The Other West Coast
In college I had learned that the west coast in southern Chile was similar in climate to the Pacific Northwest. For this reason, and also because a few of my professors were Chilean, the country had always intrigued me. Santiago has no shortage of friendly people and interesting sights to see!
In Santiago, I stayed with a host mother who happened to be a practicing Reiki master and whose son was a professional musician. Our conversations were delightful and ranged many topics.
Chile is also home to an indigenous group called the Mapuche, who live mostly in Santiago and in the southern regions of the country. Under the tutelage of Ms. Clorinda Antinao (in the photo way above, standing to the viewer's right of me), I studied Mapudungún, the language of the Mapuche and learned as much as I could about their culture and customs.
Ms. Antinao was raised Mapuche and had a very strong connection to the culture. She is also the author of a Mapudungún-Spanish dictionary and is currently writing a grammar for the language. I appreciated how Ms. Antinao distinguished between the aspects of modern Mapuche culture that were authentic (pre-hispanic) and the parts that were forced upon them by the Spaniards, who they call wingka, meaning "thieves."
Unlike in Bolivia and Guatemala, the indigenous presence in Chile is rather hidden. However, I did manage to find an art exposition that showed works from three different cultures: the Mapuche, the Aymara, and the Rapa Nui.
Before leaving Santiago, I toured the home of late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, which did not allow photographs. The military guards, however, did not mind having their pictures taken while on duty.