Valeria Mansilla has been living in Futa for four years now. She never imagined she would end up living in a place like this. Futa is a beautiful but small rural community near Valdivia – and a substantial change from Iquique, Valeria’s former home. Iquique is one of Chile’s most important ports; while Iquique buzzes with movement, Futa is a quiet little gem of a place where people live in small farms, surrounded by bucolic landscapes.
Although she had a busy life in Iquique, Valeria had found a certain stability. Her children were reaching their teenage years so a baby was the last thing on her mind. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. The pregnancy was a complete shock and the surprise doubled when Valeria found out her new baby had Down’s Syndrome.
For Valeria, the birth of Mati prompted her to make a series of changes in her life. First of all, she decided to leave Iquique. She wanted to offer her children the chance to grow up around nature, in a more relaxed and quiet environment. Second of all, she decided her daughter was going to have the same opportunities as any other child. It’s easy to see Valeria’s immense love for her children. Everything she has done has been with their best interest in mind. One of the reasons she moved was because she didn’t want Mati to experience any sort of discrimination and in a wonderful twist of fate, there, in the middle of nowhere, she found a school that specializes in children like Mati.
For Valeria, Mati is a constant source of worry, not because of her Down’s Syndrome but because of how the world could react to it. She fears the discrimination Mati could face eventually. Valeria wants her daughter to be able to live a normal independent life in the future, for her to finish school and have a job. But Valeria trusts her daughter’s capabilities. She says Mati is a brilliant girl and she firmly believes her daughter will go to college.
In Futa, Valeria found her home. She now lives a life that at times seems almost idyllic. It’s easy to picture yourself living here. There are threes everywhere, there are animals running around freely, there’s fresh fruit you can pick yourself, there’s a beautiful river right out of painting.
Valeria says sometimes it is just like that. And she says she’s very happy in Futa but things aren’t always easy. Her husband works in the city, so she has to take care of the children, the farm, the house and the animals mostly by herself. And living so far from the city has quite a few downsides. Just taking her children to school means having to row across the Futa river to the nearest school. Although, of course the positives, Valeria says, vastly outnumber the negatives.
Valeria is an active woman. She’s strong and independent and never stops making plans. Although she is happy and comfortable where she is, she has no intention to settle down. She is simply enjoying life as it is right now, and making sure her children can enjoy it too. Valeria says she would like to go back to school and, in true Valeria fashion, she doesn’t care how old she is when she goes back. Somehow we think it will happen. She will make it happen.