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–
*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.
*Dancing in the streets until 1 AM to the incredible batterias, and other music everywhere.
*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.
*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.
*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).
*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.
*Culture–Several great art and history museums, concert halls, theatres, street art, statues, etc.
*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.
*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.