Monday, January 9th
Today we got a bus tour of Santiago. Our first stop was to downtown to the presidential palace where we got to see the changing of the guard. This occurs every other day because the guards have 48 hour shifts. It was an extensive ceremony with a band and everything. We then walked down to the main pedestrian street which was packed. They had a lot of stand up coffee places and a ton of shoe shiners. The stand up coffee places are called “coffee with legs.” We walked to a famous square which had an old Catholic church. The architecture was absolutely incredible. The church had a lot of people in it and it was really amazing. We learned that 70% of Chileans consider themselves Catholic so they are a very religious nation.
"Coffee with legs"
Our tour guide then took us to a market area where we were able to purchase hand-made crafts and jewelry. It was really cool to see them make the crafts and learn how long it took them to make it. There were a lot of items with their national stone (lapis I believe) and a lot of sweaters and scarves made of Alpaca wool. These were stores instead of vendors outside with their items on blankets, but the stores were still very small inside.
Our next stop was to the bottom of a huge hill (looked like a mountain to me) with the Immaculate Conception (Virgin Mary) on the top of it. We got tickets and took the train up to the top so we could see all of Santiago. It was incredible to see the city in the front and the mountains in the background.
Overview of Santiago, Chile
I learned a lot from our tour guide today. We learned that there are a lot of Bohemian neighborhood in Santiago and many of the stores close early on Sundays. Banks are open from 9-2 pm and the Chilean peso is weaker than the Argentina peso. The eastern part of Santiago is the most well developed and richest part of the city. They currently have a good standard of living of about $15,000 per year.
Copper is huge in Chile and is their largest export and the palm tree is the native tree of Chile. We learned that the university is on strike right now. Students want education to be free but it hasn’t changed. There have been riots and such and tear gas was even used. It somewhat reminded me of what is going on with the Occupy movement in the U.S.
The government has closed the park at night because a lot of couples get too frisky in the parks. I thought this was funny because I have noticed that people are a lot more open about PDA in South America than in the U.S.
The coast is only about an hour and a half away so I hope we get to go one day! Santiago has a population of 6 million people and an earthquake 2 years ago hurt a lot of the buildings there. One thing I did notice was that the pollution was pretty bad. You should be able to see the mountains in the background but the smog covered a lot of it up.
Santiago has experienced a lot of growth in construction over the past few years. They built 6 new highways. They have imported a lot of cars within the last year and broke records. Many of these cars are from Asia, so we saw a lot of Toyotas out there. They don’t produce much oil in Chile and there are really high gas prices with about $6 per gallon. There have been a lot of protests about the high oil prices as well.
July is the coldest month in Chile. It still is hard to believe it is 90 degrees in January! Chile has become a lot safer over the past few years and the corruption rate has decreased significantly. The subway system is pretty safe as well and is very modern and useful.
We then went back to the Patio Bellavista for lunch and I ate the empanadas which were wonderful. We did some shopping at the Patio Bellavista and they had a lot of hand-made jewelry and sweaters for sale. We went to an outdoor market, which had a lot of pretty artwork around it. We took a different route back home so we could see more of the city. We then got back to the hotel and we found a local mall about 20 minutes away. We took a taxi there and we learned that you should only take the taxis with an orange license plate because the ones with white plates are not registered (aka illegal). We also got told by the front desk man that we should ask them for an approximate cost so we don’t get ripped off since we are foreigners.
The taxi was really cheap and the mall we went to was absolutely huge. It had 3 levels and every shop you could imagine. One thing I did notice was that a lot of the stores such as Nike and Adidas were much larger than the local stores. These stores also only really carried soccer gear instead of all sports. They had a neat store called Paris, which is basically like a Macy’s times 10. It is the most popular department store in Chile.
We grabbed a taxi and went back to the hotel to relax. We decided to skip dinner because our lunch was so filling. Tomorrow we are going to Dole, Banco Santander, and the Santiago Stock Exchange. It should be a really interesting and cool experience! Hopefully we get some fruit (or money!)