Valparaiso

April 21-24–Valparaiso

Val easily lives up to the universal recommendation of a the city not to miss in Chile.  It is an old, beautiful, decayed, artistic, very hilly, energetic and amazing city.  I´ll not try to compete with the guidebooks or poets.  I like Pablo Neruda´s description of yet another of his home towns (he also had homes in Santiago and Isla Negra):

Valparaiso,
how absurd
you are,
what a lunatic,
crazy port,
what a head –
rolling hills,
disheveled,
you never
finished combing your hair,
you’ve never
had time
to get dressed,
life has
always
surprised you,
death has awoken you,
in your nightshirt,…

The full Ode can be seen here: http://www.tumblr.com/search/ode%20to%20valparaiso

I stayed in a hostel to which I took  one of the many ancient funiculars (of the 26 originals built in late 1800s and early 1900s, 8 are still in operation) that scale the hills.

If you´d like to know more about them, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funicular_railways_of_Valpara%C3%ADso

On the way toward the Valparaiso bus terminal in Santiago, I approached a woman to ask which metro stop to take.  She said ¨I´m going also to Valparaiso, so just follow me.¨  We became friends right away, and she hung out with me and the 2 recently graduated high school students I met in Santiago (who stayed at my Val hostal) pictured below for a day when we rented a car to go to northern towns and beaches:

Ivan, Hari and Roberta

Ivan, Hari and Roberta

[I have no idea why the font changed or how to fix it] I joked with the boys about them not playing high school basketball (do Swedes play basketball?!) at 6´4¨when I did–our team was desperate.  Roberta is a grandma with a son and daughter and 2 grandkids, who has been divorced twice.  She studied English in Miami, where she fell in love with and married a Cuban academic.  After some years, she decided her mother and kids needed her, and wanted to join them.  He sadly gave her an ultimatum, him or the kids, and she left.  We talked about health and fitness, and we traded yoga and xi gong moves.  She´s an up front Pinochet supporter who said the communists came to middle class neighborhoods and threatened to take away their property.  
Below are some of the pics from our day trip north of Val.
Boat Shaped Bar of the restaurant where we ate in fishing village of Horcon

Boat Shaped Bar of the restaurant where we ate great seafood in fishing village of Horcon

One of many great coastal views

One of many wonderful coastal views

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Flower Clock in Vina Del Mar

Flower Clock in Vina Del Mar

 I love Neruda– his commitment to his people, his beautiful, heartful and haunting poetry, his prankster self (for example, he had salt and pepper shakers labeled heroin and marijuana, and often dressed in costumes to play with his dinner guests), his passion and romanticism, his love of the sea, his using his homes as ongoing, creative adventures, his pursuit of old, recycled parts with which to build his homes (bars from shipwrecks, great old doors from junk yards, furnishings from all over the world, old windows), his hat collection, and I could go on.  Here are some shots from his Val home built from an abandoned house way up on a hill overlooking the port:
 
From Pablo´s Study Overlooking Port

From Pablo´s Study

Living Room With Large Table for Guests he Enjoyed

Living Room With Large Table for Guests he Enjoyed

Living Room Window

Living Room Window

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More (and better) pics of Pablo´s 3 homes can be seen here:

https://www.google.cl/search?q=neruda+houses&es_sm=93&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=bZ5CVdPGH4uUNsO0gIAK&ved=0CDMQsAQ&biw=1040&bih=636

I spent many hours wandering the streets gawking at the art covering so many buildings, expecially in an area below Neruda´s house that emphasizes art everywhere.  Here´s a taste:

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Image of Pablo´s 2nd wife Mathilda, whom he nicknamed ¨wild hair¨

Image of Pablo´s 2nd wife Mathilda, whom he nicknamed ¨wild hair¨

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As in all Chilean towns devastated by earthquakes, there is a mix of new and old structures.  Here are a couple examples of the older beauties:

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A couple miscellaneous shots:

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But don´t settle for these, check out other amazing photos (someone overdid it with the color enhancement, though I can´t imagine the need to do so!):

https://www.google.cl/search?q=pictures+of+valparaiso&es_sm=93&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=krBCVfzlNIeggwS5jYDQCQ&ved=0CDEQ7Ak&biw=1040&bih=636

I also met the first such person my age traveling the way I do on this trip–Jerry at our hostal.  He said he has been on the road for 30 months (about 3 to 6 months in each country),  which he called a short trip. He claims to be traveling until he dies, and therefore hopes that this is the very short end of his journey.  Jerry said he retired when his son finished college, and hit the road.  I asked if he raised his kid alone, and he said that he was married for over 20 years, and that one piece of business was to get a divorce before he started traveling.  Says his wife wanted to continue spending money as they had and living in the same place.  He wanted to stop making money and travel.  He chided me for missing Carol, wondering why I´d miss a wife.  He commented that he and his wife made an agreement when they were married: she would be right 50% of the time, and he would be wrong 50% of the time.  I let him know that Carol is making all the money, and that we both understand I´m right all the time:)

If you´re planning on traveling to Mexico, Central or S. America (at this point or elsewhere in the future), I recommend his very detailed blog that outdoes the guidebooks in some ways: seniorbackpacker.wordpress.com.

