Chile From Within

Feliz Año Nuevo, Chile Lindo

Posted in Santiago, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on January 5, 2007

Donde Robin is where Don Robin makes pork sandwiches with homemade garlic mayonnaise, among other things, like Leche Asada. Glasses of boxed red wine are 75 cents and a liter of cold beer is 2 dollars. Its the best real food I have eaten in Santiago de Chile in my three years here. His father was a championship flyweight boxer and can give you history lessons while you eat.

Don Robin, Chile

Its on the corner in a traditional and unpretentious neighborhood. There is a bike path nearby, old colonial mansions now inhabited by families and singles, some African and Latin immigrants, who hang their clothes out to dry on the front balcony.

The street is cobblestone and the sidewalk has corners darkened by pee. There are squats and anarchist graffitti, four-foot high paintings of the face of a thorn-crowned Jesus and new concrete buildings which obscure views of the Virgin Mary on the hill, creating illusions of middle class status and profit for builders. Gladys Marin, the deceased Communist leader, looks upon you as a red stencil on a white adobe wall. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a fresh market on the street which sells Alstroemerias and mint, chirimoya and dog food, empanadas and cheap matches with Pamela Anderson on back.

At Donde Robin’s his niece celebrated her birthday at the big table and workers streamed in for a late night meal. Radio is louder than the television. He had a restaurant in Bellavista about 2o years ago.

Don Robin is the only member of his family who stayed in Chile after the beginning of the dictatorship. Don R. said he was neutral. His family left the country, scaling over the tall wall that separated their home with the Spanish Embassy and never came back. Two brothers have since died, without ever returning. As a friend said recently about Pinochet, “Man, he was so fucking good at creating divisions.” He was definitely better than Allende I would suggest…really great.

Regardless, this is the New Year 2007, Santiago de Chile, without Pinochet. Lets look ahead.


Jacinto Montecinos, 41, separated with a daughter, had is apartment taken away by the bank after almost a year of not paying the rent. Following a tactic used by a couple of other people who see their only solution to overwhelming debt (which I suspect was his problem) is to kill themselves, Mr. Montecinos doused himself frenetically with gasoline on the year old “Plaza de la Ciudadania,” in front of the Moneda and set himself on fire before jumping in a fountain.

The National Association of Home Debtors (Asociación Nacional de Deudores Habitacionales de Chile) issued a declaration. “This act is lamentable, especially considering how terrible that someone would go to such extremes to demand their rights.” In Spanish its called “Quemarse a lo Bonzo.”

This representative must be a communist…of course, seeing a decent living and a roof over the head as a human right.

Montecinos had sought alieve for his problems in the motherly President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet. She was meeting with right wing leaders Evelyn Matthei and Hernan Larrain on economic matters and couldn’t attend to the protester.

Despite a series of serious corruption scandals within her government and total disarray within her ruling party coalition, la Concertación, Michelle Bachelet has gone up 6 points in approval ratings, much to the chagrin of the right-wing and editorial frustration of El Mercurio. So, along with being the most desired public figure to hug for the New Year according to a consumer survey cited in the daily paper La Cuarta, she has 52% of the Chilean population’s support and 59% of the Chilean’s see her as trustworthy (confianza), a jump of 19 points since her campaign. She has succesfully been able to separate her image from that of the government she manages, and now the concern expressed by political commentators like Patricio Navia, is that the rosy and warm Bachelet will be sullied by a percieved infeffectiveness. “Bachelet runs the risk of converting into a president who is cared for, but not respected.” Unfortunately, he does not back up his supposition with data from the poll, leading me to fill in with my own perception. More money to indigenous programs, a reform of the pension system, more money to social programs, like those aimed at reducing infant malnutrition and improving feminine labor rates, lower unemployment rates and continued economic growth, she seems to be implementing a social agenda that is very much her own, and that it reaches the people. But, I am no political scientist. More to come on how succesful she is, or is perceived.

