Another country, nearly another language!
After our short but intense visit to Uruguay, we took a flight from Montevideo to Santiago de Chile. We wanted to see the city, and also Valparaiso, but since it was not in our cycling route, we would take the chance now that we were touring without bikes.
Also, Susanne would get the chance to visit Marcelo in person. He is a Chilean architect and managed to design the first certified passivhaus building in South America, the office of a local bank in Santiago that Susanne certified.
The flight was unfortunately at night, so we didn’t get to see much of the Andes when crossing above them, although we felt the strong turbulence.
The arrival in Chile was met with long queues, both to check for forbidden goods (Chile’s customs is famous for being extra meticulous when checking for food products not allowed in the country for sanitary reasons), but also because the country has been one of the strictest in COVID requirements in all of South America. We had to show our 3 vaccinations, get a temperature control, and got into a random draw to do a PCR test. Luckily we didn’t get chosen.
Susanne found a good deal on a central luxury hotel so we had some 5 days of buffet breakfast, warm room and spacious beds. The good side is that everything was nearby. The downside was that when it got dark the city center was dead.
Also, since the strong protests in 2019 and 2020, everyone told us the city, and the country, has become unsafer, with a lot of criminality and violence. Shops were closed with huge metal barriers and railings, and police was everywhere. To make matters worse, TV is inundated with sensationalist programs showing murder after murder, affecting the psyche of viewers.
We did not care as we rarely go outside at night anyway, and the tourist spots were heavily policed anyway. Susanne went to see a few projects with Marcelo and his office team, while we got to wander around the central streets, with a few pedestrian areas and a couple big squares.
Chile, like most countries in South America, had its own fair share of dictatorships. At least they have created a Museum of Memory so the atrocities are not forgotten and the blame is clearly assigned, something we have yet to do in Spain, despite presuming to be a modern and established democracy. The longest damage that Pinochet did was to the economy. During his regime, following the steps of Margaret Thatcher in the UK, he privatized most services, and now Chile despite being a modern and rich country still leaves a big portion of their population without the basic services like comprehensive health service or free education.
The capital is full of private universities, and students have to get into debt in order to earn a degree. Many people have to cross the border to Argentina to get surgery because it is not affordable at home. These were some of the reasons for the big protests of 2019.
Now there is a new government, leaded by some former student leaders and with a strong leftist leaning, something new in Chile. Also, after a couple of years of consultation, a new constitution has been drawn that seeks to change the ystem to become a universal provider of services instead of leaving everything to the private sector. Other changes are a bigger recognition to the original peoples of Chile, mainly mapuches and tehuelches, and a bigger redistribution of wealth in the whole country, and not like now where money flows only into the capital. A month after our visit there will be a referendum to see if the new constitution will get approved.
I really liked the capital, even if it was a bit too big for my taste. A huge positive is that the Andes are really there, you can see 4000 mts peaks from your balcony. The downside is that because the city lies in a valley, the pollution stays there and city usually has very bad air quality.
After our visit we will go to Valparaiso, which is just 2 hours away.
Remember you can receive notifications by email every time there is a new post just by subscribing on the box in the sidebar (or below if reading on a portable device). We have also created an Instagram account at @utilitariancycling