My favorite graffiti on a set of city steps:  Donde hay justica, no hay problemas.  Where there is justice, there are no problems.

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Pinochet Dictatorship and Cruelty

So I´m slowly getting in touch with why I´m having a tough time writing about the Santiago Human Rights/History Museum (been about 10 days since I was there).  It´s all wrapped up in a personal/political/ethnic/cultural/religious/family trauma of pogroms, holocaust, genocide, and death of my family members that has absorbed me so much at times.  But to leave Chile without saying anything seems a cop out, so I´m going to throw together some observations, stats, and pics…and then move on.  As with all my writings, I must post the disclaimer that these are only my impressions and I have not studied any of these topics or areas in much detail.

The man at the Museum counter said the average time visitors take is about 1.5 hours, but I was there around 7 hours until I engaged with almost every exhibit, photo, leaflet, video, art piece, document, torture implement, etc.  I still have not emotionally recovered from living through the exhilirating rise and subsequent devastation of hope through my one day walk through over 4 decades of Chilean history.

The statistics include 140,000 detained and tortured in over 1000 detention/torture centers throughout Chile during the 17 years of the Pinochet dictatorship.  This number includes thousands of children.  There were 3200 executions and disappearances that have been documented, including many bodies that were buried in many mass graves or thrown into the sea.   More bodies are being discovered and documented to this day.  The systematic wipeout of all possible opposition, including those with indigenous, union,  working class, journalistic, artistic/musical, and leftist backgrounds was staggering.

All these illegal photos are bootlegged using the Allan Brill secret cell phone technique:

Pinochet and His  Coup Cohorts

Pinochet and His Coup Cohorts

I can´t bring myself to run down Victor´s story now,  but you should know at least his last minutes if you don´t.  Take a deep breath and a few minutes, and also hear/read the last song he wrote foretelling his death:

http://knowledgenuts.com/2014/09/11/the-tragic-tale-of-victor-jaras-last-song/

http://unionsong.com/u445.html

 

Victor Jara

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Others disappeared and immortalized in pictures, plaques and tributes.

Others disappeared and immortalized in posters, plaques and tributes.

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An iron bed and electric shock device used  for torture

An iron bed and electric shock device used for torture

The persistent Chilean love and dedication to their family is very moving.  A touching series of photos taken over the past 40 years documents a small, indigenous village in the desert north where dozens of young workers were wiped out in the first months of the Pinochet/CIA coup by one of the teams sent to rural areas.  The grandmothers, mothers, wives, sisters and other relatives of these men, assisted by civil organizations, churches, students, and international organizations, spent 17 years combing the desert to find the remains of their loved ones.  Amazingly, some scant remains were found by them 17 years later.  They are still being analyzed and identified with the help of international teams, but it is a difficult process, as most of the remains were exhumed secretly by the Pinochet regime and dumped at sea.

The horrendous persecution was not only at the coup´s 1973 beginning.  For example, in 1986 as protests, alternative press and radio, and militant resistance grew,  the regime felt threatened.  Raids occurred in many neighborhoods resulting in over 15,000 arrests, with students and journalists shot in the head (yes, I watched the graphic videos similar to police executions we´ve seen recently in the U.S.).   Of course, the arm of fascism spread to other parts of the world, including the U.S.  This was exemplified by the murders of Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffit in central D.C. as part of Operation Condor, or Repression Sin Fronteras (Repression without Borders) that hunted down and executed those in exile that opposed the dictatorship.   It´s staggering for me to think it´s been nearly 40 years since they were blown up the U.S. sponsored regime, because the event had a big impact on me at the time (you can learn more at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letelier_assassination)

Chilean Paper Telling of Letelier´s Murder

Chilean Paper Telling of Letelier´s Murder

It is still unclear how Allende and Neruda died–you can read the BBC report below:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-13748923

