Sunday in Santiago

We made it to Santiago after much delay, ahem, American Airline sucks, ahem. We enjoyed a good night’s rest and played tourist all Sunday. 
First stop, Catedral Metropolitana in Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral in the main square in Santiago.  As we ascend the steps out of the metro, we see the Carabinero de Chile, the Chilean gendarmie (uniformed national police force), dressed in their olive green uniforms and funny looking hats.  Although it’s the middle of winter, there are people sitting on benches in the main square, lolling about.  Regal equestrian police stand, as if posing for a painting.  It’s charming. 
Catedral Metropolitana en la Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile
We make our way to the entrance of the cathedral, weaving through children, stray dogs, families, ladies selling rosaries and through the 10+ foot wooden front doors.  As in any Catholic church, the entryway is flanked with Holy Water fonts.  Old ladies, purses clenched under their arms are elbowing their way to dip their fingers in the Holy Water and cross themselves; this is done with purpose, they are on a mission.  It’s beautiful.  The cathedral is dimly lit which adds to its enchantment, the hymns are in Spanish (well, the whole mass is in Spanish, we’re in Chile) and it’s just lovely.  On our way out, I piss off a rosary vendor.  I had intended to buy a rosary (or three) from her but when she told me the (clearly plastic) rosary was real pearl and I questioned her, she got upset.  Sorry.
Virgen con niño
artist: anonymous
medium: chalk on sidewalk 
Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile
We walked across the Plaza to the Museo Historico Nacional (National History Museum).  Turns out Sunday is free day, even better!  The museum is small and we go from room to room, admiring the paintings and trinkets salvaged from days of old.  A young girl hears my companion speaking English and asks her where she is from.  Sheresponds, “California.”  The girl says, “wow, that’s so cool!”  In a different exhibit, I hear the girl telling her brother, in Spanish this time, “..and I asked her where she was from and she said California!” I couldn’t help but smile and my eavesdropping was discovered.  She was a typical teenager, she wore skin-tight jeans and athough it is the middle of winter an inch her midriff is showing.  Her eyelashes are mascara’d like perfect little spider legs and she has the ambitious aire of youth.  She points at me,  “are you from California, too?”  “Yes,” I respond and we have a nice conversation, she speaks lovely English and I encourage her to study abroad in California. Turns out her dream is to be an English teacher.
Courtyard of the Museo Historico Nacional – Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile
We take Catedral St. all the way down, walking a little under 3 km to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of  Memory and Human Rights).  On our way, we walk through a run-down part of town – graffiti all over the walls and garbage littering the streets.  We pass Chinese restaurants and “urban gardens;” the smell of pollo asado drifting from kitchen windows.  Oh metropolitana.  The museum is sad and serves as a memorial to those who suffered during the military dictatorship of Pinochet from 1973-1990.  There is a great emphasis on human rights, in fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is written on the entry way to the museum.  In addition to what the Museum symbolizes, the architecture is super modern and striking.  (Side note, I had dinner with one of the architects of the museum.  She was on our flight from Dallas to Santiago; she had been standing in line behind us waiting to receive hotel accomodations from American Airlines when our flight was 12 hours delayed.  She and another Chilean woman did not speak English and asked that I translate what the gate agent was saying.  We ended up taking a shuttle to the hotel together, having dinner and sharing a cab to the airport the following morning.  She recommended we visit the museum.)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the facade of the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos
Across the street is a park, but I am stopped by the smell of peanuts boiling in sugar.  I buy a packet of warm, sugar-coated mani (peanuts) and trot along, happily on my way.  In the park, there are children riding bikes, a llama dressed in hat and poncho, people selling candied apples, pickles and olives in plastic bags, popcorn, lollipops.  There are children feeding the ducks and fathers playing soccer with their kids.  A row of vendors has set up shop selling natural products: essential oils, knitted beanies, mate gourds and straws, loose tobacco.  I buy some chocolate truffles: mint, orange, coffee and an alfajore (a sweet typical of Latin America, it’s 2 cookies filled with dulce de leche (liquidy caramel) and dipped in choclate; alfajores come from Spain where they came from the Arab world but that is a story all on its own, to be left for another blog post), I tuck them in my bag for after dinner. 
The entry to the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Chilean Natural History Museum) is from the park.  We enter and are pleased to discover that Sunday is free entry day here, too!  It’s a small museum, with great exhibits of all the different terrains in Chile, from the high plains in the north, to the Austral zone, down to the Antarctic.  There are all sorts of cool embalmed animals on display and very informative exhibits. 
caramelied peanuts!

My friend making sugar-coated mani; the smell is exquisite!

At this point, it’s getting cold and we’ve been out touristing for hours. We find our way to the metro station, and back to our hotel. The metro in Santiago is quite easily navigable, and clean!

Iris…in the middle of winter…made me think of Yelena 🙂

By the time we get back to the hotel, my feet are happily swollen from walking all day; we turn in early for the night – we have a long work week ahead of us. 

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