21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
New Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
News Analysis
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living

The International Writers Magazine
: Letter From Chile

Dermot Sullivan in Santiago

Back 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.
No 3

My 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 back on.

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 bastard.

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 no choice.

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 different mediums.
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 the city.
O'Higgins Park:Located in the district of Santiago. Amongst its attractions is "El Pueblito", which resembles a typical Chilean country village.
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.
Santiago Diary 1
Santiago Diary 2
Diary No 4

More Travel


© Hackwriters 2000-2004 all rights reserved