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Santiago de Chile...a thriving, modern city, in the Land at the End of the Earth

In my posting about Mendoza, I marvelled about seeing the Andes in the distance while approaching the city, but I later realized I had only seen the foothills and what is known as pre-cordillera (cordillera being the word for mountain range). On Thursday, crossing the famous Paso de los Libertadores in a double decker bus, I saw the real mountains, the alta montañas. I can´t describe them for you, unfortunately. You just have to see them for yourselves, but now I can completely understand the famous quote by Sir Edmund Hillary about why he needed to climb mount Everest..."Because it´s there." There is something about these mountains.

I´m now in Santiago de Chile, which is at the base of the western side of the Andes. The entire city sits within full view of the glorious mountains. It is amazing to come out of a shop or a restaurant and look up and see those snow-capped peaks towering off in the distance. It still makes me exclaim a new four-letter word every time it happens.

Without going into too much boring detail, I´ll just tell you Santiago has a great vibe. I´ve only seen three South American cities so far, but I would bet Santiago is the most organized, modern, and safe metropolis on the continent. Whereas Buenos Aires has kind of a crazy, confused vibe, Santiago seems to be a bit more relaxed. The locals here don´t seem to be in quite as much of a hurry as in Buenos Aires. The streets are a bit wider, and there seem to be more, and cleaner city parks. And from a cursory glance there doesn´t seem to be as much poverty, but Chile does have South America´s most developed economy. Furthermore, it should be noted Santiago is about half the size of Buenos Aires in terms of population.

There is also much less of that Italian and general European influence here, but that has a logical explanation, too. It seems that in nations such as Uruguay and Argentina, the European influence reigns because the indigenous indians were mostly wiped out. In Chile, however, there was more cross-breeding between the Europeans and the Indians, and there is still a strong indigenous population. The word Chile, in fact, means "land at the end of the earth" in the language of the Mapuche indians. Well, that´s one theory about it, but given Chile´s location on the globe, it´s not that far of a stretch.

The city, however, feels pretty far from the edge of the earth. Yesterday, in fact, it felt more like Westchester County, north of New York city. I went to a mall to buy some supplies, and I saw a TGI Friday´s, a Tony Roma´s, a Starbucks, and the list goes on, and on, and on. People were dressed like your average upper middle class Americans out for an afternoon of shopping. It was strange, and comforting at the same time. Granted, malls are not known as archetypes of local color...

For the local color one needs to wait until the sun goes down...and then wait about another five hours, and then go out. If Buenos Aires is a late-night city, Santiago is the late-night city. My guess is that's because it is safe and relatively easy to get around, and the people here just love to party. But they say you can´t get to know this city by day, and I´ve seen no evidence to the contrary.

I´ve been to two concerts in two days with people from my hostel; a famous band called Chico Trujillo, and the other one I can´t remember. The one last night was probably the best concert I´ve ever been too. The music had a Latin kind of beat, crossed with Ska and Reggae. The band played for nearly four hours in a small concert hall that was packed to the gills, with the strobe lights cutting through the haze of weed and cigarette smoke, and at least 3,000 sweaty, crazed fans jumping and screaming, sitting on each other´s shoulders, dancing...a truly Latin American scene. The people here, in this city, on this continent, seem to really know how to let loose. Believe me, we are amatuer partiers in U.S....

That´s all for now. I´m headed to the Hipodromo de Chile to watch the horse races...


G F street said…
Then the stories i have heard of Chile are true then...the crazy revalry and late night strobe places seem to be what happens. There is something missing though from all your tales of watching malnourished dogs and discoteque weed smoking. I think you know what it begins with a B, and ends...hmmm i dont know, maybe in a DDDDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAP!! This aint rocket science bro.
Anonymous said…
well well well. if it aint my two protege's discussing travels and life. one visiting the four corners of the earth while the other is commentating from a desk which is riddled with spewge from a real estate's underside. once 'bdeep' is written on the internet, my phone beeps signalling who when and where. if my geography serves me correctly, argentina is coastal land to the origin of BDeepin'. yes, true....the Falkand Islands. Never do you hear of it because everyone there is riddled with sex and there is no such thing as crime war and hate. may your travels educate, enlighten and enthuse you to travel more. the world is huge. cover the map and enjoy the world

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