So here we are in our 4th and final week of Santiago, Chile. It’s the first of cloudy days here. It’s Sunday and I’ve puttered around this blog for days without writing a word. Today’s puttering has included sweeping, washing the kitchen floor, dusting, counting my vitamins to see if I have the requisite 36 to finish out our on the road days. I’ve done everything but sit down and write. I am procrastinating.
Background: Evidence of human presence in Chile dates back to 13,000 BC. Spanish conquest was in the 15th century. Chile is no more than a 115 miles wide with a length of 2600 miles. One third of Chile’s 16 + million population lives in Santiago and Chile claims Easter Island and part of the Antarctic as part of its territory. Until arriving here the only Chilean name I was familiar with was the author Isabel Allende. Chile is more than wine and earthquakes and I’ve had a lot of learning to do.
We have been busy with Santiago. I think we’ve hit some pretty extraordinary tours and museums while just living. We were walking to church this morning and I was struck by the ordinariness of walking to the same church, through the same park, in the same neighborhood that we’ve gone the past 3 Sundays. One of the joys of living versus hoteling is just that: ordinariness. I see familiar faces at Mass but there is no connected-ness. At this point in this yearlong adventure, I long for connected-ness.
Some wonderful days here in Santiago. One of our first ventures was to the Pre-Colombian Art museum dedicated to the artistic and archeological aspects of ancient SAmerican cultures. I’ve seen a lot of ancient artifacts but Chinchorro mummies predating the Egyptians by 2000 years? And the Andean textiles were sublime. The museum housed remnants of “mummy bundles.” Bodies were folded over and wrapped in layers of exquisitely embroidered cloth making a bundle. The workmanship of these cloths was unbelievable and surprisingly intact because the bundles were buried beneath sand, which protected the cloth from the elements. Unfortunately no photos allowed of the textiles.
One of our other tours was conducted by Tours for Tips. No set tour cost—the guides are dressed in red and white striped shirts looked rather like Where’s Waldo and work only for a tip. This tour was advertised as a market and cemetery tour. Nobody does cemeteries like the SAmericans. This cemetery had the same over-the-top monuments to the well-heeled as the one in Buenos Aires and a section resembling storage lockers at a bus station for the poorer. We had quite a culture and political history lesson sitting on the steps at the cemetery in Santiago with Waldo/Carlos.
We learned about the concept of animatas in that cemetery. A burial spot is infused with the spirit of the dead; that place becomes a meeting point for the dead and the living to connect. A visit honors the dead and offers the opportunity to ask special favors since the dead have already earned their rightful place near to God; the dead’s ears are closer to God therefore a favor is more likely to be answered. Our guide took us to the site in the cemetery dedicated to children. We were told that frequently on that deceased child’s birthday, his parents would throw a birthday party and invite all the children buried in the same section. There’s a super-natural/mystical spirit here in SAmerica that I’ve not encountered before.
So many questions that I encounter in our ordinary days. Twice now we’ve gone to the local grocery store and found items behind glass doors and locked up. I’ve seen shampoo locked up so you have to get a clerk to unlock Head and Shoulders to check out. And yesterday it was coffee. By the way, why in a country that has extraordinary coffee beans would Nescafe instant be the big seller? And why is Nescafe locked up? And speaking of market items note the coca leaves in the photo stream that I could have but didn’t purchase. And still a lot of art on walls. More about that later…
Photo stream legend: apartment building in Santiago/atop San Christobel/CATHOLIC Chile/Pre-Colombian art/fish market/cemetery x 2/fruit and veggies market/did NOT purchase items in grocery/street art x 2/where’s waldo/street art x 3