Somehow summer returned, at least for a day, in lovely La Serena, a small colonial town on the coast, 6 hours north of Santiago and gateway to the Elqui Valley which I'll visit tomorrow.
This town is very mellow, with lots of really beautiful old churches, including one with the best Our Lady of Guadalupe altar I've seen yet. I'm still amazed she's a sensation down here being that it's pretty well-known she is the Aztec goddess Tonantzin who was co-opted http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe. But to the church, she is Mother of all the Americas, so you can find her down here everywhere. And Chileans seem to have a particular fascination with Mexico, which I feed when I run across it as I think Mexcio is one of the most interesting cultures/nations on the planet. Chile's most important literary figure of the end of the 20th c. and into the 21st, Roberto Bolano, was also fascinated with Mexico, having lived and written there for many years as his most famous novel, 2666, attests to. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Bolano.
Below is Hostal Matta where I'm staying with its very hostal-esque decor :)
Leli, Luis y Claudia :)
Chinese cars are coming. They've already arrived in Chile as you can see...Ssangyong and Tata. They both seem to need some marketing spit-shining before they hit America. Why two S's for instance? As for Tata, I immediately thought of that diminutive cutesy sexist terms for breasts which has recently been seen on anti-breast cancer t-shirts in America: "Save the Tatas" ...a tacky idea in my opinion, but whatever. I suppose it's like women taking back a derogatory term along the lines of nigger or queer? If so, I don't quite get the diminutive part. Queers don't really want to use faggot nor do Blacks want to use boy, both of which are the diminutive equivalents. Anyway, this is a major digression..... I'm assuming Chinese cars are still undercode saftey standards-wise, as apparently Fiats have been for the past decade, which is why they're all over Argentina, but can't be found in the US. Apparently that will change next year. Chinese cars seem to have the same rep as most chinese products...cheap, low quality, etc. I saw one called a Great Wall (looked like an Acura), which is a really weird name, but someone explained that the Chinese use Great Wall for everything as it symbolizes staying power, strength, solidity, etc. Fine, but not a good name for a car that's trying to be sexy.
There's an Easter Island (Isla de Pascau, or Rapa Nui) giant head in the archaelogical museum here. It's really amazing and haunting, I can't get it out of my head, pardon the pun.
Lots of good stuff on the indigenous people of Chile and some on the Incas who were in the north of Chile.
More good sculpture.
La Serena's most famous son is former President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla ...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_Gonz%C3%A1lez_Videla who has a strange story, having been elected in 1946 with support from communists, appointing several to his cabinet. Pressure from the US and lots of US investment may have led to his rather brutal aboutface, outlawing the communist party and forcing a lot of them, including Pablo Neruda, into exile--he escaped over the Andes....
Later, Videla supported Pinochet's coup and helped write the new constitution under Pinochet. Yet another weird case of what color are the tigers stripes (ala Peron). Note the soldier at Videla's inauguration. An eerily familiar helmet, but Chile has always had a fascination with German militarism, which can be seen to this day...see previous blog.
Anyway, his house is a museum on the plaza.
There were some very interesting maps in the museum as well...weird names for places ... I recognize Aztlan and Jalisco and Michoacan, but the others, esp. in US part are weird and make me curious to learn more as I'm fascinated by place names. La Serena, of course, means serene, and it is :)