Chile – Santiago, Pablo Neruda and Me

According to the latest news from Chile, a massive aftershock was felt in the south of the country earlier today. I can only imagine the stress that they are going through so I decided to post some pictures I took of Santiago, the capital city which has more or less escaped without any damage.

Sadly, six University professors crashed in a small plane yesterday as they went to survey the damage to their University in the South. Sometimes there isn’t much to say when tragedy strikes.

On a cheerier note, I read in Decanter that the wine industry has not suffered an enormous amount of damage. I am sure we will hear more reports as time goes on.

I visited Santiago a few times during my three week trip to Chile last year. I was surprised at the vegetation which is quite tropical and the silence. I found the city to be somewhat quieter than I had expected. I guess I thought it would be very similar to Buenos Aires but it is not. There are parts of the city that are just gorgeous such as Barrio Bellavista with this amazing building.

The area reminded me somewhat of the Palermo district in Buenos Aires with lots of cute shops and bars. Chile is renowned the world over for its copper production as well as for its supply of Lapis Lazuli. You see many products made from these two materials throughout the country.

I spent most of my time in Santiago visiting Pablo Neruda’s home, La Chascona. Neruda, Nobel Prize winner, poet, writer, former diplomat and so much more was and is a national hero in Chile. Ever since a young man gave me a copy of Los Versos del Capitan, I too have been completely encantada… His poems were to his lover, who later became his life long companion, Matilde Urrutia who apparently had a huge head of red hair and whom he called La Chascona.

Neruda had three homes in Chile, this one in Santiago, one in Valparaiso and one in Isla Negra. Isla Negra is without a doubt the most extravagant and is also the location of his tomb with Matilde. An avid collector of everything, especially things related to the sea, Neruda is a fascinating human being and one who has interested me for a long time. If you saw the movie Il Postino with Massimo Troisi and Maria Grazia Cucinotta some years ago, the Philippe Noiret character was based on Pablo Neruda. If you have never read Los Verso del Capitan, get a hold of a copy. I think even the most cynical people will see the simple beauty of these love poems.

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