A major surprise to be found whilst checking out the entire port/seafront area of #Valparaiso in Chile, is a colony of seals that hang around near to and on an old concrete structure near the port’s passenger terminal (map). This is close to the metro station Baron, at the bottom of Cerro Baron (Baron hill). You can while away a good few hours hanging out on the harbour wall watching the seals jumping out of the sea onto the structure with varying degrees of success, and their cranky grumpy behaviour when a new arrival makes it up onto the platform and waddles his/her way through looking for a spot to lie down. Those seals can be very grumpy & loud, no doubt they have their own ranking system or hierarchy!. Continue reading
Well the MayDay march in Santiago, #Chile, turned out to be much more eventful than any we’ve seen in Bristol or London the last few years! When the friendly guy we were chatting to said to us: “that’s teargas now, you need to run, the police here are very violent”, and everyone else ran, so did we (but thankfully not too far!). Policing of the march here turned out to be somewhat different to back in the UK – less containment, more full on militarised assault, and the marchers answered in kind, or got in first. As ritualised in its way as the UK marches, but much livelier!
We opted to start with the ‘alternative’ MayDay march (see previous article), not the one organised by the disgraced main CUT (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores), and with it we stayed. We arrived near the junction of Alameda & Brazil in the centre just before 10am for what we thought was a 10am start, but as it turned out the march didn’t move off until after 11am. This gave us plenty of time to take in the bewildering array of banners, flags, colours, drumming bands, unions, political groups, campaigns, slogans, flyers…and realise our spanish just wasn’t up to working some things out at all when it came to the acronyms. Continue reading
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.
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
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).
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…..