10/08/2017 Society

Intense search for Santiago Maldonado, the young backpacker who disappeared in Argentina after a protest

From the direct word of one of his best friends, we tell you the life of this young native of the town of Buenos Aires on May 25, who on his last trip "went to greet" in the Mapuche community and until now did not return, after The repression of gendarmerie. There is much evidence that he was arrested by security forces. This Friday will be a march in Plaza de Mayo to ask for its appearance alive.


**Best quality available** Courtesy Maldonado family


Santiago Maldonado disappeared after a gendarmerie hit the Mapuche community, Lof Cushamen, in Chubut, a territory long disputed by the multinational Benetton, owner of thousands of hectares in Patagonia.

He is a very healthy kid, very healthy, very direct. He's not a troubled kid. He is a person with very calm temper, fun. Really supportive. He does not notice that it is what you have. If you have empathy, you are.


Carlos Brigo/LANA

Witnesses say security forces beat him and loaded him into one of his pickup trucks, after the young man tried to hide. Since then, no more is known about him.

After that, valuable time elapsed for the authorization of an expert in the territory where the repression occurred, as well as other striking irregularities, such as the finding of a broken security belt in one of the vehicles withheld, suspected of having evidence To prove that Santiago was there.

So far not much is known. The national government, through the security minister, Patricia Bullrich, has tried to install the possibility that Santiago had not been at the moment when the gendarmerie broke into Mapuche territory, but there is too much evidence to deny it.

Santiago is still missing. Those who suffer most at this time are his parents and his close friends. Among them, Gastón Fernandez, a young man from the town of 25 de Mayo, from where Santiago Maldonado was born.

"We've known each other since we were 11 years old. For friends in common. We share a year of school ", begins to tell for INFOCIELO, Gastón, who for more than a week can not sleep thinking about Santiago.

There are many memories. Gastón says that the music was joined by boys: a punk stage and especially the musical group "Sumo", were the favorite soundtrack of adolescence. Then, after finishing school, Santiago leaned towards art, entering into drawing, illustration and painting.

"He is a kid who since childhood was very curious about art. Handles element techniques well. He has made many murals here (on May 25), "explains Gastón, who adds that curiosity led him to enter the Faculty of Fine Arts in the city of La Plata, where he studied some years.

Finally, the role in which Santiago was consolidated was that of tattoo artist, being one of the tools with which he worked in his town.

But one of the things that most characterizes Santiago is his passion for travel. From very young began to cross different points of the country, arriving to culminate a trip by bike until Chile, where it spent a year.

"Santiago has an instinct to search, he seeks to be based on experience itself, to relate to other cultures," narrates Gastón.

Asked if he was there when he approached the Mapuche cause, Gastón says he can not state it, but he is inclined to discard it, since during his trip he was not in contact with the communities, but visited the tourist places of the trans-Andean country, Valparaíso.

"Santiago does not belong to any type of movement or organization. If you have admiration for the Mapuche culture, as for so many others, "he clarifies, what his brothers have already affirmed.

After returning to his homeland, Santiago left again in March this year, passing first through Mendoza and returning briefly to the neighboring country of Chile.

"The idea was to go back to May 25 in August," says Gaston, with a few strings of silence. That was one of the last communications he had with his childhood friend, before he was last seen in the Mapuche community on August 1.

According to Gastón, the young man would have gone to greet the community, when everything happened.

"He is a very healthy kid, very healthy, very direct. He's not a troubled kid. He is a person with very calm temper, fun. Really supportive. He does not notice that it is what you have. If you have empathy, it is, "describes Gaston perfectly.

Santiago's "curiosity to discover and connect with nature" - as Gastón explains - led him to travel backpacking several provinces in the interior. Way that was sustaining with his task of tattoo artist and craftsman.