Jan 15

Santiago de Chile

by in Chile

Santiago

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From Easter Island to Chile and the capital Santiago. Founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia, a former Spanish army fighter who eventually was part of the conquering team of Collao and Las Charcas in High Peru. For his service he was given a silver mine and although was married, he decided to ask to take an expedition to unexplored territories that we now know as Chile. He went with his mistress Inés Suárez, and left his wife at home. Well, that’s the story anyway. A small party left Cuzco in 1540 They carried with them  of seeds for planting, a drove of swine and brood mares, and almost a thousand native Indians but were composed of only a few Spaniards. Only one woman was among the travelers, Inés de Suárez. It wasn’t until February 12th 1541 that Santiago was established.

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Over 5 million people live in the capital, and 17 million in Chile. The city is a surprising mix of South American versus European vibe. Similar to some Spanisg cities like Barcelona and Madrid, but with a Chile spin on everything.  They say the best way to enjoy the city is to walk the streets, so on our first day we did just that. There are small neighborhoods that have tiny cafés and tables and chairs on the busy street. We stopped and enjoyed a simple breakfast and watched as the people of the city ambled into work around 9.15 am. This could be a contender for a great place to live!  After people watching we headed to do a few things like visit the Cathedral. Built between 1748 and 1800 it has had to have various repairs due to the earthquakes, which in recent years have been almost annual somewhere in Chile. The last in October 2013 measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale.  The cathedral was busy with morning worshipers. And for the first time I saw a confessional box in action in the main part of the cathedral with a line of people outside. There was a red light hanging from the roof of the box indicating the priest was busy. I’m not sure I would appreciate confessing while tourists walk past, but these people didn’t seem to mind. Bizarre.

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Plaza de Armes with the cathedral in the background

The cathedral is right opposite Plaza de Armas so called as that is where Pedro and his gang kept their weapons  and people would come to the center to get their arms to fight. It is the center of the city which is set out as a grid around it, making it fairly easy to navigate the streets. Unfortunately work is being done so the Plaza was closed! but you can imagine it filled with all kinds of people, a bit like any central space in any large city.

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Inside the cathedral

We had a couple of hours at the very interesting Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, home to pre Colombian artwork and artifacts from Central and South  America. There is pottery, jewelry, textiles, masks, mummified remains – you name it – it’s  all here. And it was fascinating to see how advanced these people were in things like metal work with their abundance of copper (even now one of the biggest export items) and the woven pieces that had pretty intricate designs and were hundreds of users old.  It was a good size, not too overwhelming and has recently been renovated so the displays were beautifully presented.

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Walking from there to the Mercado was lovely. You should have seen Darin’s eyes light up when he read there was a Mercado, so we deliberately waited to have lunch there. The mercado is really a fish market, the other food and veg are in a separate place, so we sat amongst the tourists and locals and had a beautiful seafood lunch.

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And toasted Jeff of course ! After the fish market it had to be the fresh fruit and veg market where we wandered around looking at all the produce and trying not to get in a fight with the mean tomato lady who tried to sell us some duff tomatoes. Oh no,  I spotted the dodgy ones as we walked away so took it back and exchanged it, causing her to cuss me out in Spanish. ‘No insultarme’ lady !

After the market I managed to persuade Darin to come with me to buy some wool. We had passed a street where there were multiple shops selling all kinds of wool so armed with my pattern we set off. Unfortunately no one spoke any English so after visiting three stores we had to head back to the apartment to look up some Spanish words- Aran wool double knitting, a circular needle size 6,5mm and 40cm long, you know all those words you learned in Spanish class!  We did get what we needed but then when we got back to the apartment I was looking at the amount I had and thought there was no way it would be enough. It should have been based on the weight but then when I measured one ball using a piece of paper I worked out I was 10 balls short! How the heck did that happen? So off I went back to the shop where luckily the original lady had left for the day or else she was hiding under the counter so she didn’t have to help me again! Success, hopefully I have enough and if you are ever in Chile and need help at the wool shop then let me know!

We walked back to the apartment where were were staying and had a lovely evening just chillaxing and eating good food. Couple with a bottle of red for $7 – life is good!

The next day we went on a walking tour of the city. Past some of the places we had already seen, but also we saw the municipality buildings, the old parliament and also the Salvadore Allende statue.

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He was in policies for 40 years before being the first elected Socialist leader. He had many projects going while he was President: nationalisation of industries, building hospitals and schools, raised the minimum wage, reduced inflation, but fell out with the government and was overthrown my the military in a coup d’état. It is rumored he killed himself that day.

Augusto Pincohet took over in a brutal military enforced regime, where any supporters of Allende were tortured, incarcerated and sometimes killed. It was a dark time for the country, it is estimated 30,000 people were tortured, 80,000 interned and upto 4,000 killed. After retiring in 1998 he became a  Senator for life. Arrested later that year in London he was charged with crimes against humanity, but died before the trail began in 2006. At the time of his death there were 300 charges against him, yet some still refuse to a cote the atrocities did happen. What is it about the world and dictators?  We saw so many similar things in Cambodia, Rwanda, Germany.

It’s heartbreaking that this was only 40 years ago. During MY lifetime. It makes me ashamed to think it still happens.

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The photo of the day – I think it was misspelt should have been Lady Dye salon

 

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