This comprehensive poll, by the right wing Center for Public Analysis (Centro de Estudios Publicos), also found that people believe the government should focus on problems related to crime, health and education. Two of the last three on the list with 3 and 4 percent of a priority rating, were the Environment and Human Rights.

In other news, electricity rates are going up 22% since last year, making the 140 kw/hr about USD$22 and some of the most expensive in Latin America. Since 2000 the real increase is around 65%. Reasons for increase, according to El Mercurio, includes government actions to maintain an economic incentive (profit) to stimulate new investment by electricity companies and a shortage of natural gas supply from Argentina.

There is a field day in the electricity market, seeing future demand from increasing economic growth a profit booster. Chile is on an energy island and the future is pointing towards hydroelectric power.

Swiss Xstrata, ex-Falconbridge, has introduced the first Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) study to authorities, reducing the output of a hoped-for and much contested dam in Patagonia’s Rio Cuervo, from 750mw to 600 mw. They plan production to start in 2012, and plan two other hydroelectric plants, on Rio Blanco (360 mw) and on Lake Condor (54 mw). This is in conjunction with the other 1500 mw or so electricity output planned on the country’s most voluminous river’s (Pascual and Baker) by the spanish Endesa Chile.

Also, cell phone rates are some of the most expensive in the world. Just see how much it costs to call a cell phone from Skype in comparison with just about any other country. Its .021 cents to call a Chilean landline and .21 cents to call a cell phone. Ive heard its more expensive than Europe. My prepaid phone card purchased for about ten dollars will last me a good 30 minutes of outgoing talk time. For installation of landline and internet service and quality questions see the Santiago, Chile blog C.hileno for updates on his battle with Telefonica. Or you can just go to the Anti-Monopoly Court (Tribunal de Libre Competencia).

“Someone thinking in less mystical terms, more socially conscious, would describe the riff raff roaming last night’s streets as delinquent, indecent, and the excellent Chilean word for low life gangster, knacker: “Flaite”. Equally interchangable with the telecommunications company Telefónica, in my humble opinion. Anyway, pronounced FLY-tay, this word is apparently a Spanish acronym for the following:

flacuchento, lansa, antisocial, indecente, traficante, engrupio.”

Lastly, clinical depression represented 65% of the government’s health care’s walk-in visitors, an anti-anxiety medication call Armonyl is a hit and 6000 pot plants were burned, the author (21) of a stray bullet which killed a 15 year old playing soccer outside his house turned himself in (“I didn’t mean to kill him, it was meant for someone else”), a government prosecutor has a $50,000 price on his head (Narcos), a man in Osorno stabs his wife and then hangs himself (in 2005 he had left her badly injured after landing two hatchet blows to her head) and a man in Maipu trying to rape a twenty-year old was left in a coma after being “lynched” by neighbors who came to her rescue.

Also, 5000 Santiaguinos watched the Patogallina theater group at almost the exact same spot, Plaza Bulnes, where Pinochet erected a much-attempted-to-be-pissed-upon monument, “The Flame of Liberty.” A seeming monument to fascism, last year ago it was extinguished and torn down.

Attendance at last night’s inauguration of the month-long Santiago A Mil theater festival surpassed expectations by 3000 people, totaling 5000. Some of those left out pushed down fences, heckled organizers and then took seats reserved for authorities and Vip’s, making them stand on the side upon their arrival. The low-cost theater productions has entrance fees set at around two dollars and features the French Royal de Luxe troup as well as other international players.

Oh, and the child-of-exile, Berlin-Chile minimal tech house electronic musician Ricardo Villalobos, is in the house for the next couple of weeks.

4 Responses

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  1. […] best real food I have eaten in Santiago de Chile in my three years here” and ending with the varied political obstacles facing President Bachelet and her corruption-plagued ruling party coalition, la Concertación, Tomás Dinges has […]

  2. Antje said, on December 29, 2012 at 3:31 am

    I haven’t checked in here for a while since I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it friend 🙂

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