Pablo was a committed socialist and very politically involved, giving up his presidential campaign to support Allende.  The day fter the coup, fascistas looted and severely damaged his homes.  Here are some pics of  Neruda and Allende:

https://www.google.cl/search?q=NERUDA+AND+ALLENDE+PICTURE&es_sm=93&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ApJCVZiVCYSmNvT7gIgO&ved=0CBwQsAQ&biw=1040&bih=636

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda Ode

It was very moving to see a man my age sobbing while watching a video of the repression, while being comforted by his wife.  One of the ways of showing resistance has been for Chilean women to dance the Cueca, the traditional Chilean dance done with a partner, alone symbolizing their loss (you can see more detail here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Dance_Alone)

I also encourage you to watch the Sting song and video–perhaps you can envision the wives and mothers searching the desert for their loved ones and shed a tear with them, the man in the museum and me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS_bN5ECJTI

The children traumatized and orphaned, as well as adult prisoners, created art and crafts of all kinds, many of which are on display.  Reminds me of some of the art collected by Carol from kids in deportation proceedings:

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Posters Urging Resistance from late 70s and 80s

Posters Urging Resistance from late 70s and 80s

The investigations and occasional prosecutions of Pinochet perpetrators continue to this day, with attorneys filing over 9000 writs on behalf of 23,000 people to force the release of documentation held by the government.  It is so sad to me that 40% of Chilean voters supported Pinochet, even though these atrocities were well known, when a referendum was held at the end of his rule.  And there is still strong support for the dicator among the population, even among some people I´ve gotten to know and like (aside from their politics)!

VOLCANO WHERE ALLAN WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ERUPTS!

 

April 23  -Valparaiso, Chile

Dear Friends and Family,

For those of you watching the news, I was supposed to be at this volcano, but got delayed a couple days…luckily.  Check out these sites for some incredible pictures of what I barely missed!  Must say had I been climbing it, this would have been the best travel story yet 🙂

hugs,

allan

 

1.   https://www.google.cl/search?q=CHILE+VOLCANO+ERUPTION+NEW&es_sm=93&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=aJY5VdbpIaK1sATfh4HAAw&ved=0CEwQ7Ak&biw=1366&bih=667

2.   http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/media/images/82521000/jpg/_82521682_026876863-1.jpg

3.  www.weather.com/news/news/chile-calbuco-volcano-eruption-evacuations-alerts

 

 

 

 

Some Reasons I Love Santiago

 

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April 18th-Santiago

Some travelers say Santiago is unremarkable, and not worth staying except to make connections to elsewhere.  Here are some reasons why I changed plans to stay longer and enjoy this city:

*Yes, Santiago is full of leftist graffiti, but this was one of the expressions of resistance during 17 years of fascist dictatorship and has become part of the culture.  There are also many working class jobs as graffiti removers. Some examples of very creative posters–

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*Santiago architecture is a mishmash of very old, historic structures that have withstood the innumerable major earthquakes here–but those beautiful creations are wonderful to behold.

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*Dancing in the streets until 1 AM to the incredible batterias, and other music everywhere.

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*The Mauche indigenous woman who sells wonderful empanadas packed with spinach (it’s hard to find cooked veggies here), and very natural fruit juice without much sugar.  She also sells beautiful sweaters that she knits from wool she spins and naturally dyes herself.

*A great transportation system complete with buses, modern metro system, and plenty of friendly locals to help you out.

*Quite safe compared to many foreign big cities–haven’t picked up one suspicious follower yet!

*High sustainability consciousness, including recycling, waterless toilets in some places, anti-paper towel and plastics campaigns, etc.

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*Ivan, the 21 year old law student (7 years including BS here) I met in line at a play.  He learned to speak slowly and after the play we talked forever about family, law school, life decisions, etc.  At one point he was near tears talking about his family/school pressure (very poor family investing in him to be an attorney), loss of motivation and affinity with the law, need to play music and be expressive, and other dilemmas.

*Pablo Neruda’s home–one of my main heroes in the world and I can hang out in his house whenever I want!  Check out one of his great hat collection.

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*Incredible, endless central markets, including the most amazing flower market I’ve ever seen.  Bemused vendors taught me quickly that they don’t bargain by encouraging me to go to that other vendor who sold stuff cheaper (and presumably of less quality).

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*I finally met someone within a decade or 2 of my age at my hostel.  Still nobody else from the US here.  Met a couple guys from Denmark who will share a car with me from Valparaiso to explore some northern villages for a day.

*Very accepting of gays and lesbians with showings of public affection, holding hands like they were in the Castro, and other sites I’ve not seen in other Latin American countries. Many young folks in this university town pushing the limits where possible, including counter cultures, nudity, the city a canvas for expression, music and juggling at intersections, etc.

