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Santiago, Chile: A Long Walk Through Culture & History

7:30 I woke up naturally and took advantage of being the first person awake to shower. The free breakfast spread was actually pretty decent: coffee and tea; bowl of fruit: bananas, oranges and kiwis; cereal, whole wheat bread (unheard of), cookies aka biscuits (weird) and OATMEAL!!

My amigos started to roll into the dining area. My buddies from the night before had asked me to join the (free) walking tour of Santiago the night before. Of course I said, “Por supuesto!” since it had already been on my radar. At 9:30ish we made our way to Plaza de Armas together. Pamela, the fearless guia led the way. Per usual, I was the sola Americana in the herd of Canadians and Australians. Our herd joined the other herd just as the tour was beginning.

Franco was our guia por la dia. Guide by day, musician by night. He was attractive in a nerdy way wearing trendy black frame glasses that broke and were repaired with black tape. Franco introduced us to Santiago and Chile through his knowledgable and hilarious takes on both history and current events. We explored the city by foot and explored the following topics:

Perros de la calle

Stray dogs roam the streets everywhere in Santiago. These dogs look different than strays in other cities. These dogs are not scrawny. None have ribs poking out visibly through their fur. None looked mangey. They belong to no one but at the same time, everyone. Chileans love their personal dogs as well as their public dogs according to Franco. Dogs are decked out in sweaters, hats and scarves in the winter. Some even kick it in Converse. What happens when fido gets a new outfit? His old digs get donated his independent counterparts. The people feed the dogs and some have made homes near one of the numerous completo stalls scattered throughout Santiago. The dogs even get bathed by the local policeman.

Dos Hombres Importantes 

In the Plaza de Armas there are 2 statues on opposite corners of the square in tribute to 2 men: the founder of Santiago: Valdiva a Spanish Conquistador and Lautaro a Mapuche warrior. They are both seen as heros. Lautaro took Valdiva down in a battle by skinning him alive and pulling out his beating heart. Then he sucked out the blood and ate his skin, sharing it with his fellow warriors. Atrocious! But I also wonder if they also ate it with fava beans and a nice chianti?


 Thus far, many of the main squares aka Plaza de Armas generally are areas used for protest. Here it is no different. As Franco was sharing with us the symbolic aspects of Lautaro’s statue, symbol for modern protesters, a group of protesters approached and passed through the streets.

This demonstration was supposed to last all day long. The protesters were students who were voicing there unhappiness with the cost of education. University is expensive here as well but the problem is the Universities tell the students which bank they would have to go to for a loan. As we walked around, I saw many bank fronts had wood covering the windows.

Franco told us that he is happy he runs the AM tours since later in the day, protests can get crazy. The police sometimes have to bring out the tear gas and water cannon referred to as guanaco after the camel’s cousin that lives in Southern Chile known for spitting when it gets irritated with a male opponent.

11 de Septiembre 

September 11 is not the most pleasant date in history for people in the USA. This date also is not the most pleasant for the city of Santiago and for Chile. On this day, only 6 months after it’s founding, Santiago was first attacked by the native people to the North. Then, several hundred years later, it was also the date that Pinochet took over power by bombing the Presidential Palace. Thus, forcing the current President Allende to commit suicide and the beginning of a dark era for the people of Chile.

Vino bueno 

As we walked down an alley of shops and restaurants, Franco paused to tell us about Chilean wines. He said we could easily find a good bottle of wine for CH$5000 (~$10) and said not to stress out too much with the selection except making sure to pick up a Reservada. The cutest older Chilean lady stopped alongside us with eyes open wide. She did not understand a lick of English. I could se the wheels turning in her head. Is there a sale? Is the store going out of business? How many bottles should I get? As our group started to move, she remained. In Spanish, I informed her that we learning about Chilean wines and there was no special sale going on. Her face lit up and confusion evaporated upon hearing my news. I probably should have not informed her and just joined her for drinks later..

Cafe con piernas y El minuto feliz 

The Evil Green Mermaid has got nothing on Santiago! Chile is King when it comes to wine but cannot touch Colombia when it comes to coffee. Cafe Caribe came up with a concept to get men into the coffee shops. Coffee with legs. Have women with short skirts serve your brew. This took off and there are to chains that are extremely popular. However, new competition has entered town. Cafe Alibaba and a few others still offer sexy women scantily clad serving up a cuppa happy joe but now there is possibility to get a Happy Minute.The storefronts have tinted windows because at random, if you are inside enjoying a frothy beverage you may be lucky enough to get locked inside while the ladies strip down naked and dance for an entire minute. Coffee break anyone?


Franco says that every Chilean child has to countless drills and safety lectures in school to learn what to do in an event of an earthquake. He told us the 3 things to avoid: glass, the coast and Chileans. Despite all that they learned in school, everyone goes completely ape-shit mad. There is also a drink called the Terremoto made with cheap white wine, pisco, fernet and pineapple ice cream. If you drink more than one, the Earth may actually start to move. Sweet and deadly.

Comida mala  

Franco told us all about some of the most popular Chilean foods. One of the most popular to be found almost anywhere was el completo: a hotdog/sausage topped with avocado, mayonnaise and tomato. His descriptions of the food made me feel as though my arteries were hardening by just listening and that people should eat followed by a LIPITOR chaser. I will be giving many of these meat and lard dishes a pass.

After a long walk around Santiago and through Chile’s history, I was tired. I took a nap. As I was waking up, I heard a conversation in regard to the blonde. They wondered where I was. Did I check out? I went to pay them for the previous night and was going to pay for a second night since I did not check-out at noon. They insisted I only needed to pay for one. It was fine for me to stay until 9PM. Wow, not only did I get to check-in early at 8AM but I was able to check-out late!

Today, I took a long walk through history and culture. Tonight, I am taking a long 13 hour ride through the night to take me further south to Puerto Montt.


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