Chile impressions

Santiago now feels like a huge city rather than a collection of neighborhoods.  The old center of town (Plaza de Armas) has become a bit of a dump but the outskirts are booming.  Parts of the city are even hip and trendy, a shock to anyone who knows the older Chile.  The variety of faces reminds me, oddly, of Oslo.  The "Dissidents Cemetery" in Valparaiso is full of Scottish and German names.  The seafood remains superb, most of all the clams and mussels and ceviche and shrimp and conch and abalone.  And the other stuff too.  Some restaurants, rather than giving you a lemon for your fish, offer you a small glass of lemon juice and a squeezer.  There are many more immigrants from the northern Andes than before and many more tourists from Brazil.

I was stunned by this, which is even more impressive when you are standing by it.  Some of the surrounding apartment blocks have a nice modern Art Deco style.  There remain deep pockets of poverty but overall the nation is pulling away from the other Latin American countries.  The Chileans basically need more of the same, rather than having to solve some deep structural problem.  Usually drivers stay in their lanes.  People don’t always dress that well.  It was a page 3 story in El Mercurio, with photo, that "Oprah won a million votes for Obama."

It is a common claim that Catholicism is bad for growth but in fact Chile is arguably the most seriously Catholic of the South American countries.

Tomorrow we head off to a remote place which I dare not reveal; I am surprising Yana and Natasha and perhaps you too.


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