South American Sophistication
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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In our travels this past year we have been to a LOT of cities. Most have been dirty, corrupt and plainly unlivable. Santiago is far from all of that. Although other than a few museums and modest sites, is doesn't have much to offer the casual tourist. But with that in mind, Santiago is a city that I found totally livable. In a way it reminded me a bit of Kuala Lumpur, but without the huge shopping malls and with far less traffic!
In our 48 hours here in the central city we spent time wandering the varied shopping centers, strolling through the manicured parks, perfect neighborhoods, and soaking up the thoroughly European ambiance. The central square (Plaza de Armas) of the city has got to be one of the most animated and colorful places we have encountered on this trip so far
Here is the obligatory history blurb to add a bit of context:
About 10,000 years ago, migrating Native Americans settled in valleys and coast of what is now Chile. The Incas extended their empire into what is now northern Chile, but the area's barrenness prevented much settlement. After Spanish colonization in the 1500's and their gradual degradation of power, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic in 1818. Of course all the usual turbulence followed that typically happens after a nation gains independence.
In 1970 in an attempt to address some of the dramatic social inequalities that had lingered for the 151 years following independence, a socialist government was elected led by Marxist Salvador Allende. His socialist programs and nationalization of U.S. and other foreign-owned companies led to increased tensions with the United States. The Nixon administration brought severe economic pressure to bear to restrict international credit to Chile. Simultaneously, the CIA funded opposition media, politicians, and organizations, and created a campaign of domestic destabilization
Pinochet is yet another example of the credo "My enemy's enemy is my friend" that guided US foreign policy during the Cold War and brought the CIA to financially support all sorts of wonderful people (Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Contras to name a few). During Pinochet's nearly 17 years in power, Chile gradually moved away from state involvement, toward a largely free market economy. In election in 1988, General Pinochet was denied a second term as president and the military dictatorship finally came to an end issuing in a period of democracy that has continued to the present day.
I first heard of Santiago playing the computer game "Where in the World is Carmen Santiago" when I was a kid
Tomorrow we are off to Buenos Aires! Looking forward to eating meat, shopping, and being in a BIG city!