Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday, February 10th, Santiago


We arrived in the land of lost luggage today (Santiago), and were shown around the town by Carolina. She's a rising new architect in search of those whose dreams she can help bring to reality. In the meantime, she's taking the next two days helping us better understand Santiago.

Leading us through the history of Santiago in its architecture and neighborhood development, her descriptions of early contributors to the city's culture and landmarks brought the streets to life. As a work in progress, we could see the face of the neighborhoods still changing, redefining yet the character of each area.

In the center of Santiago, as in most cities in Chile, sits a large square named in honor of the armory. Home usually to the Cathedral, main government offices, and public square, it defines the starting points for north, south, east, and western distances.

There, too, we found uniformed guards and armored trucks surrounding the Presidential Palace. And we heard the steady growth of free speech and dissent since the fall of the Pinochet government. Certainly the latest President, Michelle Batchelet, daughter of imprisoned General Alberto Batchelet Martinez, is proof of the effort to right the wrongs of that period. Interrogated, tortured, and exiled to Australia with her mother in 1975, Batchelet struggled to return to Chile and pursue a career of activism which culminated in her election in 2005 to the Presidency.

Near the Palace, we toured an underground cultural center designed to bring free accessible exhibitions of Chilean culture to the residents of Santiago. Utilizing natural light and plenty of glass, its interiors are warm and inviting.

A short bus ride away, we drove to the top of a hill in a large city park. From near the summit, Carolina pointed to a building below the smog-shrouded clouds which was to be the tallest building in South America. Construction was halted last week as the impact of the financial crisis in the Northern Hemisphere arrived. The residents are hoping it doesn't end up as an economic gravestone.

For a look at the photos taken today, click on: Santiago

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