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Chile - Santiago

The capital

9th Feb Arrival in Santiago

We left Heathrow in the evening for our LONG flight over the Atlantic, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and finally Chile. It's BA’s longest flight, 14 hours and 57 minutes and only began in Jan 2017! Actually it didn't feel too bad as we were served food at sensible times and we managed to sleep a fair bit. We arrived to glorious sun, only to have the disembarkation steps malfunction and we were stuck on board for an extra 40 minutes! Aghh! Anyhow we finally got off, queued for passport control and got to arrivals. Our patient guide collected us and gave us some history and local information as we drove into Santiago. Basically most people in Chile live in Santiago. There is no other city at all in the country and even the towns are small affairs. Interestingly they have a small slum area occupied by people from Venezuela (mostly), Columbia (hardly any) and Haiti (quite a
lot). Our guide was fine with Venezuelans, Peruvians and even Colombians (“because they work”), but was not keen on Haitians (“because they don't and they are not educated”). We were a bit surprised at Haitians rocking up and requesting asylum in Chile, given its distance (6,000km), but I suppose Chile is seen as a safe country. What was surprising was how much Santiago was surrounded by high hills, enclosing it into a sort of valley. We drove in along the Mapocho River to the Providencia district where our hotel, Conchita Flores was located. The hotel, http://www.conchitafloresbb.com is in an old red plaster seminary, beautifully restored. We were warmly greeted (and our host whom we met later was a bit of a character, very gay and very friendly) and given a small room with a cute private terrace. Maybe a bit small, but we were only here for 2 nights.
It was late morning and we really felt we needed a walk after being stuck in a plane for so long, so we set off down the Eliodoro Yanez street (grabbing a bottle of water en route) to arrive at the main Providencia road and Plaza a la Aviación and Parque Balmaceda. We walked through the park, a green oasis along the river and ended up at Plaza Baquedano, with its impressive statue. It wasn't clear where to go next, and we were in wander mode, so we continued along Av Liberator Bernardo O’Higgins (more on him later).
After a 10 minute walk we passed the Cheesegrater, or Centre Gabriel Mistral to give it proper name. Just after this we turned into a smaller road on the right, which turned out to be a good choice as it led to the restaurant area of Barrio Lastarria. We stopped at Casa Lastarria http://www.casalastarria.cl/ for lunch and sat outside to have our Pulmay Chilote (mix of seafood and chicken stew) and Chocolat Volcan with a nice local beer. After this late lunch we decided to go for a walk up the nearby Cerro Lucia, which is a lovely hill-park right in the centre of Santiago. We wandered up through the park, past the museum entrance, up to the central fountain, then up the rocks to Castillo Hidalgo sitting on top with a great view of the city and the Andes beyond. Having climbed to the top for a fantastic 360° view of the city and for a $100 peso coin to use a viewfinder to zoom in on the mountains. The rocky stairs were quite steep and worn so we were careful. On our way down we saw the chapel (Sepulcro) of Benjamin Vicunã (paternal family name) Mackenna (maternal family name) as in Spanish custom of naming. Mackenna 1831-86 was a Chilean writer, journalist, historian and politician of Irish and Basque descent. Having seen the chapel we carried on down the hill to the Neptune Fountain, then managed to find a way across the dual carriageway to Santa Lucia market opposite. We had an interesting time exploring the stalls, buying Steve a cap (he'd forgotten to bring a hat), and a pretty pair of heart lapis lazuli earrings as well as a hat for me (yep, I'd forgotten too!).
Cerro Santa Lucia
This cerro (hill) is an urban oasis. From any high point in the city you can see Cerro Santa Lucia poking through the buildings. The castle is a stark contrast to the glass and concrete buildings. There are 3 entrances, all with a lot of steps; the least, from Santa Lucia Metro side (Calle O’Higgins) has ramps up from the Neptune fountain to the largest terrace. Our entrance, on the corner of Calles Santa Lucia and Merced was all steps. Cannons are shot every weekday at noon, which we heard later in the week.
There are lots of paths around the park and we could have spent all afternoon wandering dead-ends and closed stairs, or finding statues hidden among the trees. There were lots of benches and kiosks selling drinks. http://castillohidalgo.cl/historia/

Santa Lucia market is in Barrio Italia, which used to be a hat manufacturing centre but is now tree-lined streets of designer stores and art galleries in the former workers homes. Having finished exploring the market it was getting late, and we were becoming tired, so we decided to find our way back to our hotel. We went past the Library and its amazing Chilean pine trees, through Barrio Italia, and retraced our steps back through the park and to the hotel. Knowing we were unlikely to want to go out again, we grabbed some salads and a cake (guess who!) from the Panaderías Castaño opposite. Panaderias is 2nd largest bakery chain in Chile http://www.castano.cl. We had a quiet meal on our room’s terrace followed by an early night.

