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  • Writer's picturePaula Cooper

1 November Santiago, Chile: Dramatic Drizzly Damp Dreary

What a joy to have a lie in! After discovering the middle class neighbourhood was safe, I wished I’d run! Oh well.

Opting for modern, having had my fill of Incan/pre-Incan history, I dragged Simon up Santiago’s largest park, San Cristobal hill renamed by the Spanish from Tupahue in Mapuche. (The Mapuche people constitute 10% Chile with half living in Santiago; feisty they withstood the Incas and the Spanish!)

We took the popular teleferico up (built in 1980s, resuming service in 2016, after refurbishment from a gearbox explosion! in 2009) climbing via the crosses path to visit the chapel and on up the steps to the Virgin Mary Sanctuary; great, grey, misty, dramatic panoramic views. Chileans bring wishes or prayers lighting candles asking for things of assistance; despite declaring itself only 42% catholic, with many agnostic or losing faith.

Wandering among the terraces, many wrong turns later we took the charming old funicular (completed in 1925) down the other side.

A very different vibe, evidence of Halloween at last! We found a cafe with excellent coffee and cake (some peach like delicious local fruit). Restored, but running out of time we retraced our steps, up the funicular and down to the first cable car stop. Aiming to walk back, via the Japanese gardens, in time for our city tour; they were closed! As were many sights and museums due to strikes or the holiday we were to discover .Cyclists galore! Plus PanAmerican and ParaPanAmerocan games officials and jackets everywhere. Santiago is currently hosting apparently. It was a nice, if increasingly, chilly walk back with just  enough time to visit the bath room; I am enjoying Chile’s better standard of plumbing!

Choosing modern again, we opted for the human rights museum about General Pinochet seizing power on 11 November 1973; a coup d’etat from president Allende only three years into his unpopular with some, radical reforms loved by the people. Pinochet in 1974 became de facto dictator, his subsequent white book defining Chile’s government (only right now being rewritten and up for vote) with his persecution of leftists, socialists and political dissenters, estimations of 3000+ executed, 10,000+ tortured and 80,000+ detained… the disappeared! (Including our driver) Just like in E Europe escape routes sprung up, (used by our guide’s family), the first by Pablo Naruda the famous poet/politician. Of course the American support was just saving the world from comunism, Cuba and another Castro, nothing to do with Salt Petre or Copper mining assets.

Eventually, despite the 1980 plebiscite giving him “legitimacy” he was voted out by 56% in 1988, however he remained commander in chief of the army til 1998, when he took refuge in UK being arrested, extradited back to Chile in 2000, dieing in 2006 with 300+ outstanding charges against him! “I didn’t kill anyone”, he said.

Very interesting to hear about history in our lifetime even if I was pretty ignorant! Most moving were the school kids drawings from the period. I have to now listen to the 'rest is history' podcast apparently. So updates may appear.

Soberingly, it was damp and drizzly as we emerged. Walking through the main square, plaza de armas, with the various architectural influences (German english French as well as Spanish and Incan!) We saw markets, squares, palaces, and many coloured streets pedestrianised, sensitive they said; penny dropped finally - watch out for pickpockets bag & phone snatchers!!  Did you know the Chilean president lives in his own home, the palace is just looked after by the guards, who perform the changing of the guard to pop music! The parliament is in Valparaiso too; didn’t catch why.

Santiago was well established as the Incas last outpost when the Spanish arrived, Pedro de Valdivia, conquistador being first royal governor of Chile 1540 -?that's why hud statue is in the square! In 1818 Chile gained independence after 3 offences by San Martin, O Higgins & Carrera.

Rain stopped play, so we toured the financial district, various suburbs, mostly by car opting to finish early, light going, damp and cold!

Back at the hotel, complimentary afternoon tea/coffee and biscuits consumed, we went for dinner; a sizzling Chilean steak (or salad) and the Chilean staple brûléed creamed corn; all delicious!

San Cristobal park: teleferico ride and views

San Cristobal park summit summit sanctuary dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, with the Virgin Mary (22m statue)

(Crosses with quotes on way to summit; Virgin Mary statue; Virgin Mary shrine in statue)

Furnicular railway from San Cristobal

(People dressed up for Halloween and 1 Nov which is the private day to pay respect to deceased family laying flowers, but no big day of the dead celebrations as in other parts of S America)

Human rights museum & General Pinochet

(President serving 2 terms, who founded museum later becoming UN high commissioner for human rights; The White Paper on the change of government in Chile published after the 1973 coup d'état, only now changes are being voted on; initial victims during coup - disappeared; Pablo Neruda politician & poet who helped soonish escape from Franco and then just before his death in 1973 people escaping Pinochet; many disappeared photos candles and lists to help people reconnect;democratic vote to get rid of Pinochet, but he stayed as Commander-in-Chief of the Army until 1998; outside museum)

Downtown damp Santiago

(Tallest building sky Costanera; downtown)

(murals; fish market; streets downtown;

metropolitan cathedral plaza de armas; depiction of Santiago 1646 after Spanish arrived plaza de armas; statue of Pedro de Valdivia conquistador (first governor of Chile) with PanAmerican Fanes logo, plaza de armas; pastel de choclo a famous Chilean dish of meats and creamed corn; shopping street; local government building for Santiago parliament meets in Valparaiso; Coloured pedestrian streets in banking district; Stock exchange; Presidential palace (not residence of president he lives in his own house); current post office buliding (monument since 1976) plaza de armas, was site of a palace and Pedro de Valldivias house)

Chilean Steak on "Money changing" street!

(All stores or markets of the same type are grouped together on the same street or area)

We stayed at Le Rêve, Providencia area, Santiago, Chile.

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