Thursday, December 15, 2011

Santiago, Chile

   On  December 13 we flew from Mendoza to Santiago, a short 75 minutes in the air.  You may recall we planned to take the bus all the way across Argentina and then through the Andes mountains to Valparaiso, Chile on the Pacific Ocean.  We did bus half way across the Pampas, but by the time we hit Cordoba, we were exhausted and it was very hot and so we stayed there for five days.  We chose to reboot and are glad we did.  We spent the last two days in Santiago and had some great experiences.
   The Museum of History of the Nation is in the Plaza de Armas, right across from the Cathedral. Both places are beautiful and worth a visit.  The history museum begins with the pre Colubian period and goes up through the colonial period, the expulsion of the Jesuits by Carlos (he was worried they had become too rich and powerful and could subvert his empire) and the development post the 1810 revolution, ending in 1973.  Why end in 1973 when Chile has had such remarkable economic growth and success in the last 38 years?
   In 1973 Salvador Allende, the Marxist president, was overthown by a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet.  About half of the people loved Allende and the other half preferred the military.  During the military period there were abuses of human rights and the nation was very much divided.  The curator told us that the history is too painful and recent to be treated adequately in the museum so they have decided to wait until some future date to tell the tale.  Meawhile the museum is full of furniture, painting, cannons, guns, uniforms, displays, maps and utensils from a rich history.  It is a very nice museum to visit.  But when you arrive at the final room and it ends with the shattered eye glasses of President Allende, for he committed suicide in the Presidential palace as the soldiers were coming to arrest him in 1973, it does give you an impression that the museum has already decided whose side they are planning to take when they bring the story up to date.
   Next we walked several miles to the Museum of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning poet.  He was a good friend of President Allende, who appointed him Ambassador to France.  He also was friends with Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist, and all the left winged artists and intellectual crowd of the 1950s through the 1970s.  His home is fascinating, built of three structures on the hillside of the Cerro San Cristobal in the Bellavista neighborhood.  He was a collector of things and has great paintings, glasses, furniture and objects throughout the three houses.  The tourguide was excellent, and we had an English woman, a couple fro Brazil and the two of us on the tour.  We see very few Americans here, but quite a few Chinese and Japanese businessmen hard at work doing deals to obtain copper, and other industrial materials. 
   The view from our hotel, the excellent Four Points by Sheraton, is amazing. They are building a skyscraper that is 300 meters tall, nearly 1000 feet.  It is the Costanero Center.  Construction began in March 2006 and they are getting close to the top now.  With all the earthquakes in this country, their engineers have plenty of experience and are building dozens of new tall and magnificent buildings.  This is a national capital of a great nation with a fantastic future ahead of it.  It should name the "crane" as its official symbol as the sky is full of huge yellow cranes building for the future.

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