The International Writers Magazine: Letter From Chile
Dermot Sullivan in Santiago
home Easter is my favourite time of year. I love how everything
kicks into life again after the winter. I saw pictures today of
Easter in the northern hemisphere and I found myself pining for
the colours of the English spring. There are no yellows or young
greens here in Santiago. I have always associated Easter with rejuvination.
Here one feels the temperature beginning to drop, but not so much
that I'd actually wear a jacket or anything like that. Autumn in
Chile is very mild.
quest for Guinness has failed. This is a terrible shame but as I teach
the man responsible for withdrawing the drink from Chile I can make
my feelings made clear. Apparently the drink was too bitter for the
bloody lightweight Chileans. Instead they like weak beers like Budweiser
and all that fizzy rubbish. They do drink Heineken but it doesn't taste
the way it tastes at home ... to be frank, it tastes watered down.
There are pubs that sell stout. The worst offender was in an 'English
pub' called the 'Red Telephone Box Pub'. They called it stout - I called
it 'aftertaste'. I never knew that stout could be so acidicly bitter.
It was so utterly revolting I remonstrated with nearest waiter (how
could be an English pub if there are waiters and waitresses?) but he
turned out to be muchos gay and thought I was chatting him up. He is
utterly shameless, this fellow. I was back in the pub a few days ago
with a Chilena (for a coke) and when she was in the toilet this fellow
was back trying it on again. It's handy to know in case my career as
a heterosexual fails. One should always have options in life to fall
There is a beer I will drink though. It is called 'Kunstman Bock' and
it is a dark larger. It is very yummy. It is brewed by German speaking
artisans in the south of Chile. There are a lot of German speakers here
in this country. Apparently you can visit the brewery in Valdivia where
it is made ... I plan to go there later in the year. God bless the Germans
and their love for decent beer. Apparently the Chilean German accent
is weird though ... one Chilean German I know (Helga) has referred to
people in a certain region sounding like 'Indians Of The Forest'. My
German is not good enough to pick up on accents though ... it's not
good enough to pick up much. I did catch 'flu off a German once. The
I do also teach in Chile ... my students are the top managers in South
America's premiere companies. As the are so busy they often have to
cancel at the last moment - and I still get paid! Hooray! Two weeks
ago Bolivia played Chile to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. My student
dragged a television into his office and we watched the match! Chile
beat Bolivia 2-0 in La Paz. My student jumped up and down shouting 'goal'
but it sounded more like 'ghoul' ... Chilean sports commentators celebrate
differently to e.g. Brazillians: Brazillians go for the crazy 'gooooooooooal'
and screaming whilst Chilean commentators make the 'ghoul' sound like
short sharp ejaculations. It is an odd sound.
Relations with Chile and Bolivia are very tense. The latter country
wants access to the sea. The Bolivian government, in a way to divert
attention from the fact that they are kleptomaniacs, has blamed the
reason that they don't have a coastline as the reason for the country's
poverty. President Chavez of Venezuela even sent a boat to Bolivia so
they can start a navy! The reason that Bolivia is poor is the same reason
that Peru, Argentina and all the other South American countries are
a mess: their governments are thieves. Bolivia recently held 'Ocean
Day' which was a day of national mourning ... what rubbish. Peru is
even worse. President Toledo has had to dispand their secret service
as they were completely criminal. Many Peruvians work here in Chile
in the most awful conditions for very little pay. The television showed
a house which was designed for ten people but housed forty Peruvians.
It had caught fire and ten of them were burnt alive.
It was a desperate situation. The news reporters asked these poor souls
why they lived in Chile in such a way, to which they replied 'It's better
than Peru'. The Mayor of Santiago, Joaquin Lavín, put the remaning
thirty Peruvians up in an hotel until they could get themselves sorted.
He will run for President next year. He ran before and narrowly lost.
He told Bolivia in very undiplomatic language where it could stick its
claim for land ... which was amusing as Bolivia was massing troops along
its border with Chile. That football match did not help the situation!
Life for ordinary Chileans is very hard. My driver took a different
route back from work the other day and we went through the backstreets
of Santiago. People here just scrape by in the most cramped conditions.
They shop at illegal marketplaces and are basically disenfranchised
(you need to make 500,000 pesos a month here to open a bank account:
I don't make that amount of money!). One can by cheaper meat at a place
called 'The Matadero', which was Santiago's original main slaughterhouse
but is now just full of butcher's shops. It is really disgusting. If
EU health and safety inspectors ever saw it they would burn it down
there and then. Personally, I don't care for seeing stray dogs and cats
run all over raw meat that is about to be sold. Revolting. I will never
visit that place again. What is funny is that the butchers there complain
about people taking their custom to European-style supermarkets! Of
course nobody wants to shop in a slum! Sadly though many people have
Here in Chile they will tell you with pride that they have the strongest
economy in South America. Well, that's just an excuse. It justifies
two things: firstly that Chile isn't as exciting as other Latin countries.
The second is to excuse all the thousands of people Pinochet had murdered
... Chile does have the strongest economy in South America but it seems
to profit only a few ... I think that rant can wait for another day.
© Dermot Sullivan April 2004
El Gringo in Chile
Places to Go in Santiago:
Bellas Artes National Museum: This is the most famous art museum
in the city and it offers both international and Chilean art in many
Santa Lucia Hill: Which is a tree-covered hill near the center
of the City. This is where, in 1541, Pedro de Valdivia founded the city
of Santiago. The area was turned into a public park in 1872 that has
numerous paths that wander up the hill. A stone tower at the top offers
and excellent view of Santiago. Cousiņo Palace: Was constructed
in 1870. This was the private home of the Cousiņo family whose name
you will find on many fine wines in Chile.
The Central Market: Actually consists of many markets, including
a fish market, meat market, vegetable market, flower market and hundreds
of individual booths where any number of things can be purchased. There
is also an entire section devoted to many small restaurants where you
can find some of the best seafood at prices unavailable elsewhere in
O'Higgins Park:Located in the district of Santiago. Amongst its
attractions is "El Pueblito", which resembles a typical Chilean country
The Metropolitan Cathedral: Located in the main square, stands
on the same place where the first church in Santiago was once built;
sorrounded by three important buildings: the Post Office, the National
Museum of History and the Townhall of Santiago.
Parque Forestal: Designed by a French landscaper on the model of Parisian
parks. Walkers pass down tree-lined paths along the Mapocho river, past
small squares and the Bellas Artes Museum.
Bellavista and Suecia neighborhoods: Are the home to many restaurants,
pubs, discotheques and cafes.
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