed using the methods of categorisation and codification (Gibbs, 2012).

13We developed a cadastre of the services and properties for sale in the study area during a field campaign in August 2014. We georeferenced and entered all land plots located on the road between Curacautín and the Corralco Ski Center (34 km), which were for sale at the time according to a GIS database (n = 75). Subsequently, real estate companies were contacted to obtain information on the value per hectare, and information on 25 plots of various sizes was collected. These prices were combined with the GIS database, and a descriptive analysis was carried out to focus on their spatial distribution and relationship to touristic infrastructure.

Study area: regional and local context

14The region of Araucanía (the political administrative unit in which Malalcahuello is situated) has been a strategic area for the consolidation of the Chilean state (fig. 1). This region was not fully integrated into Chile until the late 19th century because these territories belonged to the Mapuche nation, the indigenous people of the area. In the context of a military occupation, the ‘Pacification of Araucanía’, this region was annexed by the Chilean state and later colonised by European immigrants, mainly Germans (Hartwig 1966).

15The mountains of the region were also a dynamic corridor for regional and cross-border connectivity, given the train tracks that linked the regional capital of Temuco with the villages and towns of Curacautín and Lonquimay in the interior. This train network was intended to extend towards the city of Bahía Blanca in Argentina, thus becoming a corridor between the two oceans (the Trans-Andean Railway) (Koch & Olave 2004). This type of infrastructure was constructed to satisfy the needs of the forestry industry, which played a very important role in regional economics. Between 1938 and 1970, this industry was the principal economic activity of the area and led to indiscriminate logging of the Araucaria tree (Araucaria araucana) to produce plywood panels and a strong reduction in this type of forest (Camus 2000). In 1971, the Araucaria tree became protected by law, and this kind of wood production was suspended.

16Later, with the implementation of the neoliberal economic system, the Chilean government decided to promote extractive forestry policies through the promulgation, in 1974, of the Forestry Development Law (Decree Law 701). Under the decree, owners of small and medium-sized, non-arable or degraded parcels of land were encouraged to convert their land to monoculture plantations of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and radiata pine (Pinus radiata). This forestry model meant a radical change in land use, which led to the emergence of serious socio-ecological and environmental problems (Cornejo 2003). These included the impoverishment of rural families, changes in land tenure, given the sale of land to forestry companies, and migration of families to urban centres in search of better economic prospects.

17The extreme dependence on the forest extraction model as an engine of development in the region was revealed in the late 1990s, as the main factory in Curacautín showed a gradual decline in production before it entered into bankruptcy. This meant the loss of the main source of employment for locals and an increase in unemployment rates. Long-term residents were forced to sell their plots and migrate to nearby cities like Temuco or the capital, Santiago, 700 kilometres away. Only a small number of traditional inhabitants with stronger territorial roots and adaptive capacity decided to stay in the area and initiate the process of reconverting to their traditional activities.

Fig 1. Study area

Fig 1. Study area

Source: authors, 2014.


The arrival of global players to the Chilean mountains: new production activities

18The administrative region of Araucanía in the Mapuche area has the lowest foreign investment rate per capita in the entire Chile. This point can be explained by the ongoing latent conflict between the Chilean government and the indigenous population, which led to an unstable political situation and reduced Araucanía’s attractiveness for foreign capital investment. The state’s investments did not compensate for this lack, as they have been moderate in size and focused mainly on urban contexts, such as the regional capital Temuco, while the hinterlands were marginalised. Tourism therefore developed only in areas with valuable landscapes, such as the region’s mountain areas (Henríquez 2013).

19Since 2000, the Chilean government has been implementing specific plans to boost the regional economy, with the intention of reversing the aforementioned trends. One example comes from the work of the Foreign Investment Committee, which, in its 2011–13 portfolio, highlighted investments specifically in the area of the case study (CieChile 2013). These initiatives relate to the energy sector and include hydroelectric and geothermal type projects proposed by Australian companies. As for hydropower plants, these are aimed at increasing power generation to 6 MW, which is intended to supply power to Chile’s Central Interconnected System. Meanwhile, geothermal projects planned for the Tolhuaca Volcano stipulate the construction of a geothermal power plant capable of providing up to 12 MW, one of the first innovative ideas of its kind in Chile.

20The second relevant actors are the international consortia that are developing the winter tourism industry on the slopes of the Lonquimay Volcano. Two projects are to be mentioned in this context: the Corralco Mountain and Ski Center (inaugurated in 2004) and the Cañón del Blanco Mountain Lodge (expected to open in 2016). The Corralco project has an area of more than 4,000 m2 and was developed within the Malalcahuello–Nalcas National Reserve. Its infrastructure includes a mountain resort town with a functioning hotel, more than 500 ha of ski slopes and a restaurant, as well as the future construction of a shopping mall and a movie theatre. The project investment amounts to over $15 million. Meanwhile, the Cañón del Blanco project includes a mountain lodge of 1,051 m2 with spas, a restaurant and an event centre, and it has a total investment of $2 million.

