Another Fable

This post is also available in: Spanish

The one thing you quickly learn if you spend any time at all with Isabel is that she tells a lot of stories. A lot of wonderful stories! I feel so lucky that I get to sit in on these stories, some of which are 100 percent true. Or at least it would appear so…Today, at lunch, Isabel told us a story about her recent trip to Uruguay. (It was a long journey for a speaking engagement that is secondary to the story I am about to retell.)

Isabel with Carlos Páez Vilaró

Isabel with Carlos Páez Vilaró

As she and Willie were being shown around the country, their driver suggested they visit a home of a painter named Carlos Páez Vilaró. It was a name Isabel was certain she’d come across before, so she agreed to the visit. Upon entering the house, she saw a photograph on the wall of a father embracing his son. Isabel immediately recognized the picture from a news story she had covered in Chile over forty years earlier, back in her days as a journalist. She remembered that in 1972 a plane had crashed in the Andes Mountains. Although everyone was presumed dead, the father of one of the passengers never gave up hope that his son was still alive. Although many weeks had passed, he hired a Chilean arriero named Sergio Catalán to go into the mountains and find the survivors. (As best as I can figure, an arierro is a sort of Sherpa. Or maybe a bloodhound. Yeah…he’s a Sherpa bloodhound.) The arriero headed up into the mountains and, miraculously, found a group of survivors, including the man’s son. As the arriero was coming down the mountain with the rescued boys, Carlos Páez Vilaró was climbing up, such was the strength of his conviction that his son was alive. The story is clouded in my mind by time and legend, but even I heard the story as a kid here in America. Read more here.

A photo with the Chilean arriero named Sergio Catalán

A photo with the Chilean arriero named Sergio Catalán

For Isabel, meeting this man, who is over ninety years old, was very inspiring. She told us his spirit was that of of a much younger man—Isabel said he was more like a fifty year old—and he is so in love with life and beauty that he and his wife sit on a terrace of their house each night and drink a toast to the setting sun. She said they applaud the sunset and drink champagne on the terrace overlooking the sea, which is named for Plácido Domingo, who sang there on one occasion.

Carlos Páez Vilaró

Carlos Páez Vilaró

Did I mention that Carlos built the house himself? It is a stunning creation, all constructed by hand. Carlos told Isabel that if guests were planning a visit he would tell them to give him a few weeks and he would simply add on a room so they would always have a place to stay. Carlos and his wife also told Isabel they have been fans of her books for years, and sure enough—there, on a shelf built right into the wall, was a collection of all of her books and a little plaque reading “Isabel Allende.” In some of the posted photos you can see the shelves, as well as a sampling of the art Carlos has created. Here is a link in Spanish about their meeting.

This is the house! Museo Taller de Casapueblo

This is the house! Museo Taller de Casapueblo

What a life, what a story! Lunch is NEVER dull around here.

Isabel also told us about Uruguay: the tiny country and the massive rivers that flow from the high mountains to the sea. I think she had a special time in Uruguay. It is definitely on my list of dream vacations.

6 Responses to Another Fable

  1. florenciavictoria January 2, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Dear Sarah , I read you is so familiar .. that story belongs in part to the collective memory of our country Chile ..
    The lived intensely , like Elizabeth when ocurrrió
    arrieroSergio Catalan is the old man who has more than 90 years and has always been protected like family by the survivors of this tragedy ( he says arrierro because arrea care and guide bone wings .. sheep goats goats in the hills mountains)
    The gathered here last year with a group of people who play rugby My best friend is married to a rugby player and have always had contacts , so they told me wonderful stories of life and full of symbolism of all
    and of course the great Carlos Páez Vilaró . was present … always thankful and excited …
    the house is amazing … once inside I saw a report on television
    the link does not appear in Spanish darling !
    that wonderful what Isabel told them … something that is so dear and exciting for our country !
    HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014 … beautiful ñatita hugs to the whole tribe !
    Isabel give a hug please !

  2. Cristina Zordan Fraracio January 3, 2014 at 2:54 am #


    I’m sorry for my poor English, so I think it’s better if I write in Spanish. 😉


    Soy Cristina, tengo 29 años y escribo desde Brasil, São Paulo.
    Debo confesar que empiezo ahora a descubrir la literatura de Isabel Allende, pero ya estoy totalmente atrapada por sus tramas, la riqueza emocional y la profundidad humana de sus temas.
    Me enamoré de su familia por los relatos de “La Suma de los Días” y me encanté con la pasión de la autora por la vida, por la ayuda humanitaria, y admiro su fuerza de vivir y su lucha por los derechos de las mujeres.
    Vengo con este mensaje (que espero que le llegue de algún modo) a agradecerle a Isabel por ser lo que es, por traer ánimo a la gente con su ejemplo y decirle que llevo un tiempo haciendo campañas por la donación de sangre, pero nunca me animé a que eso creciera mucho, ya que a la gente no le encantan las agujas y es difícil conseguir a donadores.
    Sin embargo, después de leer los relatos, pienso hacer que eso crezca de algún modo, volviendo oficial el acto y buscando apoyo de gente que me ayude con publicidad. En fin, lo que quiero decir es que ella inspira a que seamos algo significativo dentro de la comunidad en la que estamos.

    Muchas gracias!
    En mi corazón, también soy parte de su tribu.

  3. Ferne Harasimiw January 4, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    Thank you. That’s such a nice story to hear, for those of us who cannot travel and meet people.

  4. ale c. January 4, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    a wrangler, that’s what the arriero was.

  5. mirella carrasco catalan January 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

    Hi, im in Australia , the arriero is my grandfather’s brother , my grandfather’s name was Celerino.We heard this story from him as we were growing up.

  6. Cherie Charbeneau February 20, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Just yesterday I reached for a coffee cup and saw the two cups in my cupboard from Casa Pueblo, which I had the delightful pleasure of visiting in 2008. I had gone to Montevideo Uruguay on a buying trip for a women’s clothing shop I work for in MI. On my way down the coast to visit Atlantida I stopped in to see the amazing house of Carlos Paez Vilaro. I fell immediately in love with his house/hotel/museum which hugs the hills like a lover. The view was spectacular, the art work impressive and the story of Carlos and his search for his son, legendary. What I most was impressed with was his statement that at night he would gaze up at the moon, and he knew his son was seeing the same moon, and that was how he knew his son was still alive. It gave him hope, and faith and it was why he looked for someone who knew the mountains and paid him to search for his son.
    So much of Carlos’ work is female oriented and moon-based, I felt he was a kindred soul, though I never did meet him in my short stay at his amazing magical creation on the coast in Uruguay. I still dream of going back to his hotel to stay, and bath in the beauty of his dream castle.
    Thanks for sharing this interesting story of Uruguay… and sparking such visceral memories of one of my favorite journeys.

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