Thursday, January 28, 2010

Santiago








My 20-year old daughter Sophie and I arrived safely in Santiago on Sunday 1-24-10. After a half-day of acclimation we set out to explore the City. Our overall initial impression was that of a modern city with safe streets and all the conveniences that we are accustomed to at home.

The first full day venture was to El Centro where there are many commercial and government buildings, including the Presidential Palace (La Moneda), which is fronted by a large plaza. Just being on the grounds made me think deeply about the US-backed military coup that occurred September 11, 1973. The democratically elected Salvador Allende was ousted from office and the country would suffer through close to twenty years of dictator rule under the barbaric regime of Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet established a military dictatorship marked by severe human rights violations (more than 13,000 Chileans disappeared) that ruled Chile until 1990. Chile has it’s own 9/11 that is forever embedded in the history of the country. This is such a classic example of the long-reaching arms of American imperialism…all for the sake of US coporate interests??? Sounds like the recent US Supreme Court decision.

Our second day we rode the subway to the Barrio Bellavista district where there are many nightclubs surrounded by public art (aka graffiti), the cable car to San Cristobal and La Chascona–Pablo Neruda’s Santiago home. We enjoyed the colonial architecture of the area and the sidewalk cafes but I especially liked seeing La Chascona, which is named after Matilde Urrutia, one of Neruda’s many lovers. La Chascona is an indigenous word that means woman with the wild hair.

Neruda loved ships (even though he disliked sailing) and had the home built with many artifacts and features found on sailing vessels. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside since the home was filled with numerous paintings and images from famous artists/painters the world over.
Neruda was an amazing guy who was befriended by the likes of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahloa, Marcel Marseau and Pablo Picasso…just to name a few.

Neruda was hospitalized with cancer at the time of the Chilean coup d'├ętat. Three days after that historical tragedy he died of heart failure. Already a legend in life, Neruda's death reverberated around the world. Pinochet had denied permission to transform Neruda's funeral into a public event. However, thousands of grieving Chileans disobeyed the curfew and crowded the streets. Neruda's funeral became the first public protest against the new Chilean military dictatorship.

Our ride in the cable car to the top of San Cristobal Mountain was a thrill. The weight of the car going down the hill pulls the car that is coming up the hill. We were able to view the entire city from above and clearly see how it sits in a bowl surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Unfortunately, the geography contributes to a high level of smog pollution because there are minimal wind currents to blow the smog over the mountains and away from the City. This is evident in the pictures we took from the mountaintop.


We are now on our way to Quito, Ecuador, where we will spend a few days exploring the city and outlying areas. Our main purpose in going to Quito is so that we can visit the Napo River Wildlife Center (www.napowildlifecenter.com) in the Oriente region. Next week we will travel four hours by canoe down the Napo River to the Center where we will stay for six days. What an adventure!!!
Ciao for now…

Saturday, January 9, 2010


This is the new blog space that I recently created to chronicle my travels throughout the western side of the South American continent. The thought of many adventures ahead is exciting!