21These projects, aimed at high-income and preferably foreign clients, have been undertaken by large-scale enterprises in the area of special interest tourism. They are complemented by some small to medium-sized service providers and retail shops (cafes and restaurants, rental shops, tourism and service agencies) developed mainly by local entrepreneurs (in many cases, migrants from Santiago). Both investment types, although aimed at different markets, are trying to develop Malalcahuello and its surroundings in the same way that the town of Pucón has been developed, which is now considered to be the capital of adventure tourism in Chile (Borsdorf et al. 2011).

Real estate market: pleasure lots and speculation

  • 1 This is possible because Chilean law does not have the ability to supervise compliance with the lan (...)

22Improvements in the road infrastructure that connects Malalcahuello to the regional capital Temuco, the launch of the ski resort Corralco in 2004 and the government’s prioritisation of advertising the area as a destination for foreign investment have increased the interest of investors in the development of real estate in the area. The real estate market has a clearly speculative character, and Chilean law has facilitated the subdivision of rural land. With the approval of Law no. 3516 in 1980, which concerns the subdivision of rural land, the legal measure liberalised the prevailing land regime and introduced the right to construct in rural areas (in the form of pleasure lots). The law imposes two conditions: The subdivided plots must not be smaller than 5,000 m2, and the original purpose of land use (designation for agricultural, livestock or forestry purposes) must be maintained. However, this has not safeguarded the primary vocation of the lands nor has it avoided the construction of residential buildings beyond the legal urban limits.1 The limitation of changing land use is vulnerable to subdivisions concerning pleasure lots, which end up having the same characteristics as urban area dwellings. Pleasure lots are currently the main land for sale in Curacautín, Malalcahuello, Corralco and the surrounding areas. This sort of development may take a variety of forms: individual, multi-dwelling buildings or batches of land plots grouped into detached condominiums that in legal terms are groups of smallholders but in reality are gated communities. This type of development is common in other mountain municipalities, such as Pucón and Villarrica (Hidalgo & Zunino 2011). Some of these groupings have controlled access and permanent monitoring systems (Hidalgo et al. 2005). Consequently, the legal concept in question plays an important role as a tool for rural land management, which, in Chile, is exempt from specific land-use planning.

23A second important feature of this type of business is the ability of real estate agents to identify the particularities of the natural landscape as an asset and link them to their transactions, thus internalising environmental benefits and commodifying nature. An example of this approach is the publicity of a real estate project shown in figure 2.

Fig. 2. Sale of pleasure lots ‘with the Ski Center at their feet’

Fig. 2. Sale of pleasure lots ‘with the Ski Center at their feet’

Source: authors, 2014.

  • 2 In Chile, water falls under a private regime, and each landowner needs a “title of domain” to be ab (...)

24The cadastre of pleasure lots created in August 2014 counted 75 plots for sale in the Curacautín–Malalcahuello–Corralco road corridor (34 km). Supporting the information we gathered, one of the long-term residents of Malalcahuello provides this perception during the interviews: “We have recognised a significant increase in prices over the past 10 years” (male, 60 years). The interviewee indicates that pleasure lots of 0.5 ha were sold for $2,500 and $3,000 10 years ago. During our research, plots of the same area were registered at prices exceeding $150,000 and reaching as much as $178,000 near the ski centre. Additionally, the prices are now more diversified, with a difference of 96% between the highest and the lowest values registered ($5,600). The fluctuation of the observed price is related to the location of the land plot, as plots tend to be more expensive as they gain in proximity to paved road infrastructure or the ski centre or if they have access to river banks and registered water rights.2 A general pattern of the distribution of prices is shown in figure 3.

Fig 3. Supply and prices of the pleasure lots

Fig 3. Supply and prices of the pleasure lots

Source: authors, 2014.

Changes in social dynamics: long-term residents and the new inhabitants of Malalcahuello

  • 3 Colloquial Chilean expression for “with great effort”.

25One of the most obvious changes that have occurred since the arrival of amenity migrants to the studied area has been the increase in the development of tourism and the new economic options that this activity brings to old and new residents. However, this idea cannot be attributed directly to this group. According to the information gathered in the interviews, the first ideas to develop tourism (linked to the snow) were seen by long-term residents as a “dream of progress come true” from the moment the forestry industry ceased to operate; however, the tourism industry, according to our interview partners, has not yet reached its pinnacle. One interviewee explains: “When the wood finished and Malalcahuello began dying, people began to emigrate because there was no source of work. The most stubborn ones, we stayed even when there were chances to head to work elsewhere. At that time, we began to dream of snow; we made a small shelter and built a first lift, ‘a puro ñeque’.3 This was the beginning of tourism development: by taking advantage of the snow” (long-term resident, 63 years).

