Back in 2010 I went on a journey of my life on a student exchange to Santiago de Chile in South America. The country is diverse and the only state that spreads on 3 continents: mainland in South America, Chilean Antarctic Territory and Easter Island in the continent domain of Australia and Oceania.
The country goes from the cold arctic climate on the south, with many islands and ice bergs through the ocean climate in the middle, snowy mountain climate from the Andean cordilleras to the dessert of Atacama in the north.
Santiago de Chile, the capital in which I lived, studied and left my heart is located in the country’s central valley, founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture. The master piece of the architecture is La Catedral placed in the city center square Plaza des Armas.
The river Mapocho (named after the indigenous people of southern Chile has a long history dating back as an archaeological culture to 600–500 BC) flows through the city. Today, many Mapuches are engaged in the so-called Mapuche conflict over land and indigenous rights in both Argentina and in Chile.
In the vicinity is the Cerro San Cristóbal (spanish San Cristóbal Hill) named by the Spanish conquistadors for Christopher Columbo (spannish Cristobal Colon), in recognition of its use as a landmark. Its original indigenous name is Tupahue. From the hill shoots beautiful view on the sity itself. On the top of it is the Statue of the Virgin Mary which can be seen from many places in downtown city.
Another hill that is to be conquered when in Santiago in Cerro Santa Lucia. It is an urban park situated at the Avenue del Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins (a chilean independence leader who, together with José de San Martín, freed Chile from spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. and became the Supreme Director of Chile (19 century). However, the hill St Lucia was firstly used by spanish conquerors as a point of reconnaissance, or a lookout in the years of the Conquista (16 century).
Living in Chile in 2010 was especially good hit because the country was celebrating its bicentenario – 200 years since the independence of the spanish rule. For this occasion, the presidents palace La Moneda was specially coloured and performed a light show of the history of Chile. The palace is remarkable 18 century neoclassical building.
Bicentenario was celebrated for three days. At the campus where I studied, the barbeques and fiestas patrias were organized with la fonda (place to dance) and traditional dance of Chile – la cueca in traditional clothes. So I needed to get myself a traditional dress too! Plus, the earrings! 🙂
The place where I studied was Pontificia Universidad Catolica (PUC) – the most prestigious university in South America and the second recognized educational institution in Latin America (after PUC de Mexico). Even though it is named after the religion spread by the spanish colonists, today has nothing to do with the religious doctrine.
Where I lived was Barrio Brasil in a student house with the spanish speaking habitants of South America and Spain and had a beautiful every morning view from my room on the skyscrapers and Andes. The barrio was full of bars, murals that were expressing the state of south american social-democracy.
Living in Chile was also the time of Chilean mining accident when the minors of the Atacama dessert remained trapped in the 121 years old San Jose gold mine and spent 17 days in 5 km deep whole. All 33 miners were rescued safe with the help of US Governent and NASA shuttle.
And when the time came for Christmas, it was particularly weird celebrate it on 41 Degrees with the Christmas tree in the main square. But we used to cheer ourself in the popular La Piojera – an old and well-known bar, a symbol of the guachaca culture (a type of urban popular culture in Chile assimilated to lower and usualy vulgar class) and the republican spirit, that is, an icon of the chilenidad (the mass culture of Chile). The place is always filled with people and kinda dangerous, as tourists usually take the local drink terremoto (white wine, spirit pisco, pineapple ice cream and sugar) that follows the replica, taking the photo in front of the bar and then get robbed.
My friends and I often went on a weekend break to Valparaíso – a major seaport of Chile and one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports in general. This great pool of history and culture like the poet Pablo Neruda, murals and colourful architecture makes you feel magic and captured in times of burlesque. It is called sometimes Little San Francisco or The Jewel of the Pacific.
Living in such a vivid surroundings made me start to learn playing guitar. Although I did not get far with my lessons, I can still catch the tact from time to time and mesmerize my second home!