#potd – Birds on the Beach in La Serena (at the Mouth of the River Elqui)

If you walk down Avenida De Aguirre some 2km to the coast from the city of La Serena (central Chile), and head north along the beach for another 25 minutes, you’ll be in for a real bird-life surprise. At the mouth of the River Elqui and on the surrounding beach you’ll find flocks of birds of numerous different types, to the extent that it’s an almost eery place to be – alone amongst so many birds.

looking south

On the occassions we went it was just us, the odd lone fisherman a little upriver, a rather windswept lone nudist, too much polluting rubbish, and a hell of a lot of birds. Initially timid, they soon ignored us (the birds that is) and regrouped all around, waiting we presume for the sea tide to bring them some fish for lunch. It was fascinating to sit quietly and just watch their movements & behaviours (note – we know sod all about birds!). Continue reading

Street Art in #Chile no.2 – La Serena’s murals and politics

A friendly middle-aged Chilean told us in #LaSerena (Chile – central coastal area), that when the US & UK backed military coup in Chile occurred on 11th September 1973, afterwards the dictatorship of General Pinochet “turned off the art”. All art & political slogans were cleared from walls across the country (and ‘art’ generally was repressed), and so it stayed for many years. Since the end of the dictatorship in 1990, from what we can see Chileans have been making up for lost time! Street art & painting remains technically illegal unless you have the permission of the ‘wall owner’, but given the number of individuals & small groups we’ve seen busy in the streets then it’s a law that’s about as ineffective as, say, the law banning cannabis in the UK. (See pics gallery below).
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#potd: Welcome to the Mall…in north America?

Noticed how shopping Malls pretty much all look the same? This one could be any drive by and in Mall in north America, but in fact it’s in #Chile, south America, in the city of La Serena in the central coastal area. And yes it’s just another shopping mall, same old same old. Full of chain shops, cafes & restaraunts, banks and the like, many with the same names as in north America, or of companies that are mere subsiduaries of northern corporations. This one had a BUPA (private healthcare) health centre next to it!

This one is called ‘Mall Plaza La Serena’, it’s pretty new, it overlooks the main road, the Pan American Highway, that runs north/south along Chile’s coast. Once upon a time a local told us, there used to be a wood of trees here that local kids & youth played in, now it’s just manicured palm trees & green grass, and lots of parking space. It could so easily be north America, although perhaps the ever-present Tsunami Warning signs are a slight giveaway here!

We’ve noticed the growth of Malls elsewhere in Peru & Bolivia. Cusco now has one, Lima has plenty, La Paz has one in Zona Sur, and so on. La Serena has two in fact, an older one 15 minutes walk away on the other side of the Pan American, called ‘Centro Commercial Puerta del Mar’, although the coast is 2km away. The slow growth of Americanised consumerism in south America is slowly impacting on community & social life – Malls gather together shops & services like banks & healthcare and social venues like cinemas & cafes – and these draw people away from their neighbourhoods. Those neighbourhoods then suffer from lack of custom, older community shops & social spaces begin to struggle and close down, and before you know it the community is struggling to survive. It’s a part of what we know as gentrification, and the social costs can be huge as wealth inequality is amplified and corporate profits go up! Beware south America you don’t end up like the north…..

#potd: The Peppercorn Trees of Chile

Since arriving in Chile we’ve been very much taken with the Peppercorn trees of #Chile – we saw them in the Plaza Mayor of San Pedro de Atacama, throughout the beautiful & fertile Elqui Valley and in La Serena. With their slightly bent lower branches providing welcome shade they remind us a little of the weeping willow back home in the UK near to rivers. But what really struck us was their attractive pink’ish flowers, looking rather like grapes, that to our surprise contained a small hard fruit….that smelt of pepper! Er…we thought our traditional ‘black pepper’ grew on vines, as indeed it does! Continue reading

#potd: Stations of the Gross – a Concrete Monstrosity

During Semana Santa (Easter Week) here in #Chile, south America, we’ve largely escaped the worst excesses of the catholic church’s hysteria, but we couldn’t escape this concrete monstrosity towering over #Coquimbo & the surrounding areas in central Chile.

Named the ‘Cross of the 3rd Millenium’, built for the 2000th anniversary of the birth of that mythical figure JC (no not Corbyn!), the colourless ugly grey concrete monstrosity stands an absurd 90m tall, and has been plonked on the highest point of the Coquimbo headland (where the old port town is located). Given the tendency for earthquakes in these parts it may not have been the most sensible place to put it, but the lives of the locals are no doubt of little concern to those who put it up.

station of the crass

Surrounded by a number of huge bells, and by depictions of the 12 so-called ‘Stations of the Cross’, this abomination stands perhaps as a testament to the Catholic church’s history of inquisition and complicity in the genocide of the indigenous peoples on south America. In Chile this includes the Mapuche people amongst others, who’ve been oppressed & hunted down for over 500 years – see news & solidarity (english) and more info (english & spanish). Continue reading

#potd: A Chile beach welcome – a Tsunami Warning!

After arriving on the Pacific coast of Chile near the city of La Serena, naturally one of the first things to do is go see the sea. After 4 months in the Andes we were looking forwards to the coast again. So it’s a bit of a shock jumping off the bus in the port of Coquimbo (in the huge bay of same name), to see immediately this warning – Tsunami Hazard Zone.

Coquimbo bay, with La Serena in distance

In fact such signs, and others relating to earthquakes, are all over Chile, and particularly near the coast for the simple reason that Chile experiences a lot of both earthquakes & tsunamis. Indeed on 16 September 2015 following an 8.3 earthquake at sea south west of Coquimbo city, a few minutes later around 8pm a huge Tsunami wave hit the Coquimbo port area, going some 4-5m over the sea wall, and causing huge damage. Other coastal towns/ports such as Valparaiso, Tongoy & Concon also experienced damage & flooding, leaving some 13 dead & 6 missing, and many thousands in damaged homes. (See info, science & news on 2015 in spanish, english, and english again). Continue reading