History of Santiago
European conquest and colonisation (1540–1810)
About 800 AD, the first farmers began to settle along the Mapocho River, growing maize, potatoes and beans, with domesticated camelids. The villages established in the areas belonging to picunches (name given by Chileans), were subject to the Inca Empire in the late 15th- early 16th century. The Incas settled in the valley of Mitimaes, the main centre of the present city, with strongholds on Huaca de Chena and El Plomo hills. The area served as a base for the failed Inca expeditions southward from the Inca Trail. The first European to sight modern Chilean territory was Ferdinand Magellan, who crossed the Strait of Magellan on 1 Nov 1520. However, the title of discoverer of Chile is usually assigned to Diego de Almagro. Almagro was Francisco Pizarro's partner, and on the division of the New World, he received the Southern area (Nueva Toledo). He organised an expedition to central Chile in 1537, but found little of value compared with the gold and silver of the Incas in Peru. Left with the impression that the inhabitants were poor and the area of little interest, he returned to Peru, later to be garrotted following his defeat by Hernando Pizarro in a civil war. After this there was little interest from colonial authorities in further exploration of Chile. Diego de Almagro, (c. 1475 – 1538), aka El Adelantado/ El Viejo, was a Spanish conquistador and companion (and later rival) of Francisco Pizarro. He participated in the Spanish conquest of Peru and is credited as the first European to discover Chile. In 1515 De Almagro, Hernando de Luque and Francisco Pizarro undertook an expedition to Columbia and became friends. The Pizarro-Almagro friendship faded over arguments over who controlled the Incan capital of Cuzco. After splitting the treasure of Inca emperor Atahualpa, Pizarro and Almagro took Cuzco in 1533. However, De Almagro's friendship with Pizarro deteriorated in 1536 when Pizarro, in the name of the rest of the conquistadors, called the "Capitulacion de Toledo" law in which King Charles I had laid out his authorisation for the conquest of Peru and the awards every conquistador would receive. Long before each conquistador had promised to equally split the benefits, but now Pizarro managed to gain a larger stake and award for himself. De Almagro still obtained the noble title of "Don" and a personal coat of arms. Although he had already acquired wealth and a luxurious life in Cuzco, the prospect of conquering the lands further south was attractive. Almagro spent a great deal of time and money equipping a company of 500 men for a new exploration south of Peru. In 1534 the Spanish crown had split the newly conquered region into two, forming the governorship of "Nueva Castilla" (1°- 14° latitude), and "Nueva Toledo" (14°-25° latitude, in Taltal, Chile), assigning the first to Pizarro and the second to de Almagro. De Almagro promptly decided to discover the riches of Chile, following the Inca trail with 750 Spaniards questing for gold (as Pizarro had taken most of the ransom of Atahualpa).

After crossing the Bolivian mountains and travelling past Lake Titicaca, Almagro arrived at Desaguadero River, stopping at Chicoana, and turning southeast across the Andes. The expedition turned out to be difficult and exhausting; in crossing the Andean cordilleras the cold, hunger and tiredness led to the death of Spaniards and natives. De Almagro ordered a small group under Rodrigo Orgonez to reconnoitre the country to the south. By luck, these men found the Valley of Copiapó, where Gonzalo Calvo Barrientos, a Spanish soldier whom Pizarro had expelled from Peru for stealing, had established a friendship with the locals. There, in the valley of the river Copiapó, Almagro took official possession of Chile in the name of King Charles V. He began to explore the new territory, up the valley of the Aconcagua River, where he was well received by the natives. However, the intrigues of his interpreter, Felipillo, who had previously ‘helped’ Pizarro, almost thwarted his efforts. Felipillo secretly urged the natives to attack the Spanish, but they refused. De Almagro sent Gómez de Alvarado with 100 horsemen and 100 foot to continue exploring up to the confluence of the Ñuble and Itata rivers. The Battle of Reinohuelén between the Spanish and hostile Mapuche Indians forced the explorers to return to the north. The news of de Alvarado's encounter with the fierce Mapuche, along with the bitter cold winter that settled ferociously on them, confirmed the expedition’s failure. De Almagro never found the gold or cities which Incan scouts had told him lay ahead, only communities of indigenous people with subsistence agriculture. Local tribes put up a fierce resistance to the Spanish forces. The exploration of the territories of Nueva Toledo, which lasted 2 years, was marked by failure for De Almagro. Despite this, at first he thought of staying and founding a city, and some historians think that, but for the urging of senior explorers, De Almagro would have stayed permanently in Chile. He was urged to return to Peru and take possession of Cuzco, as an inheritance for his son. The withdrawal of Spanish from the valleys of Chile was violent: Almagro authorised his soldiers to ransack natives’ properties and leave their soil desolate. In addition, the Spanish soldiers took natives captive to serve as slaves. Back in Peru he was captured and killed by Hernando Pizarro.

Posted by PetersF 15:13 Archived in Chile Tagged history chile santiago

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