Returning To Chile With Do Good Ambassador, Cotezi

Cotezi (Maria Jose Nuñez) is a thru-hiker and Cotopaxi Do Good Ambassador who was born in Santiago, Chile but has lived the majority of her life in the United States. In Chile, when your name is Maria Jose, you go by Cote, so growing up, her parents called her Cotita or Cotezi as  a nickname on top of a nickname. This year, she returned to Chile for the first time to join us on our FW23 shoot. Here are her reflections on going back home.

When I was eight years old on New Year’s Eve, my family and I boarded a plane and left Chile in search of a better life and more opportunities in the United States. I was only a kid at the time, so didn’t quite understand the severity of the situation. 

I was sad to leave the rest of our family behind, but I was also excited about the world of Disneyland, ice skates, and Barbies. Plus, I genuinely thought we would only be gone for a few months. Little did I know it’d be another 26 years until I stepped foot in Chile again.

After saying yes to a trip to Chile with Cotopaxi, I worked a miracle with the Chilean Embassy to get my heavily expired Chilean passport renewed, packed up my things, and went. I’m beyond grateful to Cotopaxi for the unexpected opportunity to return to a country that is still very much a part of me, despite the years that have passed. One of my favorite parts of traveling is learning to embrace the unexpected, and I think the entire experience taught me just that.

During her time in Chile, Cotezi kept a daily journal. Read on for some excerpts about her experience.

Cotezi packing up an Allpa in the Atacama Desert

Journal Entry: July 1

Today I was abruptly woken up at 5am and the guides drove us straight to 15,000ft, the highest I'd ever been. Even with the running, and jumping, and dancing at 15,000ft, I was feeling amazing and like I could go on forever. Then it hit me—I'm in my ELEMENT. High altitude mountains surrounded by vast beautiful nothingness. This is home. —Cotezi

Exploring the high altitude Atacama 

Staying warm at 15,000ft

Journal Entry: July 2

Today I woke up with sand in my mouth and it reminded me of PCT [Pacific Crest Trail] desert camp mornings. I immediately got dressed into cozy camp clothes and hiked up some perfectly sculpted ridgelines. After, we went back and ate some breakfast before packing it all up and heading to the beach. —Cotezi

Hanging out with friends in the dunes 

Journal Entry: July 5

Today we drove to Valparaíso, a port town I remember vaguely from when I was a child, and we had a delicious dinner. The beef cazuela I had at the “cueca” restaurant was EVERYTHING. I needed it to heal my body and my soul. —Cotezi

Exploring the streets of “Valpo”

Dancing the cueca with friend and Do Good Ambassador, Kyle Stepp

Journal Entry: July 6 

The final day of the Chile trip is here and I'm trying to find the words to describe what it's like returning to my country of birth after 26 years … in a strange way it feels like being reunited with a long-lost biological birth parent that I want to spend more time with. At one point, our guide Erico even referred to me as a "Chilena Gringa," making me accept that I'm definitely not Chilean, but something more in the middle … and that's okay. —Cotezi