26The gradual economic transformation towards tourism is a feature of the multi-activity process experienced by rural areas in the context of the new rurality in Latin America, which is characterised by the incorporation of tertiary functions into what were traditionally considered rural activities and has resulted in the diversification of traditional family income (Ruiz & Delgado 2008). Income is generated mainly through seasonal work, e.g. either in agriculture or small personal businesses in tourism and related services, mostly offering accommodation in cabins (cabañas), transport and/or guided services. Meanwhile, the youth work in the areas of adventure tourism, rendering services such as equipment rentals and serving as guides for rafting, kayaking and mountain hiking (fig. 4 and fig. 5). The development of these activities and the vision of tourism as the main economic activity in the territory are ideas that the public authorities support. The small to medium-sized entrepreneurs are supported by regional and local tourism development programmes. One example is the brand positioning program ‘Araucanía’, which, among others, aims to increase visits by foreign tourists to ‘Araucanía Andina’ (where Malalcahuello is located) by 50%, an increase of 60,000 visitors during the 2010–15 period (Ilustre Municipalidad de Curacautín 2010).

Fig 4 and 5. New economic activities linked to tourism: rental shop and après-ski facilities

Fig 4 and 5. New economic activities linked to tourism: rental shop and après-ski facilities

Source: authors, 2014.

27From the perspective of the social changes caused by amenity migration, it is possible to identify some level of distrust among the traditional inhabitants concerning the intentions of the migrants who have arrived on the scene. Traditional inhabitants refer to the migrants as “outsiders”, and their arrival has been a visible process that began, according to an interviewee (long-term resident, 60, female), “after 1995 with the arrival of a foreign family of German nationality that had built a cafe on the side of the road”. These immigrants were identified as the ‘early investors’ who became the locality’s first foreign providers of such services.

28Long-time residents regard the social changes, along with the ongoing land purchases, with some scepticism because in their view outsiders bring ideas that impose themselves on the rest of the community. One of the respondents (male, 63) had the following to say in this regard: “We have an invasion of outsiders who want to invest, who want the townspeople to be subjected to the ideas they bring.” Likewise, the interviewees believe that this investment capacity by the newcomers leads to changes, especially in the model and scale of development expected for the town, which they feel should be controlled. Two long-term residents (male, 63, and female, 65) state: “It is being said that Malalcahuello is the new Pucón; ideally, we should do it differently. We are also complicated by the issue of construction. We do not want many more people. If we go on like this, we will be saturated.” This statement confirms that there is awareness on the part of the long-term residents that the projected development scenario cannot be auspicious if the authorities do not take action to help control it or at least mitigate its effects.

29A second important aspect in the context of changing traditional social and cultural practices in Malalcahuello is the availability of the migrants to participate in the development of collective activities, such as community work (workshops, gardens, clubs), environmental awareness activities (permaculture and recycling) and the enhancement of newly inhabited territory (rescuing of local traditions and stories). The arrival of amenity migrants becomes important as a mechanism to activate a new type of social capital. This is strongly represented by developing initiatives aimed at environmental protection. Given that the most common aspirations mentioned with regard to making the decision to migrate are “beginning a new life in a quieter environment and connecting with nature” (male, 40, originally from Santiago), the development of these kinds of movements is one strategy that permits the longevity of the status quo. This corroborates the approach of O’Reilly (2007), who emphasises the pursuit of the rural idyll and the rejection of urbanisation as common features among such migrants.

30A prime example of a socio-territorial movement is the ‘Red Ciudadana Futuro Sustentable de Curacautín’, which emerged in 2008 after the completion of the ‘citizen dialogues’ event in which social, environmental and economic issues affecting the district were discussed. The network counts among its active members a large number of migrants who aim to inform the local community about the possible impacts of hydroelectric and geothermal investment projects and their development strategies. These migrants also attempt to develop an opposition force against these projects through citizen participation in formal bodies involved in the environmental impact assessment project and its procedures. This has led the traditional community to recognise that the influx of migrants has strengthened the social and community ties among the ‘old residents’.

Conclusion and final remarks

31The results show that Malalcahuello, despite its small size, is a mountain village that is experiencing the first signs of a transformation process that leads to the development of mountain tourist destinations and has been previously observed in other small and medium-sized cities in Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia. The process is being led by foreign investors and amenity migrants who can be considered the main agents of change. In this respect, the results obtained in this case are consistent with the thesis that Glorioso and Moss (2006) put forward, according to which amenity migration is an agent of global change and has special effects on rural landscapes and smaller towns.