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*Culture–Several great art and history museums, concert halls, theatres, street art, statues, etc.

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*I visit, and have been known to sleep in, graveyards wherever I go.  The Chilean one is especially moving with great evidence of the class divide.  Note temples built by some, and others stacked 10 stories high.  And of course I mourned Salvadore Allende, and critiqued the walking tour guide for not mentioning the US role in the destabilization and coup.

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*The moving history of the Chilean suffering under a fascist dictatorship and their eventual triumph.  After a full day at the amazing Human Rights Museum (average visit 1.5 hours), I was so moved that I can´t yet write about it.

Will stop now…hoping all’s well with you and yours.

Allan

Day 1: 150,000 Activists Welcome Me to Chile!

Dear friends and family,

It seems presumptuous to me to assume others are going to want to take the time to read about my travels and thoughts-truly, no obligation to read on.

Yes, it’s true I’ve had a an affair since I was a teenager.  And my wonderful, beautiful wife has chosen to share that affair with me at times. It all began when I touched the ocean waters I treasure, and felt an overwhelming, blissful and commited  connection to every continent, every country, every race and culture, and every person on earth.  I felt a strong drive to manifest this connection with as many of my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world as possible.

I’ve talked about recording some of my experiences in over 60 countries for many decades, however when I return daily life always has had a way of taking priority over writing.  Now I feel drawn to share them as I go, primarily to feel a little less alone, and more in touch with my feelings, while on this long trip to So. America (likely Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador).  And because many of you have asked me to keep in touch, I know there won’t be time except in this manner.

This affair has been thrilling, problematic, physically dangerous at times, and always engaging.  I intend to include a few stories from past adventures, just to spice up the blog.  Especially for those more interested in suspense and drama vs. the more social and political aspects of my observations.

You should not feel any obligation to pay attention or spend time on my meanderings unless they are of special interest to you. Note that I am usually in isolated locations far from internet, so am unlikely to respond to email messages.  Feel free to send them, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get a timely response.

Hugs,

Allan

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Day 1.  April 16, 2015. Santiago, Chile

I arrived by bus/metro to downtown Santiago from the airport and noticed the familiar sight of people unloading signs and banners.  With crowds of mostly young people arriving in groups and individually, I quickly confirmed a demonstration was going to take place shortly.  After dropping my backpack at a hostel, I quickly returned to join what turned out to be approximately 100 to 150,000 people in a massive, very spirited demonstration and march for a couple miles down the main 6 lane drag of central Santiago.

The number of people, signs, banners and chants was absolutely staggering, and it seemed that major groups were joining all along the 2 mile route.  Though the majority were university, high and middle school students/faculty, I also met and saw many pensioners, working people/unionists, health workers, gay and lesbian groups (like Movement for Integration and Homosexual Rights), womens rights groups, environmental organizations, political prisoner/hunger striker support committee, every leftist grouping imaginable, the Atheist Society, etc., etc. There were students grouped by schools and areas of study–psychologists, law students, physical therapy, geologists, medical, veterinarians, and even naked art students with their bodies painted in astounding detail.  Banners as tall as 10 stories were unfurled.

The excitement, energy and militancy was palpable. Major overall themes were keeping public education alive/stopping privatization, damning government corruption, unmasking false reforms, tossing the Pinochet era constitution, instituting a new one written by the people of Chile, ceasing cuts of pensions, anti-capitalism, and redistribing wealth.  The political and class divisions in this society are palpable, long standing, and quite present in Chilean consciousness. I was warned by several people I met that I could expect violence at some point.  Seeing the many cops, mostly organized in tight groups of 10 and dressed in full riot regalia, I didn’t doubt it. When they say they are in a fight for the future of public education, they mean it.  If you want to see some graphic detail of the eventual battle, here are some pics (copy entire link):

https://www.google.cl/search?q=photo+of+April+16+santiago+demonstration&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=Jhs6VeK3Du3fsASUp4CACw&ved=0CDEQ7Ak&biw=1366&bih=667

As speeches went on at the end of the route, hundreds of people started running toward where I was standing.  In an effort to keep my promise to my family to try to not get arrested on this trip for a change, I chose to retreat as well.  As many buses full of uniformed police/soldiers and armored cars sped past me and began flooding the area, I continued my retreat. I am aware that this was a national demo including Valparaiso, Temuco, Pto. Montt, Pto. Arenas in the frozen southern tip, etc. Yet despite the detailed, advanced planning and organizing of the protests, to me it sure seemed like a grand introduction and welcoming party to a politicized Chile!

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