2 weekends ago, my girlfriend Rhiannon and I went on a trip to Santiago, Chile for the weekend. I thought I would upload a post about Santiago as a city itself and our experiences there.
Santiago is the capital of Chile as well as the country's largest city area and population wise. Located an hour and a half from the Viña del Mar, it is easy and cheap to travel to. It is also seated at the foothills of the Andes Mountain Range thus serves as a popular housing destination for travelers of winter sports. It has a bustling nightlife and the culture/history of the city is worth the trip. However, it does have some negatives that us as gringos have noted. The pollution in the city is awful. The smog above the city makes it difficult to even see the Andes from not very far away. One can tell when in the city that it is not a very friendly place for your lungs. At the same time, the heat of the city, it was bordering 85 degrees in mid-Spring is excruciating. The air pollution does not help this factor. Also, the noise levels are crazy loud. This was a problem for my girlfriend and I even though we stayed outside the center of town. Also, the city has a large issue with unemployment (beggars on the street) and robbery. A girl in our group was assaulted and then robbed in the middle of the afternoon earlier this year in Santiago. Although the numerous negatives of Santiago, like I said, the culture, history and architecture of the city are incredible. It is a fun place to be (if you bring ear plugs and an inhaler).
I am now going to upload some pictures of our trip to Santiago and discuss a little of the setting of each picture.
The picture above is my girlfriend Rhiannon and I standing in front of La Moneda, the presidential palace of Chile. This building has had quite the impact in Chilean history, being the location of the military coup d'etat in 1973 and death of Salvador Allende. For those interested in history, I highly recommend to check it out. For a summary of its history, check out its Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Moneda_Palace
The picture above is of the University of Chile on the most populous road in Santiago. This is the location of most of the student protests that have been taking place here in Chile for the past 9 months. Most schools (I believe this one as well) are on strike and do not have classes in session now. The school's philosophy and law department are heading the protests, thus the headquarters for the student side (the other side being the government) is headed at this location. One can notice the banner, graffiti and general dirtiness of the building. Rhiannon and I ate right across the street and discussed the movement.
The picture above is the Museo de Derechos Humanos (Museum of Human Rights) located in Santiago. The museum was opened up about a year or two ago, thus the architecture and interior is very modern. The exhibits concern the fascist military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet from 1973-1989. It was quite moving and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only issue was the fact that there wasn't enough time to get through the whole venue!
The picture above is of the Santiago skyline with the Andes in the background. I took this photo from the top of Santa Lucía Hill, a hill in Santiago that a fort was built on in the 1800s. Notice the smog above the city that obstructs the vision of the Andes. Also note the modern architecture, which depicts the opening-up of the South American economies and exposure to democracy and capitalism.
This last picture is of one of the largest cathedrals in South America. It is located in the Plaza de Las Armas in central Santiago. It was a cool place to see because of how large it was, extending an entire block! (That is almost a quarter-mile). It was built in the 1700's. The Catholic Church has had a very large impact on the Chilean culture with almost 75% of the population identifying themselves as Roman Catholic.