32The establishment of the Malalcahuello–Nalcas National Reserve and the Corralco Ski Center was supported by the regional government as measures to improve the local economy. The arrival of amenity migrants has also opened new economic opportunities for the locals in the tourist and non-tourist service sectors and shows that in Chile, like in other countries of the South (e.g. Argentina), tourism activities and residential functions are currently developing together.

33However, it is important to consider some of the aspects related to the future perspectives of tourism. The allure of the region for both amenity migrants and tourists depends strongly on the natural environment and the beauty of the landscape. This attractiveness might be threatened by the new projects for energy production. There is a plan to install five hydroelectric and one geothermal power plant in the region. Public statements, as well as our interviews, show that new residents, the local community and the chamber of tourism are against these projects, as the main attraction of the regions would be endangered. The example shows not only that mountain regions develop as suppliers for external, global markets but that this function is also very dynamic, and an increasing business sector might swiftly be replaced by a sector that has different interests.

34With regard to the real estate market, there are also some threats that should be considered for the future. In the case of rural areas in Chile, it is necessary to emphasise that territorial planning is currently insufficient and facilitates the development of both speculative markets and the atomisation processes of rural land adjacent to urban areas through the mechanism of subdivision. Moreover, the pleasure lot subdivisions are not a strategic planning tool designed for the management of these territories but rather a market trick that enables real estate agents to facilitate land grabbing by changing the land use designation from agricultural to residential. These real estate projects also profit from common environmental services since they are increasing the added value of the investments while externalising its costs.

35Regarding cultural globalisation, this phenomenon has its most obvious manifestation in the arrival of new residents in these areas. These individuals play a major role in changing local practices. They also have formally developed social, cultural and educational capital (Benson & Osbaldiston 2014) and thus have a capacity to spread innovative ideas and deploy different values in the communities in which they are inserted. They become relevant stakeholders who streamline the future development of these areas – in this case, by creating citizen movements that may enhance the social capital of these communities and contribute to developing a more sustainable future for the region.

36The results of this case study show how amenity migration and its socio-spatial consequences are a phenomenon that extends to new mountain destinations of northern Chilean Patagonia and can lead to positive and negative effects. In this sense, Moss (2006) notes that it is possible to distinguish five stages in the amenity migration process based on four dimensions of territorial changes: socio-cultural, economic, political and environmental. Given the above, we note that Malalcahuello is in an emerging phase of territorial change because of amenity migration. Figure 6 summarises the main results in support of this premise.

Fig. 6. Main characteristics observed in Malalcahuello as an example of amenity migration in an emerging stage

Fig. 6. Main characteristics observed in Malalcahuello as an example of amenity migration in an emerging stage

Source: authors, 2015.

37Finally, while amenity migration in the Chilean context shows some similarities to the processes that have been described in other mountain areas of the world (motivation to migrate, seeking a rural idyll, etc.), there are specific issues, including the extreme liberalisation of the land market, that make real estate speculation and the commodification of natural attractions a much more complex phenomenon to analyse. Such issues could be the focus of future development scenarios.

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1 This is possible because Chilean law does not have the ability to supervise compliance with the land uses that are allowed on the pleasure lots, which makes it easier for owners to use tricks to evade the law.

2 In Chile, water falls under a private regime, and each landowner needs a “title of domain” to be able to consume water (in litres per second), also known as a “water right”. This regime (Water Code of 1981) was implemented during the military dictatorship. A review of the regime can be found in Bauer (2004) and Benoit (2002).

3 Colloquial Chilean expression for “with great effort”.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig 1. Study area
Crédits Source: authors, 2014.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M
Titre Fig. 2. Sale of pleasure lots ‘with the Ski Center at their feet’
Crédits Source: authors, 2014.
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,9M
Titre Fig 3. Supply and prices of the pleasure lots
Crédits Source: authors, 2014.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,9M
Titre Fig 4 and 5. New economic activities linked to tourism: rental shop and après-ski facilities
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,8M
Crédits Source: authors, 2014.
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,1M
Titre Fig. 6. Main characteristics observed in Malalcahuello as an example of amenity migration in an emerging stage
Crédits Source: authors, 2015.
Fichier image/jpeg, 286k
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Référence électronique

Carla Marchant et Fernanda Rojas, « Local Transformations and New Economic Functionalities Generated by Amenity Migration in Northern Chilean Patagonia », Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine [En ligne], 103-3 | 2015, mis en ligne le 08 janvier 2015, consulté le 30 mars 2017. URL :

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Carla Marchant

Institute of Environmental Sciences and Evolution, Universidad Austral de

Fernanda Rojas

Institute of Environmental Sciences and Evolution, Universidad Austral de

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La Revue de Géographie Alpine est mise à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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